Charley Hoffman has soft landing despite shooting 75 at Masters

"This was something different that we're not used to seeing, so it's going to be back to something a little bit more normal these next two days".

The wind will die down and the temperatures will warm up for the weekend, but that may not compare to how heated the competition will be as a mix of American and worldwide stars, youngsters and veterans, past Masters champions and those green with envy will tackle a course they hope will be more ripe for birdies than bellyaches. They are ready for it to really begin Saturday as soon as the temperatures rise and the gusts subside.

Eighth-ranked USA star Rickie Fowler was on two-under with 11 holes remaining thanks in part to birdies on the par-5 second and par-4 third.

William McGirt is trying to disprove the often-repeated notion that experience is a prerequisite to playing well at Augusta National Golf Club because of the nuances of the course. Unlike that performance 20 years ago, Augusta National has a traffic jam atop the leaderboard that will likely take the entire weekend to untangle. The leaderboard is forecasting something hot and fierce, with all kinds of possibilities.

Putting more efficiently than anyone in the field and taking care of the big moments, Fowler of Murrieta shot 5-under-par 67 in the gusty sunshine and joined a four-man scramble for the tournament lead. Hoffman, who shot an otherworldly 65 on Thursday under hard conditions, and survived a run of five bogeys in six holes to finish at 4-under Friday.

But the other contenders comprise quite an array, featuring Fred Couples, 57, and Jon Rahm, 22, tied at 1 under. So if there's a reason to believe that Garcia will defy his previous form and count himself an annual invitee to the Masters champions' dinner, it's on the greens. Following a rough start with a 3-over 75 on Thursday, Scott followed up with a 3-under 69 on Friday to edge himself into the Top 10. Willett opened his second round with a quadruple bogey and earned a quick exit with a 78.

"I've shown myself many times after that I can contend and I truly feel I cannot only win one major, but more than one", said Garcia.

To this point, the wind has been providing the chills and goosebumps.

Here's the parallel to those five players: None have won a major championship, and Garcia and Fowler have faced the most roadblocks to that goal. He was the first to tee off in Saturday's third round and quickly found problems again with a bogey on the par-5 second.

"Everybody was talking about how great that round was yesterday, but it was pretty easy to me - making putts, hitting good, solid golf shots", Hoffman said. "I knew I was three". You can't be afraid to hit a putt three or four feet by the hole. Two-time champ Bubba Watson and British Open victor Henrik Stenson missed that cut. That became an issue on No. 10 when scorers, mistaking Garcia for Lowry, thought Garcia hit out of bounds and gave him a triple-bogey 7.

Fowler would have the lead alone if he didn't put the ball in a lateral water hazard on 15.

With Dustin Johnson having to exit the 2017 Masters in Round 1, the best golfer in the tournament no longer has a chance to win it. "I feel like my age is still okay because I can drive it far enough".

"It would mean a lot", Garcia said. "Luckily, the chipping and bunker play has been saving me".

For now, it is time to exhale, and expect to see something special. "It's a cool thing about Augusta, very old school with the non-electronic leaderboards out there".

It's going to be a fun weekend as the weather starts to warm up and the wind subsides.

  • Jon Douglas