Fowler joins 4-way tie at the top in Masters

And at Augusta National, there's only going to be one of these, too - the first Masters after Palmer's death. Skovron's parents ran the junior golf association Rickie played in, and Skovron and Fowler practiced at the Murrieta Valley Golf Range.

Sergio Garcia took it to Augusta National from the get-go Friday.

Putting more efficiently than anyone in the field and taking care of the big moments, Fowler of Murrieta shot 5-under-par 67 in the gusty sunshine and joined a four-man scramble for the tournament lead.

Both Garcia and Fowler are 4-under and tied for the lead with Charley Hoffman, who owned the first-round lead, and up-and-coming Belgian Thomas Pieters.

There's the villain. Thomas Pieters, best known for shushing the US crowd at the Ryder Cup, who ignited his round with an eagle on 13 and birdie on 14 to finish 4-under.

The putt bounced right when it got out of the fringe and then picked up velocity before it hit the cup and fell.

"This weekend is going to be definitely a lot of different golf, " Fowler said. In the following group and tied for the lead, Rickie Fowler-at 28 less than half Couples' age-went for the green in two, airmailed it, found the water by the 16th hole and made bogey, representing a stark contrast between age and experience, and youthful exuberance.

Now, after sitting out a year ago because of a chronic back issue, he's back in that familiar spot again - just three shots off the lead after posting a 2-under-par score, even as another dose of swirling winds made life miserable for a bunch of younger players.

"I was frustrated", Garcia said Friday.

The American says closing out a four-shot lead to win the US PGA Tour's Honda Classic in February has him in good stead for a Masters charge. "I know on the weekend I got tentative with the putter. It's like having the ball at the end of a game". Although Friday provided a three-stroke improvement over Thursday's round of 5-over, the total was one stroke beyond the cut line of the top 50 finishers. He has an impressive resume, with a Honda Classic win this year and wins at the Scottish Open and in Abu Dhabi. The eagle on No. 2 and a birdie on No. 3 kick-started his round.

Still, there's a feeling he should have done more. This time his "15-is-a-birdie-hole mentality" cost him heavy. Garcia, 37, whose younger self would have been fazed by the scoring error, said he wasn't anxious: "I knew where I stood". "But, hey, it's tough out here. I'd like to think I've had a lot of good finishes here and my goal is to keep fighting with these guys".

Garcia, playing his 70th consecutive major and still looking for that first victory to define an otherwise strong career, wasn't the least bit bothered by seeing the wrong score for him on a leaderboard behind the 13th green when a penalty for a lost ball was mistakenly attributed to him.

Unlike some of his fellow headliners, Fowler played the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month as a tribute to the one and only. "[If] we can put the cherry on top, that would be even better".

A second day of high winds left the top pack - all seeking a first major win - level on four-under-par 140 through two rounds. On Friday he shot 75, but he didn't lose his lead altogether.

Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and (yes) Fred Couples are all within five entering the weekend.

Jason Day matched Mize's numbers, but that isn't going to cut it for him.

Henrik Stenson went 77-75 to also induce an early exit, as did two-time champion Bubba Watson (74-78). If he claims it tomorrow, he will become the oldest Masters victor by 11 years.

  • Larry Hoffman