Two of the greatest current players to never win a Major, the Day 1 leader, and a Belgian giant comprise the four-way tie atop the leaderboard through 36 holes at The Masters.
Day One leader Charley Hoffman shot three strokes worse on Friday than he had Thursday, dropping from from 7-under to 4-under where he’s joined by Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters, and Rickie Fowler.
It’s the first time four men have been tied for first through 36 holes at The Masters since 1973.
Hoffman got to 8-under with a birdie on No. 2, then staggered through a sequence of five bogeys in six holes between No. 6 and No. 11. He got a stroke back with a birdie on No. 13 and parred out the rest of the way.
Garcia, the Susan Lucci of the Majors, shot a 3-under 69 to get into first place. He birdied his first three holes in a row to set the pace. Garcia has finished as the runner-up twice at both The Open Championship and the PGA Championship, but never higher than fourth at the Masters. He has not finished in the Top 10 at Augusta since 2013.
Fowler, who looked like the heir apparent to American golf greatness as short a time ago as 2014, is also in pursuit of his first Major win. In 2014, he finished tied for fifth at Augusta, tied for second at the US Open and The Open Championship, and tied for third at the PGA Championship. Since that epic swing, he has not finished higher than 12th at a Major, and missed the cut at both the Masters and US Open a year ago. His biggest win to date is the 2015 Deutsche Bank Championship.
Fowler shot a 5-under 67 highlighted by an eagle on No. 2. “I knew the first two days would be tough. We really needed to make sure we could fight through it and stay in the tournament,” Fowler said. “We’re in a good spot. It’s going to be a fun weekend. We’re going to see a lot of good golf and battle it out.”
Pieters is the real wildcard in the whole mix, firing a 4-under 68 that came alive when he eagled No. 13 and birdied 14 in succession. Pieters, just 25, is one of the tallest players on tour at 6 feet, 5 inches. He won the NCAA individual title in 2012 at Illinois and finished in 2013 before turning pro. He’s won three titles on the European Tour between August of 2015 and August of 2016, and tied for fifth at the WGC-Mexico City earlier this year.
This is his Masters debut.