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Augusta's Taylor lurking

    AUGUSTA — So far, a hometown boy is living up to the hype.
    Augusta’s own Vaughn Taylor was impressive for the second straight day at the Masters Tournament, finishing at even par Friday. The 31-year-old is one-under-par for the event and is tied with Justin Rose for third. It’s a far cry from a year ago when Taylor missed the cut in his Masters debut.
    This time around, the soft-spoken Taylor said he’s much more relaxed and comfortable.    
    “I really wanted to play well last year and kind of put too much pressure on myself,” he said. “I was kind of overwhelmed all week by the whole thing. I think it’s always easier your second time around. Hopefully, I can keep it going.”
    Taylor was born in Virginia but moved to Augusta prior to his first birthday and attended his first Masters in 1987 — a memorable year for Augustans as native Larry Mize won the green jacket.
    “It was awesome,” Taylor said. “I was just getting into golf and obviously the story was Larry was from here. I thought it was pretty amazing that he won here in his hometown.”
    Taylor is getting plenty of support from the crowd and also heard words of encouragement from three-time Masters champion Gary Player, Taylor’s playing partner Friday who is competing at Augusta National for the 50th time. After their round Friday, Player told Taylor he was a great player and was capable of winning this year’s tournament.
    “Those were very special words to me,” said Taylor, who first played at Augusta National as an 18-year-old freshman at Augusta State. “It puts a smile on my face to hear him say those things.”
    Although former Masters champions Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are surprisingly not on the current leaderboard, Taylor couldn’t help but wonder how those guys were playing while he was on the course today. Woods finished at 3-over while Mickelson was 5-over.
    Taylor said he feels good, evident by his birdies on seven, 14 and 15 Friday, but knows there is a small margin for error.
    “You know, speed on the greens is really key,” Taylor said. “You definitely have to hit the right spots on the green. I feel like I’m rolling it good, so hopefully, that’s an advantage for me.”

A quiet Masters
    With the dry, fast conditions resulting in higher scores, it’s been a quiet week around Augusta National so far as patrons haven’t seen too many birdies to cheer for.
    “You don’t hear the roars like you’re used to,” said eight-time Masters participant Tim Herron, who was 3-over Friday after shooting even par Thursday.
    
Greens still fast
    Green speed was a hot topic around Augusta National for the second straight day.
    “This is the fastest I’ve seen here on a Friday,” Herron said.
    Many golfers, including Australia’s Rod Pampling, said the greens were so fast, it felt like Sunday at the Masters instead of Friday.
 “With the conditions, it’s shaping up to be a tournament like no other,” said Jerry Kelly who was 3-under Friday and is even for the tournament. “It’s been a long time since anybody’s seen it play like this.”
    Kelly had four birdies on the front nine Friday.

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

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