Final group golfers Day, Garcia do well on second nine

The final group to tee off Thursday happily made the leaderboard even more cluttered.

Jason Day and Sergio Garcia used birdie runs on the second nine to get to 5- and 4-under, respectively, and into early contention.

The Australian and the Spaniard are two of six players to be at 4- or 5-under.

Day had one of the more impressive performances of the day, stringing together five birdies in a row from Nos. 12 through 16.

The surge brought him from just 1-under to 6-under and only two shots behind leader Jordan Spieth before a bogey on 17 finally ended his birdie run.

Day almost aced 16, sticking it close to the hole to have a tap-in for birdie.

Just four years ago, the Australian had four birdies in a row on Nos. 13 through 16 in the first round.

“I’ve had a run like that. I don’t know if it was four or five, but I remember having a run like that on the back nine before,” Day said. “But I just knew that if I could just be patient and give myself opportunities, especially on the back nine, I could get something going.”

Day hasn’t been shy in his intense desire to win at Augusta.

He said he might have wanted it so badly in 2013 that he put too much pressure on himself, bogeying 16 and 17 to lose the lead with three holes to go.

Fellow countryman Adam Scott made history by becoming the first Australian to win a green jacket.

On Tuesday Day said, “Winning this tournament and whatever I win after, that would be a bonus.”

As for Garcia, he chipped in on 14 from 36 yards away for a birdie, perhaps echoing the short game of another Spaniard, Seve Ballesteros – on what would have been the two-time Masters champion’s 58th birthday.

After the ball dropped in, Garcia dropped his head, almost in disbelief.

“There were some shots that obviously don’t feel comfortable on this golf course, and takes me a little bit to be able to figure out what I’m doing,” Garcia said. “But other than that I was able to save two or three situations with my short game with some good chips and some good putts.”

Garcia’s 68 was his best Masters round since his 2013 Thursday 66 lifted him to first place. He then carded 76 on Friday.

He’s hoping he doesn’t encounter trouble this time.

“It would be nice to play well again (Friday) and put up a really good score,” Garcia said. “But I don’t want to get – I’m trying not to get ahead of myself anywhere, and on this golf course a little less, because I know my relationship with it is not the best.

“So I need to go slowly.”

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