Stankowski gets feel for greens in garage Putting on concrete gives him sense of Augusta speed

Notebook

April 11, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Getting ready for the fast greens of Augusta National and the Masters takes on different forms of preparation. First-round leader John Huston has putted on them all week, from the time he arrived on Sunday.

That was the day Paul Stankowski practiced on a similarly hard surface.

"I didn't putt all last week, because the greens at home aren't like Augusta," said Stankowski, who had taken the week off to fish back home in Texas. "On Sunday, I swept out my garage and putted for about 20 minutes on the concrete."

And which were faster, his simulated green in his garage at home outside Dallas or greens that seemed to be conditioned with a Zamboni rather than a lawn mower? "It was really fast, I couldn't stop it actually," he said. "But it's a great way to do it."

Just how Stankowski did it at home was interesting.

"It was a slight slope and I tried to putt across, stick a cup [down] and putt 5-, 6-, 7-footers that broke 2 feet just to get a feel for the ball breaking like that," he said. "Then it would run all the way to the end of the garage and I'd have to go get it just like a couple of putts today."

Stankowski smiled.

"I wish I had a three-car garage," he said. "Then I could practice some 30-footers."

The garage work obviously paid off. He made a downhill 12-footer for eagle-3 on the 535-yard eighth hole to help jump-start his 4-under-par 68 that would help leave him one shot behind Huston. He made a 10-footer for birdie on the 400-yard 17th hole and a 4-footer for birdie to briefly make him the leader in the clubhouse.

Ford keeps playing

Doug Ford didn't give much thought to breaking the tournament record with his 45th straight start yesterday. Ford, who won here 40 years ago and hasn't made the cut since 1971, has been criticized by some for still coming to play in the Masters.

"I was just trying to make a score," said Ford, whose 13-over 85 included six three-putt greens. "I don't even know what year it is."

Ford, who counts among his 19 PGA Tour victories the 1962 Eastern Open at Mount Pleasant in Baltimore, plans to keep playing at Augusta despite the fact that he doesn't play in any Super Senior events.

"As long as they send me an invitation, I'll come back," said Ford, who'll be 75 in August. "You break your leg just to get in, why wouldn't you stay with it?"

Comment from afar

After finishing with a 15-over- par 87 that included five-putting the 16th green, Ken Green was asked for a comment. He begged off the interview and instead gave reporters the telephone number where he was staying.

Most figured that Green had found a unique way to skip out on an interview.

But Green, one of the tour's longtime characters, was right where he said he would be.

"It was unbelievable," said Green, who qualified for the Masters by finishing in the top 16 at last year's Open. "It was one of the most embarrassing days of my life. I was really trying out there."

Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the day's worst round belonged to Arnold Palmer. The legendary four-time champion, playing in his second tournament since undergoing prostate surgery in mid-January, shot 89.

It was the worst round he ever played at Augusta National in a career that dates back to 1955.

"I'm just glad to be here and feel as good as I do," said Palmer, 67, who will undoubtably miss the cut for the 14th straight year.

Palmer got several ovations, included two standing ovations despite hitting two balls in the water on the par-5 15th hole.

"In some cases, the fans were very warm and cordial," he said. "In some cases, they were a little embarrassed for me. I just hope it gets better."

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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