Sergio Garcia will head into Saturday tied for the lead after a second-round 69 in the US Masters at Augusta National

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Sergio Garcia Poised For Major Challenge 

Sergio Garcia will head into Saturday tied for the lead after a second-round 69 in the US Masters at Augusta National.

The Spaniard, who has 22 Major top-tens to his name, got off to a blistering start as he birdied his first three holes in blustery conditions.

He added another at the par-4 9th before dropping his first shot of the day at the 10th, which caused some temporary confusion in the media centre. It was initially reported as a triple-bogey seven, owing to the fact he played a provisional following a wayward drive, but he found and played his first ball.

Garcia also bogeyed the par-5 13th but he responded with gains at the 15th and 17th to complete 36 holes in four-under-par.

Overnight leader Charley Hoffman, who led by four after a first-round 65, dropped five shots in six holes from the 6th and posted a 75 to sit level with Garcia.

The impressive Thomas Pieters – making his Masters debut – is also on four-under-par, along with Rickie Fowler, who missed an eight-foot birdie putt at the 18th but still recorded a best-of-day 67.

Garcia is, of course, no stranger to Major contention, but at the age of 37, time is ticking in his race to avoid the dreaded best-player-never-to-have-won-a-major label. What happens over the next two days could both define his career and shape his future.

Garcia started out in the age of Tiger dominance and was tormented by Padraig Harrington in the 2007 Open and 2008 USPGA Championship, but all that would be forgotten if he gets the job done in Augusta.

The weather forecast seemed to play into his hands – his ability to control shot shape and trajectory is second to none – and you suspect he wouldn’t be too unhappy to see more strong winds over the weekend.

Among the players he will need to beat is compatriot Jon Rahm – a man who looks set to take the crown as Spain’s number-one golfer sooner rather than later.

The likes of Rory McIlroy – bidding to become just the sixth golfer in history to win the career grand slam – Jason Day, three-time victor Phil Mickelson, 2013 champion Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose are also lurking ominously.

But Sunday marks what would have been Seve’s 60th birthday. Is a Garcia victory written in the stars?

“It would mean a lot. That would be the best thing that could happen to me, and you know, I’m going to do my best to make sure that I’m here to tell you how it feels,” he said.

Attend The 2018 Masters with Your Golf Travel – visit  yourgolftravel.com/us-masters Experiences including flights, hotels & tickets are available. Nick Bonfield travelled to the 2017 Masters courtesy of Your Golf Travel.