R. Palmer spots name at top, thinks of `Arnold'

Nicklaus bemoans wind that cuts into his length

The Masters



April 08, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- When Ryan Palmer saw his name atop the leader board at the 16th hole during yesterday's opening round in the 69th Masters, it brought back a lot of memories. They were not of his exploits, but those of a more famous namesake.

"It makes me think about people seeing Palmer and thinking Arnold," the 28-year old Texan said after finishing 2-under through 16 holes before play was suspended last night. "This is Arnold's place. I've seen it up there before, and I know what it feels like. I'm having fun, and when I'm having fun and enjoying myself, things seem to go well."

This Palmer last saw his name on top of the leader board at last season's Funai Classic at Walt Disney World, where he won his first PGA Tour event. That win helped him finish 37th on the money list and get invited to his first Masters.

Starting on the back nine, Palmer climbed the leader board by making three birdies in his first seven holes but gave a stroke back with a bogey on the par-4 18th and another with a bogey on the par-5 second. Then, he finished strong, saving par twice and making an uphill, 20-footer for birdie on the par-4 seventh hole.

"I stayed patient, and I'm going to bed happy," he said.

Palmer said he has never been kidded about sharing a name with one of the game's greatest players, but he is often reminded of it.

"I get asked a lot, obviously -- it's a great name in golf," said Palmer. "He called me `Cuz' at Bay Hill."

No regrets for Nicklaus

Six-time champion Jack Nicklaus, who may or may not be playing in his last Masters, started yesterday's round even par through six holes before a number of factors caught up with him. A combination of age, distance and playing conditions led to four bogeys on the next seven holes.

"I was having fun," said Nicklaus, 65. "Then, once I started playing into the wind, I couldn't get there."

Nicklaus laughed at some of the distances he was left with on his second shots on the back nine - 255 yards into the 495-yard 10th hole and 248 yards into the 490-yard 11th hole. He made bogey on the first par-4 and parred the second.

"You can't play golf from there," he said. "I enjoyed being out there. I don't enjoy playing where I don't have a chance to be competitive. It is what it is. I'm doing the best I can. One thing for certain, I'll try every shot."

Asked if the round was emotional after the accidental death of his 18-month old grandson last month in Florida, Nicklaus said, "That's there. It's not going to go away. I'm not going to dwell on that every five seconds."

Nicklaus will have to play 24 holes today.

"I have trouble walking 18," he said. "But we'll be fine."

Funk in the hunt

Less than two weeks after winning The Players Championship, former Maryland golf coach Fred Funk overcame a shaky start yesterday and was at par through 17 holes when play was suspended.

Funk, who has missed the cut here the past two years, started on the back nine and was 2-over par at the turn.

"I knew I had to make some birdies, and I did," said Funk, who made three birdies and a bogey on the front. "I was trying to avoid the big numbers. I knew I had to get up and down a couple of times. It was pretty good."

Scott's shots

Adam Scott might have hit the shot of the day after his approach to the 11th green sailed 40 yards wide, onto the 12th tee. Scott pitched to within 3 feet and made par.

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