Sport

Rickie Fowler joins 4-way tie at the top in Masters

Rickie Fowler joins 4-way tie at the top in Masters

KEY STAT: The quartet atop the leaderboard is the biggest 36-hole logjam at the tournament in 44 years.

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.

World number two Rory McIlroy made a fast start on Saturday but was unable to maintain momentum and ended up at level par.

How tough were the conditions in the opening round of the Masters? "We're in a good spot. It's going to be a fun weekend". "And I'm very optimistic I'm going to make a good run".

Charley Hoffman, who began the day as part of a four-way tie for the lead at 4-under, spent much of it alone at the top of the leaderboard before putting his tee shot in the water at the par-3 16th hole. We were playing well, but we weren't really making inroads towards the lead, and chose to stay patient, because that's the only choice that we really have, and it kind of paid off.

Spieth had made up his mind, and just before he took the club back, the 2015 Masters victor told his caddie where he got his motivation. He made another on up-and-down for birdie on 15, and closed with a nervy par-saving putt on 18 - just the sort of seven-foot putt that has plagued Garcia over his career. Another past victor at Augusta, 2011 champion Charl Schwartzel (68) is lurking at 2-under. Hoffman was simply happy to join them. It is definitely one of the hardest starting holes we have throughout the year. He had a 4-shot lead, stretched it to five early Friday, and could have put even more distance between himself and the field. It's a good place to be since the victor has come out of that group 21 of the past 26 years. Spieth had birdies on the sixth, eighth and ninth holes to move within two of Hoffman.

The Masters is a time machine to the past. He led the tournament after the first round three times, while he also led at the halfway mark in 2004.

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If patience was his friend on Saturday, Rose knows he'll need more of it again during the final round if he hopes to slip on the green jacket. A wayward drive on the 10th hole caused him to hit a provisional, but he found the original ball and played that one right of the green, followed by a chip and two putts for a bogey.

"This is by far the best I've felt in a major", said the 2015 Players champion who finished among the top-five in all four majors in 2014. While all eyes were on the struggling Hoffman and scrambling Garcia, Rose really wasn't noticed until he birdied 17 and 18 to finish off a 67. I don't hit - my fairways hit is 55 percent. All three were wearing dark sweaters during the search, and the scorers were confused with who lost the ball. That became an issue on No. 10 when scorers, mistaking Garcia for Lowry, thought Garcia hit out of bounds and gave him a triple-bogey 7. A few holes later, however, it was changed to 1 under on the scoreboard, and Garcia pointed to the board behind the 13th green. Scoring officials eventually fixed the problem, subtracting two shots from Sergio's score.

Garcia has gone a combined 38-over par to average 75 in 13 prior Masters third rounds.

This week, Fowler feels even more ready to take that elusive step of becoming a major champion.

"I have playing some good golf and steady golf, I've been waiting for an extra gear and I seem to be finding it - hopefully I can keep trending this year the way I have been playing".

American William McGirt stood two adrift in fifth on 142 with Spain's Jon Rahm, England's Rose and Americans Fred Couples and Ryan Moore on 143.


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