Woods starts off on wrong foot

Quest for 3rd jacket in row begins with 76, his worst Masters first round as pro

`I'm still not out of this thing'

He ends day at 2-over par, 8 shots from leader Weir

The Masters

April 12, 2003|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. - It seems Tiger Woods finally listened to Martha Burk yesterday at Augusta National. On the eve of Burk's protest of the club's exclusionary policy toward women, Woods had his worst opening-round score at the Masters as pro.

It was Burk who suggested Woods not show up in pursuit of his record-setting third straight victory. Woods appeared to be doing just that, his 4-over-par 76 leaving him 10 strokes behind first-round leader Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland.

"I'm still not out of this thing," Woods said after the opening round, his first without a birdie since the third round of the 1999 British Open. "I just need to play a decent round. It doesn't have to be a great round. I just need to make some putts."

Woods made a few in the afternoon, at one point climbing back to 1-over for the tournament and catapulting from a tie for 42nd place to a tie for 13th with three birdies in four holes. A late bogey before play was suspended at 7:30 p.m. left Woods eight shots behind the leader, left-hander Mike Weir of Canada.

Currently tied for 23rd, Woods went in the opposite direction of Spain's Sergio Garcia. After vaulting into the lead early and getting to 5-under through his first 11 holes, Garcia finished the first round at 3-under and then played 11 holes in the afternoon in 5-over to tie Woods.

Asked last night if he liked his position, Woods said, "Actually I'd like to be a little better than I am, but at least I'm on the right track. I made a little bit of progress in the second round. I didn't have to play great in the second round, as long as I played solidly."

Weir, who has won twice this year on the PGA Tour, did that all day. He didn't make a bogey in the rain-delayed opening round until the par-4 18th to finish four shots behind Clarke, whose three-shot lead was the largest going into the second round since 1982.

At 6-under through 30 holes, Weir leads Clarke by two strokes. Phil Mickelson, who shot a 1-over 72 in the morning, climbed into contention with four birdies in the first five holes and is now 2-under through 29 holes. Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes is at 1-under through 28 holes.

"I would have loved to have finished the round," said Weir, 32, who has five PGA Tour wins but has never finished higher than a tie for 24th in his three previous trips here. "I was in a nice flow with my game. I was hitting my targets. I felt very good with my putter."

Woods didn't, not until his little birdie run on the back nine to start the second round. He began the day by hitting his opening drive to the right, then twice chipped through the green before chipping in from 40 feet to save bogey on the par-4 first hole.

"And then the journey began," Woods said.

The morning journey included three more bogeys - the last coming when he lipped out a 4-footer for par on the par-4 10th - and several narrow misses for birdies. When he finally made a birdie on the par-5 13th, tapping in from a foot after a 50-foot eagle putt, Woods mockingly pumped his fists.

The first real fist pump came when he dropped in a curling 15-footer for birdie on the par-4 14th, then made another birdie on the par-5 16th. His momentum was stopped when he bogeyed the par-4 18th hole after hitting his drive right of the fairway.

After seemingly being in jeopardy of missing the cut for the first time since his rookie year in 1997 - a stretch of 101 tournaments - Woods is on the periphery of getting back into the hunt. In his three previous victories here, Woods was no worse than fourth - last year - going into the third round.

"I'm right where I need to be," Woods said. "I've still got a chance at this tournament. There's a long way to go. The leaders aren't going to run away and hide here. After two rounds, you want to be at even par or under par to be able to win the tournament."

Woods wasn't the only player to make a bit of a comeback in the afternoon. Davis Love III opened with a 5-over 77, but climbed to 2-over through 29 holes. Reigning British Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa opened with a 7-over 79, but was back to 4-over through 29 holes.

"I've still got a lot of work left," said Els, who blamed his second-worst round ever in a Masters to a lack of touch on Augusta's soft but still fast greens. "I've got to change the momentum. It's been a weird tournament. I just feel like anything can happen."

Clarke is a perfect example. After shooting a 6-under 66 in the morning when most around him were struggling, Clarke quickly fell to 4-under through six holes, made birdies on the par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth and then finished with bogeys on the par-4 ninth and 10th holes.

Asked after the opening round if he could play 36 holes in a day, Clarke patted his ample belly and said, "Does it look like it?"

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