By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP National Writer
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Dustin Johnson has a game that fits perfectly with Augusta National.
He finally brought it with him to the Masters.
Johnson grabbed a share of the lead Friday with back-to-back birdies around the turn, pulling into a tie with 18-hole co-leader Marc Leishman at 6-under par.
Sergio Garcia, who had been tied with Leishman, dropped back after making three bogeys over the first 11 holes -- quite a change from the previous day, when he had his first bogey-free round at Augusta since 2002 on his way to a 6-under 66.
Meantime, 14-year-old Guan Tianlang kept up his solid play after an opening 73, playing his first 15 holes Friday at 2 over. That gave him a shot at making the cut, which would be like a win for someone in the eighth grade.
Johnson's booming power and ability to hit high, right-to-left shots, would seem to make him a natural to contend at Augusta. But this is the one major where he's never been much of a factor, his best finish in three previous appearances a tie for 30th.
He missed last year's Masters after injuring his back lifting a jet ski.
"I've played OK here in the past, just not great," Johnson said. "It feels good. I've been working hard on the game the last month or so."
A native of Columbia, S.C., just an hour east of Augusta, he's always considered the Masters his favorite tournament. So, why has it been a bit of a struggle in other years?
"This is one of those courses, the more you play it, the more you get to know it," Johnson said. "When you get in trouble, you kind of know where you need to hit it so you actually have a chance to get up-and-down, or you know what side of the fairway to miss it on at certain flags. Every time you play here, you learn something about the golf course."
Garcia has always had more of a love-hate relationship with this place, and his mood was taking a turn for the worse when he struggled Friday to follow up his brilliant opening round.
He bogeyed the 350-yard third hole -- the shortest par-4 on the course, dropped another stroke at the par-3 fourth and slipped again with his third bogey of the round at the 11th. In the process, he dropped three strokes behind Johnson and Leishman, an Australian who teed off right around lunchtime and kept up his solid play with three straight pars.
Of course, there's still a long way to go before the contenders are sorted out. Tiger Woods, the overwhelming favorite and right in the thick of things after starting with a 70, was one of the last players to tee off Friday. He's been cheered on by his girlfriend, Olympic ski champion Lindsey Vonn.
While plenty of eyes were on Woods and Vonn, the most compelling story Friday might be the youngest player in the field -- heck, the youngest player in Masters history.
"The people here are very nice, rooting for me, and I feel comfortable on the course," Guan said Thursday.
One of his playing partners was certainly impressed. Two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw led the cheers for Guan, and the youngster relied heavily on the 61-year-old for advice as he made his way around Augusta.
"He played about four of the most beautiful, delicate pitches you've ever seen," Crenshaw said. "It must help to have 14-year-old nerves. I'm telling you, he played like a veteran."
Speaking of veterans, Fred Couples, the 53-year-old wonder playing his favorite tournament, was right in the thick of things again. He opened with a 68 and was still at 4 under through 12 holes Friday, just two strokes off the lead.
Rickie Fowler also opened with a 68, while 2011 Master champ Charl Schwartzel surged into contention Friday with an eagle at the second and a birdie on the next hole to get to 4 under.
Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker and Justin Rose were among those joining Garcia at 3 under.
The second round began under cloudy skies, after overnight rain soaked the course. There was another round of showers for the early players, but the sun broke through around noon and the temperature was expected to rise into the upper 70s. The scoring chances were clearly more limited than they were the day before, when plenty of players took advantage of their gentle conditions.
©2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
- Sports & Recreation
- Dustin Johnson
- Sergio Garcia
- Marc Leishman
- Guan Tianlang