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Hoffman faltering, Garcia surging in 2nd round at Masters

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Sergio Garcia, of Spain, hits a drive on the fourth hole during the second round of the Masters golf tournament.

AUGUSTA, Ga. >> Surging Sergio Garcia is looking to end his distinction as one of the game’s best without a major title.

Garcia had four birdies on his first nine holes today at the Masters to wipe out Charley Hoffman’s historic four-shot lead. Of course, Hoffman helped with a run of five bogeys over six holes at Augusta National to turn his early runaway into a today free-for-all.

They are tied at 3-under par in the second round.

Hoffman had a 7-under 65 to dominate a wind-swept opening round. His four-shot lead over McGirt was the largest at Augusta National after the opening round in 62 years. However, Hoffman could not maintain the margin with bogeys on the sixth, seventh and eighth holes. After Garcia moved within a stroke of the lead with a birdie on the ninth, Hoffman had another miscue to fall into the tie atop the leaderboard.

McGirt was one of the earliest starters today and, with a 1-over 73, is just one shot off the lead.

After a wind gusts of nearly 40 mph in the opening round, today’s conditions were sunny and much milder — opening the way for several capable challengers looking to fill the void left by the withdrawal of Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1 player and a heavy favorite at the season’s first major.

Hoffman acknowledged he was simply trying to make pars in the tricky conditions on Thursday — gusts flung hats off patrons’ heads and sent egg-salad sandwich wrappers blowing across greens and fairways — so he wouldn’t shoot himself out of the event.

He did that, and then some.

Hoffman found himself in better spots than he hoped and “was able to convert those birdies and turn it into a fantastic round.”

Things didn’t go as well in round two with Hoffman making just one birdie compared to nine on Thursday.

Lee Westwood, perhaps the best player without a major, began the second round in third place at 2-under. But he struggled on the front nine for a second straight day, following the 39 he shot Thursday with a 38 to fall back.

The group at 1-under when the round began included three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose and former PGA champion Jason Dufner.

Some other things in today’s second round:

NO NUMBER 1: Dustin Johnson was the overwhelming favorite . He had won his past three events — two of them World Golf Championship titles — and felt he was in as good a shape as ever coming to Augusta National. But he injured his back falling down some steps Wednesday at his rental home. He made the difficult decision to withdraw. “I don’t feel there’s any chance of competing,” he said. His absence opens the doors for, well, take your pick.

MICKELSON’S START: Phil Mickelson, 46, is hoping to catch the same lightning that Jack Nicklaus mustered to win the 1986 Masters at the same age. And Mickelson got off to a positive start with a rousing eagle on No. 2 and a birdie two holes later. The winds caught up with Lefty during a middle stretch where he made four bogeys in seven holes. He rallied with a pair of birdies to finish at 71, among just 11 players to break par heading into today. He has not yet begun his second round.

SPIETH’S BIG NUMBER: For a second straight year, Jordan Spieth put up a crazy number at Augusta. This time, he minimized the damage. In 2016, Spieth had a quadruple bogey 7 on the par-3 12th in the final round to give away his likely green jacket. On Thursday, he took another quad with a 9 on the par-5 15th. He followed that gaffe with a birdie-2 on the 16th and was at 75, certainly still with a chance to pick up more ground in the second round. Like Mickelson, he has not started his second round.

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