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Wetterich plays conservative to share lead

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    AUGUSTA — The Brett Wetterich sitting atop the leaderboard after the second round of the Masters Tournament Friday wasn’t the same Brett Wetterich golf patrons are accustomed to.
    Instead of aggressively bombing it down the fairways and firing at pins, the Masters rookie was taking a more conservative approach and had a simple goal — make a lot of pars.
    The tactic worked as Wetterich carded a 1-over-par 73 Friday and was tied with Tim Clark for the 36-hole lead at 2-under. Wetterich entered the day sharing the first-round lead with England’s Justin Rose.
    “You always hear the great players say that pars are great in majors,” said Wetterich, a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. “I was just going out there trying to make as many as I could.”
    Wetterich started strong Friday and was 1-under after 14 holes before running into trouble on the 15th and 16th where back-to-back three-puts resulted in consecutive bogeys. An eight-foot par putt on 17 helped him get back on track, and he parred on the last two holes.
    “That kind of stopped my bleeding,” Wetterich said of his putt on 17. “Confidence-wise, it helped me out a lot.”
    Seeing Wetterich’s name atop the leaderboard heading into Saturday may be a surprise to some, but the 33-year-old said he’s where he belongs.
    “I don’t feel like I shouldn’t be out here playing, and I don’t feel like I shouldn’t be at the top of the leaderboard because I’m playing well.”
    Wetterich, played one year of collegiate golf at Wallace State in Alabama, the only school to offer the Ohio native a scholarship out of high school, before deciding college wasn’t for him. He left school and began his professional career playing mini-tours in Florida.
    Wetterich claimed his first — and only — PGA Tour victory a year ago at the Byron Nelson championship and dedicated the win to his late older brother, Mark, who died four years ago after being hit by a drunk driver in Chicago. Mark’s initials — MTW — are embroidered on Wetterich’s bag, but he tries not to dwell on the tragedy.
    “There’s going to be times when I look at my bag and see his initials, and for a few seconds or so I just kind of think about him,” he said. “But I try not to bring that into my mind so much (when) I’m out here playing.”
    Wetterich is hoping to get some undisturbed sleep Friday night — he was limited to about three hours Thursday after a friend called and woke him up around 1:30 a.m. — and will stick with his conservative approach when he returns to Augusta National today. There is little Masters experience on the current leaderboard, and Wetterich is looking to become just the second Masters rookie to take home a green jacket, a feat last accomplished by Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
    “I’m sure there’s going to be some past champions that are sneaking up (the leaderboard) in the next couple of days,” Wetterich said.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.

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