Archive for Saturday, April 9, 2005

Rain upstaging ‘Big Four’ as biggest story at Augusta

April 9, 2005


— The fairways are so wet they haven't been mowed in two days. A small truck drove outside the ropes spraying cat litter to absorb all the water at Augusta National. Late Friday afternoon at fabled Amen Corner, Rae's Creek looked like a chocolate river.

And for the second straight day, there wasn't a whole lot of golf played at the Masters.

Rain at the Masters -- a tradition like no other.

The first round barely was in the books Friday morning when a rumble of thunder signaled another suspension, and the players never got back onto the soppy course.

"Mother Nature has not treated us too well," said Will Nicholson, head of the competition committee.

Not even the Masters is immune.

Bad weather is making more news than the Big Four, although defending champion Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh managed to get some attention with a squabble over Lefty's shoes. Singh thought Mickelson was leaving large spike marks. Rules officials who sized up the spikes said they were fine.

"He expressed his concerns. I expressed my disappointment with the way it was handled," Mickelson said through his press agent T.R. Reinman. "I believe everything is fine now."

By today, everyone might be in galoshes.

This is the fourth straight year rain has interrupted play at Augusta National, and it seems to happen every week on the PGA Tour. A 36-hole tournament at Riviera. An entire day washed out at La Costa. Then four straight weeks of rain, starting with Bay Hill and going all the way into the Masters.

What: Second and third rounds.When: 7:30 a.m. today.Where: Augusta National, Augusta, Ga.TV: 2:30 p.m. today, CBS (Sunflower Broadband Channels 5, 13).

"What we should do is find out where all the drought-stricken areas are and for $10 million, take a PGA Tour event there," Nick Price said.

No one wanted to keep going quite like David Howell of England, playing in his first Masters.

The surprising star at the Ryder Cup, Howell birdied five of the eight holes he played in the second round and was at 5 under par, tied with Ryder Cup teammate Luke Donald and Chris DiMarco.

With players going off both tees, some starting the second round before others finished the first round, it was difficult to figure out where anyone was, except when they weren't playing.

"We're used to eating lunch four or five times and sitting around doing nothing," Tom Lehman said.

DiMarco finished off his first round at 5-under 67, the fourth time he's had at least a share of the lead at the Masters since 2001. He played one hole in the second round and made par.

Golfer Ernie Els walks past caddies gathered in front of the
clubhouse after rain suspended play Friday at Augusta National in
Augusta, Ga. The golfers will attempt to play the second and third
rounds today, weather permitting.

Golfer Ernie Els walks past caddies gathered in front of the clubhouse after rain suspended play Friday at Augusta National in Augusta, Ga. The golfers will attempt to play the second and third rounds today, weather permitting.

Donald, who shot 68 in the first round, birdied the second hole when play was stopped.

Singh also had a 68, and that was as far as he got. He was among three players who didn't even tee off in the second round, which was expected to resume about 7:30 a.m. today.

Nicholson still doesn't think the fairways will be dry enough for a convey of mowers. Officials wanted to cut the grass Friday morning, but soon realized that would have left an even muddier mess.

"Our primary concern is the players and the condition of the course for them to play the game we are here to see," Nicholson said.

Golf lasted only three hours.

Tiger Woods made two birdies, two bogeys, two pars and wound up at 74, the third straight year he has failed to break par in the first round of the Masters. Ernie Els birdied his first hole, then made a double bogey on the par-3 fourth hole and shot 75.

Jack Nicklaus thought he would have to play 24 holes, and instead only had to go six. He provided some entertainment by becoming the first player to make birdie on the par-3 16th, rolling in a 30-footer up the hill. But that was sandwiched by two sloppy bogeys, and the six-time champion had a 77.

U.S. Amateur champion Ryan Moore followed with a shot into 2 1/2 feet on No. 16 for birdie and shot 71.

Howell, meanwhile, was thankful he even was playing. He thought his tee time was at 12:20 p.m., but his coach woke up early because he's still coping with jet lag and realized it was three hours earlier.

He started his second round with a 6-iron into 4 feet on the 10th, and a 6-iron into 25 feet on the 11th. He two-putted for birdie on both par 5s, then hit 7-iron to 6 feet for a birdie on the 16th to reach 5 under.

Howell had a 6-foot par putt on the 18th when the siren sounded to suspend play.

"I would have been pleased to make the cut," he said. "Now I can aim a bit higher."

Kirk Triplett feels the same way. He opened with a 75 and was worried about a weekend tee time, but all that changed when he holed out for eagle on No. 13 from 94 yards. He birdied the 15th and 16th, and suddenly was at 2 under and dreaming big.

"I would love to keep playing," Triplett said. "I'm thinking about contending, instead of when you're a few over par and you're thinking about making the cut. That's the feeling I'm going to bring to the course tomorrow."

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