19th hole: Can Garcia snap majors’ third-round woes?


Major chatter

With a shootout all but certain for the weekend, thoughts turn to three European players, all somewhat within reach after 36 holes, all lacking a major, all with a lengthy string of major appearances without a victory.

Sergio Garcia has had 73 starts in majors without a victory, second among active players, and finds himself tied for the lead at the halfway mark.

“Being a part of a major, it’s exciting already. Having a chance is the best thing, and winning it, I’m sure it’s amazing. But for me, I feel so fortunate that I’ve been able to be healthy; that I’ve been able to play so many majors in a row. I don’t even know how many there are, but so many majors in a row and giving myself a lot of chances to win them. That for me is already a win.”

England’s Lee Westwood (at 5 over) holds the distinction of the longest active winless majors streak at 75. He was in strong contention till he made four bogeys in his final five holes to slide to a 77. And countryman Paul Casey (at 3 over) is at 51 starts and craving a major. Both are among those seven shots back at 147 and tied for 19th.

American Steve Stricker, playing a limited PGA Tour schedule since joining the Champions Tour when he turned 50 a few weeks ago, is at 67 majors without a victory, and that seems unlikely to change. He is at 4 over, but did make the cut.

Old-man golf

No one seems to conjure up patron interest and magical play each year in the same way Fred Couples does when he arrives at Augusta National.

Couples, 57, the 1992 Masters champ, shot 73-70-143 by scoring birdies on three of his first five holes and nearly making an eagle on No. 18 on Friday. Couples has been in the Masters’ top 10 after 36 holes six times since 2010, the most of any player — and all after the age of 50.

Couples (back) missed the 2016 tourney, his first time not to play in the Masters after 22 previous years. He has played 120 rounds in 32 Masters.

Golf Channel analyst Colin Montgomerie said: “He comes alive. Every year he seems to do well here. He loves it so much. I’m a great believer that if you love to do something, you are quite good at it. And Fred is quite good at playing here at Augusta.”

Amateur mark

Stewart Hagestad, 25, the U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, the USGA event for those 25 and older, was the low amateur in the field after two rounds by three strokes, shooting 74-73-150, and was one of two amateurs in the field to make the weekend.

He carved a spot in the Masters record book as the first U.S. Mid-Am champion after 29 invitations ever to make a Masters cut. He got it easily with a tap-in birdie on the par-4 No. 18 after almost making an eagle on his approach shot.

“I knew kind of where I stood (on the 18th) and I obviously knew the history with Mid-Ams and the Masters, and that’s been something that’s been on my mind the whole week,” he said.

Numerology

74.92

Sergio Garcia’s third-round Masters scoring average, the worst of any player in the past 30 years with at least 10 rounds played, according to the Golf Channel.

He said it

“I think I’m still right in the thick of things, and looking forward to some good weather on the weekend,” — Matt Kuchar (Georgia Tech), a former U.S. Amateur champ still seeking his first major professional title, after shooting a 1-over 73 and stands at 1 over, five shots back.

Forecast

A perfect April day. The high will be around 70 degrees with clear skies and wind of less than 5 mph. The only way it could be more perfect would be to have Sunday’s forecast of 77 degrees with less than 5 mph of wind.



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