Pieters quietly tied for lead entering weekend

Thomas Pieters often has imagined standing over the winning putt at the Masters Tournament.

“I’ve holed the winning putt about a million times,” Pieters said. “I’ve watched it my whole life, as do all those guys. We’ve all had that in practice, that winning putt.”

Now, Pieters is working to make it a reality.

The 25-year-old Belgian, playing in his first Masters, shot 4-under-par 68 in the second round Friday to enter the weekend tied for first.

PHOTOS: Pieters Second Round

Pieters’ first time playing Augusta National Golf Club came during a practice round Monday, yet he’s maneuvered the course through gusty conditions like a veteran. His name isn’t near the top in many statistical categories, but patience and solid ball-striking have quietly pushed Pieters into contention.

“I’ve hit a lot of good golf shots, and I haven’t had to make a lot of long putts, either,” he said. “I’ve had some two-, three-, four-footers for birdie, made a couple really good par saves today.”

After two double bogeys on the second nine Thursday, including one on No. 18 to set him back to even-par, Pieters began his second round with another bogey to drop to 1-over for the tournament. A tee shot to three feet for birdie on the par-3 sixth hole sparked what became one of the day’s best rounds.

Pieters rolled in a 23-foot birdie putt on No. 9, then knocked a 200-yard second shot to nine feet on No. 13 and made the eagle putt. He continued his roll on No. 14 by making a four-foot birdie putt.

Perhaps his top par save came on 18 when he went left on his approach, then stuck a 31-yard pitch to three feet, ending his day much more positively than the first round.

“I was very patient today after the bogey on 1,” he said. “I just hit it in a very bad spot on 1. It’s very windy on 3, 4, 5, very tough holes. I made good pars there and stayed patient and got some birdies.”

Pieters entered the week ranked 35th in the world with three top five finishes between the PGA and European tours. With calmer conditions expected this weekend, the tall Masters rookie is looking for similar results as he enters Saturday in the next-to-last pairing.

“I’m looking forward to it a lot,” Pieters said with a smile.

Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or david.lee@augustachronicle.com.