UNHERALDED AMERICAN CHARLEY Hoffman has had his lead cut to two at the 2017 Masters as the chasing pack, including Rory McIlroy, make a move in the second round.
Hoffman’s four-shot overnight lead soon became five early on Friday but three consecutive dropped shots at Augusta has brought him back towards the rest with Sergio Garcia, William McGirt and McIlroy in hot pursuit.
McIlroy’s second round started with two bogeys inside his opening three holes but he approaches the turn in the red after a birdie three at the fifth and then a two at the sixth.
He currently sits four shots off Hoffman, who has suddenly gone bogey, bogey, bogey.
Shane Lowry’s promising start yesterday seems a distant memory now after he recorded four bogeys inside his opening six holes this afternoon. The Offaly man is now four-over par and well off the pace.
The second round of the year’s first Major championship opened in cool and breezy conditions at 7,435-yard Augusta National, brisk winds likely to play havoc with top shotmakers as they did for most on day one.
McGirt, playing in his first Masters, went off in Friday’s first group and carded a round of 73 to finish on two-under par.
Garcia, making his 74th Major start and 19th Masters appearance, opened with three consecutive birdies, then followed a bogey at the fourth with four pars.
The Spaniard was the only player in the first 22 groups Friday to birdie the opening hole, sinking a tricky 10-footer, then reached the second green in two shots to set up a two-putt bogey and dropped another long birdie putt at the third before his lone early setback, a bogey that came after he missed the green off the tee at the par-3 fourth.
The 37-year-old Spaniard, a four-time Major runner-up whose best Masters showing was a share of fourth in 2004, was on three-under for the tournament as 18-hole leader Hoffman began to wither.
Late afternoon starters in the pack on 71 included England’s Justin Rose, the reigning Olympic champion and 2013 US Open winner, and Phil Mickelson, a five-time Major champion. At two months shy of his 47th birthday, the US left-hander would become the oldest winner in Masters history if he captures a fourth green jacket on Sunday.
Big names had their issues on a blustery first day at Augusta, the most stunning being top-ranked Dustin Johnson withdrawing due to a back injury suffered in a Wednesday fall down stairs in a rented home.
Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion and two-time Masters runner-up, soared to a 75 Thursday for his worst Augusta National round. He parred the par-3 12th, where a quadruple bogey nightmare in last year’s final round doomed his title repeat hopes, but then made quadruple bogey at the par-5 15th.
Defending champion Danny Willett of England opened Friday’s round with a quadruple bogey at the par-4 first, tumbling down the leaderboard to five-over for the tournament.
Four-time Major champion Ernie Els of South Africa and Rio Olympic bronze medalist Matt Kuchar of the United States made bogey-birdie starts after opening 72s to stay seven back as Hoffman’s round began.
World number three Jason Day of Australia, who will be the final player to take to the course Friday, opened on 74.
The cut will be made to the 60 lowest scores and ties and any player within 10 strokes of the lead after Friday’s second round.
Among those in jeopardy of not reaching the weekend were Japan’s fourth-ranked Hideki Matsuyama, who opened on 76, and reigning Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who began on 77.
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