Garcia, Pieters take advantage of Hoffman's Masters stumble

The Masters

Charley Hoffman still leads the Masters despite a 75 on Friday - but now he has Sergio Garcia and Thomas Pieters for company...

Spaniard Sergio Garcia has his sights on a maiden major title after posting a second round 69 to share the lead at the halfway stage alongside Charley Hoffman, Thomas Pieters and Rickie Fowler.

Garcia, who started this round at one under, made the perfect start as he rolled in a lengthy birdie putt on the first hole of the day, the same hole that so many players have struggled with so far this week. He backed that birdie up with another two back-to-back at the par-5 second and short third.

Bogeys at four, 10 and 13 were cancelled out with birdies at 9, 15 and 17 and that round of 69 takes Garcia to the top of the leaderboard.

Charley Hoffman, who surprised everyone yesterday with a magnificent round of 65 found the going a little tougher today, posting a round a full 10 shots worse than Thursday. Five bogeys in a six hole period around the turn for the American threatened to derail his challenge but a steady last few holes with a birdie on the 13th helped him stay at the top of the leaderboard heading into the weekend.

Thomas Pieters threatened something special yesterday but late bogeys spoilt what was a very good looking first round. Today though, his back nine in tough conditions was a lot more enjoyable to watch. A brilliant eagle at the 13th was backed up with a sublime birdie on the 14th. From there he parred his way into the clubhouse and will start the weekend in a tie for the lead.

Three-time winner Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose all occupy the top 10 heading into the weekend and are only a few paces off the lead. They will all be looking to strike early on Saturday to put some pressure on the leading pack.

So how is Rory McIlroy doing? The four-time major winner is still plugging away and has a chance going into the weekend to achieve the magical career Grand Slam. He started, like a lot of players this week, with a bogey at the first hole and birdies at two, five and six were quickly cancelled out with unwelcome bogeys at three, nine and 12. A  great drive on 18 put him in great position to finish with a birdie but a perfect approach shot agonisingly crashed against the pin and ended up 45 yards away off the green.

From there the Northern Irishman failed to get up and down and will start the third round five shots back on one over par. Like McIlroy, Jordan Spieth has not played his best golf as of yet but some great par saves have kept the young Texan very much in with a chance of winning another green jacket. A final birdie at the 18th hole has Spieth level par and just four shots off the lead.

Last year’s champion Danny Willett was one of a host of big names to miss the cut after a round of 78 today. Willett started his round with a quadruple bogey and never recovered from there. Former champions Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson also missed the cut alongside 2016 Open winner Henrik Stenson.

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