Garcia eyes major breakthrough on Seve's birthday

2017-04-08 07:29
Sergio Garcia (File)

Augusta - Masters co-leader Sergio Garcia, finally at peace with frustrating Augusta National, could capture a first major title on Sunday - on what would have been his idol Seve Ballesteros' 60th birthday.

The 37-year-old Spaniard shot a three-under par 69 Friday to grab a share of the 36-hole lead at the year's first major championship, his 19th Masters and 74th career major appearance without a victory.

"It would mean a lot," Garcia said of the possibility of ending his major drought on the birthday of Ballesteros, who died of brain cancer in 2011 at age 54.

"It's difficult to describe it until it happens. But at the same time, it's Friday afternoon. It's not Sunday.

"Hopefully, we'll be standing here and we'll be talking about that feeling again. That would be the best thing that could happen to me and I'm going to do my best to make sure I'm here to tell you how it feels."

Garcia has known heartache at Augusta, where his best finish was fourth in 2004. He was third in 2012 after 36 holes, only to shoot 75 Saturday and go on a tirade.

"I was frustrated," he said. "I probably didn't accept things as well as I should have. And I've shown myself many times after that, that I can contend and I can truly feel like I can win, not only one, but more than one.

"I'm excited about the challenges that this weekend is going to bring, and hopefully I'll step up to them and I'll be able to be up there on Sunday with a solid chance at winning."

After a bogey-free 71 Thursday, Garcia began round two with three birdies, a Masters first for him, before a bogey at the par-3 fourth, a birdie to close the front nine and birdies at 15 and 17 to offset two early back-nine bogeys.

"Even though I made three bogeys, I think I struck the ball really well," Garcia said. "It feels like the kind of course you need to get to know. It's the kind of course you have to make peace with."

It's one where breaks are suddenly going Garcia's way. His 10-foot birdie putt at the first was among only three surrendered all day on the course's toughest hole

"After making that birdie it calmed me down," he said. "It gave me a lot of confidence. I felt like I really stole one there. I got a couple of nice breaks. I want to keep those things happening my way."

Garcia struck an amazing plugged-lie bunker shot lip out to set up a tap-in par at 12.

"That was probably, I would say, hands down, the best bunker shot I've ever hit," Garcia said.

It's the sort of save Ballesteros made his trademark, but Garcia won't ponder heavenly help or a Seve Sunday connection yet.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself," Garcia said. "I probably don't even want to think about it. I might get a little sensitive. There are a lot of holes yet to be played. It would be a nice problem to have.

"I've given myself a lot of chances. If we can put the cherry on top, that would be even better."

Garcia, heckled about his lack of a major win by US fans at last September's Ryder Cup, has found support at Augusta National.

"I feel unbelievable support out there," Garcia said.

Garcia said a thin line separates a ball staying inches from the cup and one that rolls 40 feet away, a fact he accepts now.

"Sometimes funny things are going to happen to good shots," he said. "I'm a little bit calmer now. I'm working on trying to accept things that can happen here. It's much easier to say than to do it... I still have to get so much better at it."

Scores after Friday's second round of the 81st Masters at par-72 Augusta National Golf (USA unless stated):

140 - Charley Hoffman 65-75, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 71-69, Rickie Fowler 73-67, Thomas Pieters (BEL) 72-68

142 - William McGirt 69-73

143 - Justin Rose (ENG) 71-72, Jon Rahm (ESP) 73-70, Fred Couples 73-70, Ryan Moore 74-69

144 - Phil Mickelson 71-73, Adam Scott (AUS) 75-69, Jordan Spieth 75-69

145 - Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 72-73, Rory McIlroy (NIR) 72-73, Matt Kuchar 72-73

146 - Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 76-70, Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 74-72, Martin Kaymer (GER) 78-68

147 - Brian Stuard 77-70, Stewart Hagestad 74-73, Jason Dufner 71-76, Kevin Chappell 71-76, Brooks Koepka 74-73, Brendan Steele 74-73, Bill Haas 75-72, Ernie Els (RSA) 72-75, Marc Leishman (AUS) 73-74, Russell Henley 71-76, Paul Casey (ENG) 72-75, Jimmy Walker 76-71, Lee Westwood (ENG) 70-77

148 - Steve Stricker 75-73, Pat Perez 74-74, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 77-71

149 - Byeong-Hun An (KOR) 76-73, Adam Hadwin (CAN) 75-74, Emiliano Grillo (ARG) 79-70, Justin Thomas 73-76, Andrew Sullivan (ENG) 71-78, Brandt Snedeker 75-74, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 77-72, Daniel Summerhays 74-75, Kevin Kisner 74-75, Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 71-78

150 - Jason Day (AUS) 74-76, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 78-72, Ross Fisher (ENG) 76-74, Branden Grace (RSA) 76-74, Daniel Berger 77-73, J.B. Holmes 78-72, James Hahn 75-75, Curtis Luck (AUS) 78-72, Larry Mize 74-76

Missed the cut:

151 - Chris Wood (ENG) 74-77, Zach Johnson 77-74, Danny Willett (ENG) 73-78, Billy Hurley III 75-76, Kevin Na 76-75, Jim Furyk 78-73, Yuta Ikeda (JPN) 74-77, Shane Lowry (IRL) 72-79

152 - Alex Noren (SWE) 74-78, Scott Piercy 73-79, Bubba Watson 74-78, Webb Simpson 75-77, Rod Pampling (AUS) 74-78, Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 78-74, Russell Knox (SCO) 76-76, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (ESP) 75 77, Henrik Stenson (SWE) 77-75,

153 - Bernhard Langer (GER) 75-78, Vijay Singh (FIJ) 78-75, Jose-Maria Olazabal (ESP) 77-76, Brad Dalke 78-75, Sean O'Hair 76-77, Hudson Swafford 77-76, Patrick Reed 76-77

154 - Ian Woosnam (WAL) 76-78, Angel Cabrera (ARG) 79-75, Jhonattan Vegas (VEN) 78-76

155 - Trevor Immelman (RSA) 79-76, Mike Weir (CAN) 76-79, Gary Woodland 75-80

156 - Mark O'Meara 78-78, Jeung-Hun Wang (KOR) 78-78, Si Woo Kim (KOR) 75-81, Hideto Tanihara (JPN) 76-80

157 - Roberto Castro 79-78, Scott Gregory (ENG) 82-75

158 - Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 80-78

159 - Mackenzie Hughes (CAN) 79-80

160 - Sandy Lyle (SCO) 77-83

161 - Toto Gana (CHI) 81-80

Read more on:    masters  |  sergio garcia  |  golf


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