Charley Hoffman’s massive lead at the 2017 Masters evaporated over the course of six holes, and as the leaderboard opened up, the playing conditions improved. By the end of Friday, some of golf’s fan favorites made a run to get into contention heading into the weekend.
Hoffman is trying to be the next in a line of surprise first-time winners, but Friday also saw Sergio Garcia fire a 69 after going bogey-free in Round 1 to claim a share of the lead. Garcia’s place in this championship hunt is just one of a few storylines that has the potential to define the 2017 Masters.
There’s also 57-year-old Fred Couples playing some of the best golf of his golden years, 46-year-old Phil Mickelson trying to recapture old magic and Rickie Fowler, the energetic star still on the verge of winning a major, in the hunt after the best round of the day.
It’s an easy leaderboard to get behind because it’s packed with players that are easy to root for. Oh yeah, there’s Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy lurking four and five strokes off the lead respectively. Conditions are supposed to be perfect for scoring on Saturday and Sunday, and these guys will have the final tee times of the day. That’s as must-watch as it gets.
Here’s how the leaderboard looks right now.
T1. Charley Hoffman (-4): A 65-75 looks strange on the card, but Hoffman has to be happy where he’s at right now. He started strong and finished strong but just seemed to lose it there in the middle of the round. Maybe it was Augusta striking back, maybe it was the impact of the moment, but five bogeys in six holes brought the rest of the field into play. The good news is that once settled, Hoffman finished with one birdie and six pars on the final seven holes.
T1. Sergio Garcia (-4): Friday brought enough weird breaks to think that maybe this is the year Garcia gets that elusive major win. Garcia started birdie-birdie-birdie while other players were posting big numbers on No. 1 and elsewhere on the first nine, then got caught with controversy on a score-reporting error on 10 but still finished in a tie for the lead. There’s a lot going his way right now -- Garcia’s fortune extended to barely missing the water on 15 on the way to a birdie -- and his contention is the biggest story heading into Round 3.
T1. Thomas Pieters (-4): The young superstar from Belgium made his name known in the Ryder Cup then followed up on that reputation with an early lead on Thursday before getting rocked by Amen Corner on his first visit in tournament play. Pieters didn’t finish particularly well but was locked in on Friday and dropped one of the best rounds of the day with a 68.
T1. Rickie Fowler (-4): It’s a very different Friday night for Rickie after missing the cut a year ago. Now he’s got a share of the lead following the low round of the day at Augusta, and given the group, he should absolutely be considered one of the favorites to win. Fowler was aggressive in spots early, and it paid off with the opportunity to play smart down the stretch. Smart play will keep him in this thing, more so than hole-out eagles from the sand like his shot at No. 2.
Masters 2017: Rickie Fowler | 2nd Hole, Round 2 pic.twitter.com/gw3lIEZvm7— Masters Highlights (@MastersMoments) April 7, 2017
T5. William McGirt (-2): I think it was good for McGirt to get out there early and grind out a round where he one-putted his way to a couple of strained pars. Now after playing late Thursday and early Friday there’s some downtime to get reset for the weekend here in his first-ever Masters appearance.
T5. Justin Rose (-2): The first two rounds have brought out the grinder in a lot golfers, and Rose has been right there on the roller coaster with nine birdies and seven bogeys across 36 holes. He’s been taking care of business and playing pretty well but can’t seem to post a good score with his par-3 opportunities. He’s close to playing great, but still just really solid right now and that’s good enough for top five.
T7. Ryan Moore, Jon Rahm, Fred Couples (-1): Couples laughed off his shot at winning, but nothing would make the patrons roar like Boom Boom taking it back 25 years to 1992 on Sunday. Rahm has been a star to watch and remained steady through a few bad holes over the last two rounds while Moore had one of the most consistent rounds of the day, a bogey-free 69.
T10. Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson (E): Three superstars, three former champions, and three players capable of shooting in the 60s early in the day to put some pressure on the leaders. There are a lot of great storylines for potential first-time winners on the board, but a run by any of these players tied for 10th would not be a surprise.
T12. Rory McIlroy (+1)
T16. Martin Kaymer (+2)
T16. Hideki Matsuyama (+2)
T19. Jason Dufner (+3)
T19. Ernie Els (+3)
T35. Jason Day (+5)
MC -- Danny Willett (+7), Bubba Watson (+8)