Golf: Duval goes from nearly to early man

The 62nd US Masters: Woods and Montgomerie stay in touch, while Westwood toils and Faldo misses cut for second successive year
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The Independent Online
A YEAR ago, David Duval's position high on the leaderboard after two rounds of the US Masters would not have been as dominant as it is now.

Duval put an end to his years as the nearly man of the US Tour last October when he won three tournaments in a row. He added another earlier this season and a 68, including four birdies on Augusta's back nine, drew him level with Fred Couples at five under par.

It was a long day for the 27-year-old Duval, who was up at 5am to complete his first round and went back to bed for two hours before starting his second round in the afternoon. "I always thought I'd win golf tournaments and it was only a matter of being patient," he said.

Couples added a 70 to his opening 69 and only just completed his round as darkness fell. The pair led by two from Scott Hoch, with another two- stroke gap to a group of players at one under, including Jose Maria Olazabal, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

The excitement surrounding the feature group of the day - thrown up by pure chance - faded as its members slipped down the leaderboard.

No one would have dared pair the defending champion, Woods, with the man whose comments about him caused such a furore a year ago, Fuzzy Zoeller.

But one of the idiosyncratic characteristics of the Masters is that the players are redrawn into score order after the first round rather than, more usually, the second.

Both Woods and Zoeller scored 71 to be two shots behind the overnight leader, Couples. There was only the briefest of handshakes between the two on the first tee and there was not doubting who received the biggest ovation: Zoeller.

For good measure, as the tournament tried to get back on schedule after Thursday's delayed start, the groupings were in threeballs and the third member of the group, also at one under, was Colin Montgomerie, who found his experience wanting against Woods' talent last year at Augusta National.

Zoeller, in a throwaway remark to a television camera last year, told the new champion not to serve "fried chicken and collard greens, or whatever they eat", at the champions' dinner.

Zoeller, the tour's jokester, lost $1m in sponsorship and many friends. Although Woods accepted his apology, the controversy has never quite died.

With the wind not as strong as the day before, but chillier and just as swirling, all three players birdied the short sixth. But birdies at the eighth and ninth by Woods took him to the turn in 34 and into a share of the lead at three under with Couples and Hoch.

But Woods went over the back of the short 12th and three-putted the 15th to drop shots. He pulled one of those shots back at the next, but needed all his recovery skills to save par at the last after driving into a bunker.

His second fell well short of the green and his pitch came up 12 feet short before he drilled in the putt.

Montgomerie, who lagged nine shots behind when paired with Woods last year, had a 75 to drop back to two over. He started bogey, birdie, bogey and was always fighting to keep the round together as he bogeyed the 14th and 17th holes. Zoeller had a 74 to be one over.

Scoring was slightly easier than on the first day and former champion Craig Stadler made eight birdies in his 68. The biggest move on the leaderboard came from Mickelson, who had a 69.

The left-hander had an eagle and three birdies in his outward 32 to get to two under. A chip-and-putt birdie at the 13th took Mickelson, who was four over after 12 holes on Thursday, into a share of the lead but he soon dropped back to one under.

A mercurial touch on his short game has led Mickelson to be constantly rated as a favourite to win a green jacket but not even the former US amateur champion could keep his chip out of the water at the 15th. A bogey there was followed by another when he missed the green at the 16th.

At one over par, Jack Nicklaus and Ian Woosnam were by no means out of the running. Woosie's 71 seemed something a surprise to the Welshman who has not holed his share on the greens with the new putter he picked up on Wednesday.

He missed from three feet at the last, but at least it was not as critical as Nick Faldo's lip-out from two feet at the same hole.

Faldo, who had birdied the 17th on his return to the course in the morning in his level-par first round, three-putted at 18 for his third bogey in a row.

His only birdie of the round came at the 15th and at seven over after a 79, the 10-shot rule failed to save him from missing the cut for the second successive year. That fate also befell Greg Norman, who had a 78 to be 10 over.

Lee Westwood had left the course earlier not knowing whether he would be playing for the next two rounds. Despite a birdie at the last, from the fairway bunker, Westwood finished at six over. His 76 included a double- bogey seven at the 15th when his approach screwed back into the water.

"I haven't had too many breaks on the greens," the New Orleans winner said. "Maybe I used them all up last week."