MASTERS NOTES: Despite position, Garcia remains uncertain


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Sergio Garcia, of Spain, hits off the first fairway during the second round the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 6, 2012, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)


Sergio Garcia, of Spain, reacts after a birdie putt on the eight green during the second round the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 6, 2012, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

AUGUSTA -- It's a question Sergio Garcia hears often.

Once a rising star and certain major champion, the now 32-year old Garcia is still chasing the expectations heaped upon him more than a decade ago. He's found plenty of success, but when results fall short of expectations the results become failures.

But here he is again, in contention at a major championship.

Garcia turned in a 4-under 68 on Friday to catapult himself to just one stroke back of co-leaders Fred Couples and Jason Dufner. It's the closest he's ever been heading into the weekend at the Masters. The last time he entered the weekend in the top 10 was 2009 and he finished tied for 38th.

Cue the question: "A decade ago, you were golf's next big thing. What have you learned about yourself since then that makes you ready to win this year?"

Answer: "I don't know if I am ready to win. I'll see. We'll see. ... I wish I could tell you I am ready to win, but I really don't know. So, I'm just going to give it my best try, and you know, hopefully that will be good."

An honest answer and one created by a decades' worth of missed chances.

Starting today, he gets another chance. Chances he understands.

"(Major championships) ask for everything you have," he said, "and if you are a little bit off, and you lose a little bit of confidence, it can cost you."

Waiting his turn

With plenty of questions for co-leader Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters winner's press conference went on and on.

Then a round face appeared in a small window in the door where the players enter and exit. Last year's Masters runner-up and U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy was due up next and stood stealing a peek at the man he trailed by one stroke.

Couples smiled and answered his final questions before giving way to McIlroy, nearly 30 years his junior, but one stroke behind.

"It's great to see him up there, it just adds spice to the weekend," McIlroy said of Couples, for despite shooting 4-under par the Northern Ireland native was first quizzed about playing with the surprise co-leader.

Questions about his round needed to wait.

"He's just cool," McIlroy said of Couples. "I hope I'm that cool when I'm 52."

Early clouds, late charges

After his 2-over par first round, three time Masters champion Phil Mickelson wasn't bothered by the early gap between him and the leaders.

"With a hot round tomorrow, I'll get right back in it for the weekend," he said Thursday.

But the hot didn't come.

Rain blew in late Thursday night and dark, windy skies followed. The temperature barely crossed 50 by midday.

The rocky morning weather tempered scoring for those with early tee times. The best of the morning groups was Sean O'Hair who played his second round 2-under.

"The balls obviously aren't going anywhere because it's cold," O'Hair said after his morning round. "I don't think anyone is really going to run away with it on a day like today."

Well, the day changed.

As the morning turned to afternoon, the weather and the course started to give. Things got drier, warmer and sunnier and the numbers went south.

By day's end, 12 players had finished rounds at least 2-under par and all but four teed off after 10 a.m., avoiding the worst of the morning's cold gusts.

Day's done

A runner-up in last year's Masters and U.S. Open Jason Day didn't plan on leaving Augusta before the weekend.

But the Australian, playing in just his second Masters, withdrew midway through his Friday round, citing an injury. He was 5-over pa at the time and 1-over on the day.