Fowler rides fast start to soar into Masters contention

Spieth rallies Friday to finish round tied for 10th

Sergio Garcia, who many consider to be the best player never to have won a Major championship, joined Hoffman at three-under at the halfway stage yesterday after briefly moving into the outright lead during the afternoon. "I knew I was three". But he birdied 15 and 17.

"I'm over it, but even being at even par now and with the finish we had, part of me is thinking, 'What if we had those four strokes back, you know?'" he said. "So things are happening at the moment". "So I want to make sure that I keep riding that wave". In his tortured relationship with majors, Garcia came closest to winning one in the 2007 British Open, when he came within an eyelash of making a putt on the 72nd hole that would have earned him the Claret Jug (it later escaped his grasp in a playoff loss to Padraig Harrington).

"So, yeah, disappointed to finish like that, but I'm still within five of the lead going into the weekend with better conditions on the way". He followed that with a four-foot birdie putt on 14 for a share of the lead.

"I'm a bit exhausted", Pieters said.

"Anything can happen on a Sunday at Augusta", said early finisher Jason Day, who had 69 but is nine shots off the lead. It's been pretty slow out there.

"We've put a lot of work in", Fowler said, "and it's nice to see it pay off". He survived through two windy days and a Friday round where his driving, usually his strength, was a bit wild. "Then you really give yourself a chance".

"If I can put together a 67 or a 66 tomorrow, I feel like I'll be right in there for Sunday", he said. Caddie Michael Greller wanted Spieth to lay-up on the par-5 13th, but Spieth resisted the idea, opting for a different course of action, inspired by the King: "I thought, in order to win this golf tournament I hit my favorite shot I've ever hit in competition in my life on that hole going for it when we had that decision in 2015". The ball caromed off the flagstick and off the green, leading to a bogey 5. "He's making a lot of tough putts he was missing previous year, and those are the type of putts you have to make to win a major". "My tendency is to kind of speed things up and go a little too quickly".

Seven of the top 15-ranked players sit in the top 15 of the tournament, perhaps the most unlikely being Spieth, who has battled back from an opening-round 75 that included a quadruple-bogey 9 at the 15th hole on Thursday.

American Rickie Fowler flew out of the gates early today with an eagle at the second and a birdie at the third to put himself right in contention, while 2013 victor Adam Scott made the turn four-under for his day and is one-under overall in a tie for fifth. Then on the sixth hole the putts he made Thursday started missing. A young fan got the ball which he rolled into into the crowd as hot as it was when it hit the stick. And if I overturned it, it would just be in that swale and I figured I would get it out of the swale to the same proximity that I would hit the wedge shot. Didn't scramble that well.

Hoffman and Garcia will be playing in the last group Saturday and Pieters and Fowlers will be in the penultimate pairing. "You can make birdies, eagles, bogeys". "I've never been in an experience like that, so I am really, really, really happy".

The next 27 holes should shake out the field and it's likely a name not even under consideration will be found near the top.

On the 20th anniversary of Tiger Woods' record-setting victory, which he led by nine shots after three rounds and turned the final round into a formality, this isn't expected to be a runaway.

It's the last nine holes, though, that will determine the victor.

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