AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Rickie Fowler only wanted to make sure the wind didn’t blow him away over two tough rounds at the Masters. More than just survive on Friday, he posted a 5-under 67 that gave him a share of the lead for the first time in a major.
He has plenty of company.
Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters and Charley Hoffman joined him in the largest 36-hole logjam at Augusta National in 44 years.
And the fun is just starting.
The wind began to subside as the pines cast long shadows across the course late in the afternoon, and the forecast is close to perfection for the rest of the weekend, with mild temperatures and hardly any wind.
That won’t make it any easier, as survival gives way to what could be a shootout among some of golf’s biggest stars.
Fifteen players were separated by a mere five shots going into the weekend, a group that includes Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, and even 57-year-old Fred Couples.
“I knew the first two days would be tough. We really needed to make sure we could fight through it and stay in the tournament,” Fowler said. “We’re in a good spot. It’s going to be a fun weekend. We’re going to see a lot of good golf and battle it out.”
Fowler began his move early by holing a bunker shot for eagle on the second hole, and even a bogey from the water behind the green on the par-5 15th green didn’t ruin his day. He bounced back with a birdie and stay in the lead.
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. He fired a 3-iron across the water and into the wind to the 15th green for a two-putt birdie and shot 69.
Pieters made an eagle on the par-5 13th on his way to a 68. Hoffman was simply happy to join them. His four-shot lead was gone in 11 holes, and he steadied himself the rest of the way to limit the damage to a 75.
The leaders were at 4-under 140.
Hoffman will be in the final group going into the weekend at the Masters for the second time in three years, with one big difference. Two years ago, Hoffman was five shots behind Spieth in what turned out to be a runaway for the young Texan.
This time, the Masters appears to be up for grabs.