AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Sergio Garcia finally had an enjoyable day on a course that’s never been one of his favorites.
Now comes the hard part: holding it together for another three days at the Masters.
“We’ll see what happens,” Garcia said, sounding a bit apprehensive. The Spaniard made back-to-back bogeys early in the second round Friday. But, as he made the turn with a 38, he was still at 4 under for the tournament, just two shots behind Marc Leishman, the Australian who shared the lead with Garcia after both opened at 6-under 66.
Leishman had an afternoon tee time at Augusta National. So did Tiger Woods, the overwhelming favorite and right in the thick of things after starting with a 70, cheered on by his girlfriend, Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn.
The second round began under cloudy skies, after overnight rain soaked the course. There was another round of showers for the early players, but the sun broke through around lunchtime and the temperature was expected to rise into the upper 70s. The scoring conditions clearly were much tougher than they were the day before, when plenty of players took advantage of their gentleness.
Even an eighth-grader.
Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old from China and youngest to compete in a major in 148 years, played well beyond his age. He opened with a respectable 73, capped by a 15-foot birdie putt from just off the 18th green, and had a chance of making the cut after playing the first 13 holes Friday at 2 over.
As Leishman began the second round, he held a two-stroke advantage over Garcia, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Dustin Johnson, Davis Lynn and Rickie Fowler. Fred Couples, the 53-year-old wonder playing his favorite tournament, was in the group another shot behind.
For Garcia, there’s always been the conundrum. How can a golfer of such talent have gone this long without winning a major title? Why does he keep blowing it on golf’s biggest stages?
Well, here he is again, contending at the Masters, the one major where he has never been much of a factor.
“Obviously, it’s not my most favorite place,” Garcia said. “Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.”
In recent years, he seemed more and more resigned to the perception that time had passed him by—even at the relatively young age of 33.
Until Thursday, he had not led in any round of a major since the British Open at Carnoustie in 2007, when he set the pace the first three days but lost to Padraig Harrington in a playoff.
That was the latest in a series of bitter disappointments, of close-but-no-cigar calls in every major championship but the Masters, where he has only two top-10 finishes in his previous 14 appearances.
Last year, Garcia shot himself out of contention during a dismal third round and bluntly declared he just didn’t have the game or temperament to win a major championship—certainly not at Augusta.
“Maybe I didn’t say it the right way because it was one of those frustrating moments,” he conceded.
There was none of that frustration on the opening day of this Masters. The first 10 holes might’ve been as solid as Garcia can play, a 5-under score he made look downright easy.
“If I manage to make a couple of putts that kind of stayed around the lip, I could have been probably 7- or 8-under par through 10,” Garcia said. “It was that good.”
We’ve seen this from him before, just not over all four days of a major.
That was the big question when he teed off Friday.
“Every time I tee it off, I try to play as well as I can, hope that my best that week is really, really good,” he said. “My best was pretty good, and I’m looking forward to doing the same thing the next three days. It will be really nice.”
Woods wasn’t far off as he began his quest for a fifth green jacket.
Wild at the start of the opening round, including a tee shot that knocked a cup of beer out of a spectator’s hand, Woods settled into a groove that left him four strokes off the lead.
In his four Masters wins, Woods has never opened with a score lower than 70. His key is not to shoot himself out of the tournament before the weekend.
There were a dozen rounds in the 60s on Thursday, and nearly half the field shot par or better. Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson recovered from a rough start by running off four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to salvage a 71. Rory McIlroy had a 72.
Woods said he struggled with the slower pace of the greens, and so did defending champion Bubba Watson, who opened with a 75.
“They’re soft and they are slow, and consequently we have 45 people at par or better,” Mickelson said. “But that means I’ve got to change my whole mindset and just get after these pins, because the ball’s not running like it used to and I’m giving this course way too much respect because of my past knowledge.”