Sergio Garcia said following the third round of the 2012 Masters, when he shot a 75 after entering the weekend in contention, that he was “not good enough” to win a major.
He’s going to put his statement to the test again this weekend.
Garcia posted a 3-under-par 69 Friday in the second round of the 81st Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club and is one of four players tied for the lead at 4-under 140.
Garcia is tied with Rickie Fowler, Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and first-round leader Charley Hoffman, who came back to the field with a 3-over 75.
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Garcia intends to take a better frame of mind into this weekend than his defeated statement reflected five years ago.
“I was frustrated. But 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,” Garcia said. “The more majors I play the more chances I have. So you know, 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, at winning this beautiful tournament.”
Garcia, 37, has played in 73 major championships without a victory, which is the second most in the tournament to Lee Westwood’s 75 majors without a title.
He has four runner-up finishes in majors and six top-threes, and his best finish in 18 previous Masters appearances is a backdoor tie for fourth in 2004 when he closed with a 66.
“Being a part of a major, it's exciting already. Having a chance is the best thing, and winning it, I'm sure it's amazing,” Garcia said. “But for me, I feel so fortunate that I've been able to be healthy to play so many majors in a row and giving myself a lot of chances to win them. That for me is already a win, and then, you know, if we can put the cherry on top, that would be even better.”
A second consecutive day of strong winds and cool temperatures kept score high, as just nine players enter the weekend under par.
“There are always opportunities out here, but in these conditions the opportunities get smaller and smaller,” said Matt Kuchar, who is among three players tied for 13th at 1-over 145, including Rory McIlroy. “And you try to take advantage but even the holes that you want to take advantage of, even the par‑5s, you're pretty satisfied walking off a green with a par.”
South Carolina resident William McGirt are tied for fifth at 2-under 142, and Ryan Moore, Jon Rahm of Spain, 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and 1992 Masters champion Fred Couples are the remaining players under par at 143.
Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott and 2015 champion Jordan Spieth are the only players at even-par 144. Spieth, who has a pair of runner-up finishes to go with his win in his three Masters appearances, closed with a 3-under 33 on the back nine, including a birdie on the 18th to move into a tie for 10th.
Garcia birdied the first three holes in a round at Augusta National for the first time Friday and hit what he called the best bunker shot of his life, which lipped out from a plugged lie to save par on the 12th hole.
“And I got a couple nice breaks. So things are happening at the moment,” Garcia said. “So I want to make sure that I keep riding that wave and go out there tomorrow, be positive, be like I've been the first two days. … I think these first two rounds have been as well as I’ve played at Augusta.”
After being the only player to go bogey-free in the first round with 17 pars, Garcia eschewed pars early, making birdies on his first three holes to quickly reach 4 under.
A bogey on the fourth was the first blemish to the scorecard. Garcia made the turn with a 33 with a birdie on the ninth hole and played the second nine even par with birdies on holes 15 and 17 and a missed 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
“I knew that at some point bogeys were going to come,” Garcia said. “They didn't come [Thursday], which was great. But the way the course was playing these first two days, it was very easy to make bogeys. Fortunate enough for me I made a good amount of birdies today so I counteracted that.”
Fowler, who shot an 80 in the opening round last year to miss the cut, made the biggest move Friday with a 5-under 67. He holed a bunker shot for a birdie on the par-5 second shot and added a birdie on the third hole to quickly get to 3 under for the round and 2 under for the tournament.
“I just kept things moving forward,” Fowler said. “I had that [early] cushion and it freed me up to go after some shots.”
Fowler has at least a share of the lead in a major for the first time. A tie for fifth in 2014 is his only top-10 in six previous Masters appearances. “We’re in a good spot,” he said.
Though the wind died down a bit Friday compared to Thursday, the formidable winds have dried out the greens following rain on Monday and Wednesday.
“The greens definitely picked up a good bit of speed overnight,” McGirt said. “It dried out some, and it picked up I would say a foot, foot and a half of speed.”
After two challenging rounds in cool and windy conditions, warm, sunny and calm conditions are expected to take over Augusta National on Saturday and Sunday. “It’s going to be a different golf course and we’re going to see a lot of good golf,” Fowler said.
After second round