Charley Hoffman’s big lead in the Masters Tournament is gone. It disappeared into the swirl of Augusta National’s wind as a stellar cast of stars, including a Spaniard overdue for a major championship victory, made their move and pulled into a tie.
That man is Sergio Garcia, who had one of the day’s seven rounds in the 60s – a 3-under-par 69 that included birdies on the first three holes. He was the first to catch Hoffman, who led by four shots after Day 1.
Hoffman, who had nine birdies in the opening round, had just two Friday to go with five bogeys to shoot 75. But he’s still tied for the lead.
After Garcia caught Hoffman in the early afternoon, Masters rookie and Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters of Belgium turned in 68, followed by Rickie Fowler, who had the day’s best round with 67, to make it a foursome in the afternoon at the top.
William McGirt had 73 and is two shots off the lead.
Four players are three shots back, including 57-year-old Fred Couples (70 on Friday). He’s joined by Ryan Moore (69), Spanish rookie Jon Rahm (70) and Justin Rose (72).
Fowler had the chance to take the outright lead, but his 11-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole slid past the right side of the hole and he made par.
The leaders represent three age groups. Pieters and Fowler are in their 20s, Garcia is in his 30s while Hoffman is in his 40s.
Fowler, at No. 8, is the top-ranked player of the four leaders and the only one with a PGA Tour victory this season. Garcia is 11th, Pieters is 35th and Hoffman is 52nd.
The four at the top are at 4-under-par 140, the same score that topped the leaderboard last year.
A 36-hole shootout is expected the next two days as the whipping wind, which sent scores soaring in the first two rounds, leaves the area. It was especially difficult Friday because it blew from the northwest, which makes No. 1 and the par-5 holes 8, 13 and 15 play into the wind.
The wind will be down, but the scoring might still be difficult because the wind has started to dry out the greens that were still soft from heavy rain earlier in the week.
“It’s going to be fun; it’s going to be a real golf tournament,” Fowler said.
Garcia, who is winless in 73 career major starts – including 18 so far in the Masters – has made his peace with Augusta National, a course where he has a checkered history. He has been over par in 34 of 64 rounds but has 10 rounds in the 60s, including 66 in 2004 when he had his best finish, a tie for fourth.
“It’s not easy because you try to think about all the good things that happened to you here,” he said. “There’s such a thin line between a good shot being next to the hole and a good shot being 40 feet away and then having a very difficult two‑putt or something like that. So I guess at the end of the day, you try to not think about those and try to be as positive as possible.”
If Garcia wins Sunday, it would fall on the late Spanish legend and two-time Masters champion Seve Ballesteros’ 60th birthday.
“It would mean a lot,” Garcia said. “It’s difficult to describe it until it happens. But at the same time, it’s Friday afternoon. It’s not Sunday.”
Hoffman couldn’t keep his momentum going, making bogeys on Nos. 6-8 as the putts that were falling Thursday, when Hoffman needed his putter just 25 times, weren’t dropping Friday. For his second trip around Augusta National, he needed 31 putts.
“Everybody was talking about how great that round was yesterday, but it was pretty easy to me, playing, making putts, hitting good, solid golf shots,” Hoffman said. “Today I think I sort of felt how hard it was for everybody else in this wind when you sort of got out of position.”
Hoffman and Garcia will go off in the final group at 3 p.m. today. Fowler and Pieters will be in front of them at 2:50 p.m.
Hoffman was in this position in 2015, playing in the final group of the third round with Jordan Spieth. He shot 71.
“I’m going to keep the same mindset as I have the last two days,” Hoffman said. “When I’m in position, I’m going to attack and try to make birdies, and when I’m not I’m going to try to just hopefully have a par putt at it.”
Down the road after missing the cut, which fell at 6-over 150, were defending champion Danny Willett (73-78), Jim Furyk (78-73), Henrik Stenson (77-75), Bubba Watson (74-78), Patrick Reed (76-77) and Bernhard Langer (75-78).