Tiger's roars turn to groans

In the end, Woods can't overcome slow start


The Masters

April 10, 2000|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The roars kept coming for Tiger Woods yesterday. After he saved par from 10 feet on the first hole. After he made birdies on the second and fourth holes. After he recovered from a three-putt bogey on the par-3 sixth hole with birdies on the next two holes.

The roars, like the front-nine charge made by the former Masters champion, stopped coming. In time, they turned to groans.

First, when Woods missed a 10-footer for birdie on the par-4 ninth hole, leaving him three shots behind Vijay Singh. Then, after he barely missed a 20-footer on the par-4 10th. And finally, when he missed a 3-footer on the par-13th. By then, Singh was comfortably ahead in the 64th Masters.

Woods, the heavy pre-tournament favorite, wound up fifth after a 3-under-par 69 left him six shots behind at 4-under 284. It was his best finish here since winning the tournament by a record 12 shots three years ago.

"I figured if I got off to a good start today, which I did, I was right in the thick of it," he said. "And if those putts go in at 10 and 11 and 13 I thought if I made those birdies there, I'd be right in the ballgame."

Considering the way he started, with rounds of 75 and 72, Woods knew he wasn't far from winning his second Masters.

"Very close, very close," he said. "Even though I didn't start good on Thursday, I still had a chance. I'm proud of the fact that I got back in this tournament with a chance to go to the back nine on Sunday.

"I know that every time I play this game is fickle. Yesterday was a wonderful example of that. You had one day but two different days wrapped into one. The thing about this golf course, you can make birdies and things might happen."

They happened over only the first eight holes for Woods. Now he will have to get ready for the next major, at the U.S. Open in June. It will be played at Pebble Beach, where Woods came back from seven shots down with seven holes to play to win.

Guess who will be the favorite?

Not-so-golden showing

After being in contention for the first two days, six-time champion Jack Nicklaus fell out of it Saturday with an 81, his highest round ever in 41 trips to the Masters.

Yesterday produced a 6-over par 78, giving Nicklaus a four-round total of 15-over-par 303, his worst performance ever here.

And maybe his last.

"Today it was a lot easier," said Nicklaus, speaking of the weather. "I didn't have much enthusiasm, I'm afraid. Didn't make anything happen. Couldn't grind. I'm most disappointed in an 81-78. It's possible that that was my last walk at 18. Not saying it was, not saying it wasn't."

Nicklaus still has plans to play in the other three majors this year, but he is sounding like a 60-year-old legend rather than a player with any hope of contending again.

"Physically, I'm fine," he said. "Mentally, I'm beat."

Playing with a legend

University of Texas star David Gossett, the reigning U.S Amateur champion, matched Nicklaus with a 15-over-par 303 to finish as the low amateur. Gossett got to play with Nicklaus yesterday, matching him with a 6-over 78.

"I called him Mr. Nicklaus," said Gossett, a sophomore from Germantown, Tenn.

"He never told me to call him Jack. We talked about the majors and how you have to keep your mind in it. He gave me encouragement and told me on the 10th tee to use this as an experience."

Gossett said that he will decide after this summer's British Open whether to turn pro.

He'll be back

First-round leader Dennis Paulson, who fell out of the lead after an opening-round 68 with a 76 Friday, made a respectable showing in his debut at the Masters. The former Nike and Asian Tour player finished at 1-over-par 289 after an even-par 72 yesterday.

"I'm happy with my round and the fact that I'll be back next year," said Paulson, whose tie for 14th guaranteed him an invitation back. "It's everything I thought my first experience at the Masters would be. It was great."

Respectable showing

Notah Begay III, who became the first full-blooded Native American ever to play in the Masters, finished tied for 37th at 6-over 294 after a second straight 73. Former University of Maryland coach Fred Funk finished with the same score after a 73 yesterday.

"I still feel like I'm playing blindman's bluff out there," said Begay. "I missed my putts and hit it in the wrong places. It is like cramming for a midterm or final exam. You work so hard to get here, but you really need the knowledge."

Not-so-secret recipe

Qass Singh, the 9-year-old son of champion Vijay Singh, wrote a note to his father and put it on his golf bag before yesterday's round. It read, "Trust your swing, poppa."

The elder Singh wouldn't say what will be on the menu for next year's champion's dinner. "It's a secret," he said.

But one of Singh's close friends might have blown the secret. Talking to reporters after the round, Charlie Niyomkul said that he has been bringing Singh the same food every night from his Thai restaurant in Atlanta.

"Chicken Pa Nanng and rice," he said. "My wife and I will be coming up to cook the champion's dinner next year."

So much for secret recipes.

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