Sergio Garcia perfectly placed to finally end Major drought while Rory McIlroy puts cruel bogey behind him to stay in hunt
SERGIO GARCIA finally caught a break in his career-long battle to land a Major after a scoreboard cock-up at The Masters – while Rory McIlroy’s ‘Augusta Adventure Ride’ was full of thrills and spills.
The Spaniard once said he lacked the ‘final ingredient’ to end a run of four seconds and 18 top-tens in the big-four events.
But he hit the front at Augusta after a birdie on the ninth took him to four under.
That was his fourth birdie on a front nine that was playing ridiculously tough, and it looked like he was ready to mount a charge.
But scoreboard watchers were dismayed when Garcia’s name tumbled off top spot as he walked off the tenth green, with the official markers putting him down for a triple-bogey seven.
Thankfully, that turned out to be a scoring error, and Garcia took full advantage with two birdies in the final fours holes to claim a share of the early lead with American Charley Hoffman.
Garcia said: “I stayed positive, which was good, and tried to forget about it.
“I moved on and made some good pars and the birdies went in. I was hitting good shots, rolling in good putts, which under these conditions is not easy to do.
“There were a couple of stupid mistakes but it can happen the way the course is playing.”
At the tenth, Garcia, 37, hit a provisional ball after hoiking his drive into the trees down the right of the hole.
The officials following the group thought he had finished the hole with that one. But he actually found his original ball and, after hacking it out, he finished with a bogey five.
It was more than an hour before the mistake was rectified and, when Garcia was restored to his rightful place, a huge cheer rang round Augusta.
There is clearly a lot of support for the Spaniard, who often seems to reserve his best golf for the Ryder Cup.
Lee Westwood is another crowd favourite after finishing runner-up here for the second time last year, making it a record ten top-five finishes in the Majors without winning.
He started the second round in third after a career-best run of five successive birdies hoisted him to a two-under-par 70 on day one.
But it was a case of one step forward two steps back for the Brit, 43, in the second round.
After dropping a shot on the first hole, he birdied the second, only for three more bogeys in quick succession to drop him back to one over par after eight.
The big-dipper ride continued as Westwood birdied the ninth, and when he picked up another shot on the long 13th to move back into red figures at one under, his supporters started exchanging knowing winks.
That was the hole where he kicked off his five-in-a-row spree on Thursday.
Sadly, he went the other way this time.
He bogeyed the next three holes and eventually signed for a five-over-par 77.
But at three over at halfway, his hopes of breaking his duck before Garcia does are certainly not over just yet.
Meanwhile, McIlroy produced some unlikely birdies and incredible par saves — only to be floored by a stroke of bad luck at the last.
McIlroy’s day was summed up by the fifth and sixth holes where he made two priceless birdies after staring at near-certain bogeys.
He carved his drive deep into the trees on the fifth but blasted his iron through a gap and sank a 12-footer for his three.
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The world No 2 was in trouble again at the sixth, a 180-yard par three that drops sharply downhill.
He was faced with a delicate chip after sending his tee shot through the green — but holed from 90 feet for a two.
McIlroy could not get out of all the tight spots and he made four bogeys.
Birdie No 4 on the 17th put him in good shape — until his second shot hit the flag on the last and bounced off the green.
He missed a three-foot putt for par and carded a 73 for a one-over total.
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