Francesco Molinari, Jason Day and Brooks Koepka led the Masters on seven under as Friday’s morning starters finished their second rounds at Augusta.
Molinari, who claimed his first major title at last year’s Open Championship before excelling at the Ryder Cup, and former world number one Day each carded five-under 67s to reach the top of the leaderboard.
Yet they were joined at that mark when Koepka – a winner on three of his last six starts in majors – birdied the last to complete a battling 71.
After a faultless 66 on day one, Koepka had to fight back in his second round after recording two bogeys and a double-bogey in his first six holes.
Molinari was the man to keep a bogey off his card on Friday, while Day is firmly in contention once again at a course where he has previously finished second and third, despite appearing significantly inconvenienced by a back injury on day one.
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 12, 2019
Dustin Johnson was one off the lead after a 70, with Ian Poulter (71) in the clubhouse at five under, the same score as Jon Rahm and Justin Harding, who had played eight and 14 holes respectively.
The likes of Phil Mickelson (73), Matt Kuchar (69) and Patton Kizzire (70) were three off the pace, but a 75 sent Bryson DeChambeau tumbling down the standings. He had shared the lead with Koepka overnight, but fell away after playing his first eight holes in one under.
Tiger Woods was even for the day and two under for the tournament after eight holes, requiring a spark in his pursuit of a fifth Masters crown and first since 2005, while Rory McIlroy – the pre-tournament favourite – was two under for the round and one under overall after making eagle at the par-five eighth.
After starting the tournament with a 75 that included a four-over front nine, 2015 champion Jordan Spieth bounced back with a 68 that would have been even better had he not missed presentable chances at the 15th and 17th.
World number one Justin Rose could only muster a 73 and appeared set to miss the cut at four over.