Rose stays course, still leads by 2

Others' roller coaster rides on Day 2 not for Englishman, who tends to `my business'

Woods shoots 69, makes 121st cut

Cejka, Olazabal next at 140

Mickelson, Choi three back

The Masters

April 10, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. - First it was K.J. Choi of Korea, leapfrogging the leader board at Augusta National with a rush of front-nine birdies. Then it was Chris DiMarco, jumping into a tie at the top with first-round leader and playing partner Justin Rose.

The same principles that work in schoolyard games and physics often apply to major golf championships such as the 68th Masters.

Whoever goes up usually comes down.

And whoever plays the steadiest often wins.

Long after Choi's round splintered with three straight bogeys to start the back nine and after DiMarco tumbled with a double bogey and two bogeys in a stretch of three holes, Rose remained resolute.

"In a way, it was my game plan," Rose, a 23-year-old Englishman, said later. "I wanted to sort of not put myself under pressure at all today in terms of having to scramble for pars. That's what I did for the most part."

Starting the second round with a two-stroke lead over DiMarco and Jay Haas at 5-under-par 67, Rose finished with a two-stroke lead over Alex Cejka of Germany and two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain after shooting a 1-under-par 71.

Rose barely noticed when he briefly lost the lead to Choi, who birdied six times for a 30 on the front nine to get to 7-under par before going 4-over on the back for a 2-under-par 70 and falling three strokes behind.

"I got a glimpse of somebody going to 7-under, but I didn't know who it was," said Rose. "I wasn't paying any attention to the boards today. I was just trying to go about my own business."

If Rose glanced at the leader board before he left the course last night, he might have noticed the name of Phil Mickelson, who shot a 3-under-par 69 and is tied with Choi at 3-under 141. Or, perhaps, he noticed those hovering four shots behind or one of the five players at even par.

At 142 was another former Masters champion, Fred Couples; two-time U.S. Open champion and former British Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa; former PGA champion Davis Love III, as well as local favorite Charles Howell III and DiMarco.

Three players were at 143: former Masters and British Open champion Mark O'Meara, former PGA champion Jeff Sluman and left-hander Steve Flesch.

Even more noticeable was three-time champion Tiger Woods, who shot a 3-under-par 69 after finishing his opening round of 75 yesterday morning.

Woods is tied at even-par 144 with two-time champion Bernhard Langer of Germany, Sergio Garcia of Spain, Paul Casey of England and Haas.

"I'm still here," said Woods, who easily extended his PGA Tour record by making his 121st straight cut after struggling on Thursday. "Played really well. Made a few. Missed a few. The course is playing tough. You have to take baby steps, slow improvement. Got back to even and that's [winning] viable."

The same might be said of Rose's career. There were many stumbles along the way when Rose, then a celebrated 17-year-old amateur, turned pro after finishing tied for fourth in the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale. He missed the cut in his first 21 tournaments as a pro.

"I felt like every time I was in contention to make the cut, I felt like there was an incredible amount of pressure on me," said Rose. "It seemed like at that time that cameras would appear from the trees and suddenly [someone would say], `Justin has a chance to make the cut for the first time.' "

And when he finally made the cut?

"It wasn't all it was cracked up to be, either," he said. "I had an 80 on Saturday."

Rose has gone on to win four times, including twice on the European tour, but has struggled a bit since his father and longtime teacher, Ken, died of leukemia 19 months ago. Rose has also worked with well-known teacher David Leadbetter dating to Rose's career as an amateur.

All those experiences - from his first brush with worldwide attention at the British Open to all those weeks when he didn't cash a paycheck to his family tragedy - has helped put his career, and this tournament, in perspective.

"It makes you realize that it's not the end of the world, and other experiences that make you tougher and know how to deal with it," he said. "Not to say that leading a major is easy, for sure, but I think I am lucky in a lot of ways, in terms of at the age of 23, I can draw on a couple of things that have happened to me going into the weekend.

"You can't kid yourself to the end. There's nothing at stake [in the second round], really. As you get close to the finish line, you know it's up for grabs and I'm sure it will get tougher and tougher. You can still grow in confidence, dealing with what I did today. Hopefully, the week will build for me that way rather than go the other way."

It went the other way for several prominent players. Defending champion Mike Weir of Canada, who last year became the first left-hander to win the Masters, missed the cut by a stroke after rounds of 79 and 70. So did Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, who followed a 70 with a 79.

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