Golf: Woods and Zoeller lock horns again

62nd US Masters: Faldo enjoys his early start to complete the first round while Montgomerie is left smiling by outdriving the Tiger
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The Independent Online
WHERE others have failed, including John Daly, fate brought Tiger Woods and Fuzzy Zoeller together in the second round of the US Masters yesterday.

For all the time that goes into making a "random" draw for the opening rounds of golf tournaments, making sure television's requirements are satisfied, no one would have dared pair the defending champion with the man whose comments about him caused such a furore a year ago.

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, two shots behind the leader, Fred Couples.

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, also at one under, was Colin Montgomerie, who found his experience wanting against Woods' talent last year at Augusta National.

The implications for the second-round draw were only confirmed after the 10 players who had failed to complete their first 18 holes on Thursday evening did so yesterday morning. Nick Faldo was among their number and at 7.30am faced a six-foot birdie putt on the 17th green.

"Last night it was getting dark, windy and cold," Faldo, who was up at 5am for a bowl of Weetabix, said. "There was no point in rushing it. I thought it was a good idea to stop and think about it."

There was also the little matter of a spike mark on his line, something he was prevented from doing anything about at the time, but which the greenkeepers could sort out in their dawn preparations of the course.

Faldo holed the putt for his third birdie in a row and then parred the last for a level-par 72. That included 33 on the back nine, the best of the round.

Eleventh place represented a marked improvement after he bogeyed his first two holes and went to the turn in 39 the day before. Two of those dropped shots came at the second and the eighth, both par fives, where poor wedge shots prompted three-putts on each occasion. "I had a shaky start, but apart from those two mystery wedge shots, I realised I was playing all right," he said.

The reward for his usual grind on a day when the field was buffeted by a strong, swirling wind for the first time at Augusta for decades, came when Faldo birdied the 15th and the par-three 16th, the latter with a fine eight-iron tee shot, despite the memories of taking a four and a five the last times the pin was placed in a similar location on the severely sloping green.

Montgomerie also fought out a score at one of his self- acknowledged least favourite venues. His 71 was all the more surprising for having started bogey, birdie, bogey, birdie, double bogey. "I had seven birdies and finished one under," Monty said afterwards. "A lot of things must have gone right and a lot badly. This was one of the toughest days in major championship golf, so I'm just going to think about what went right."

At the 16th, Montgomerie holed a long curling putt which almost went in the back door. The rueful smile on his face suggests such things should be saved for seaside crazy-golf, rather than a major.

It was reminiscent of a similar putt he holed at the 10th on the second day last year, which put him into the lead in the tournament. He was not at the top of the leaderboard for long, but was paired with Woods on the third day.

Monty sneaked his tee shot at the first past his opponent and could not contain a grin. But he ended up nine adrift of the 65 from Woods, who had been fired up by the Scot's comments about whether the youngster's talent would match up to his experience of the business end of majors.

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 more friends. Although Woods accepted his apology, the controversy has never quite died.

Daly, whose hopes of contending this year were blown away with a first- round 77, suggested the two play a practice round together here, but Woods dismissed the idea as a public-relations stunt. Instead, the two emerged talking together from the champions' dinner.

One behind the three players sharing second place, Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul Stankowski and Scott Hoch, Woods was content with his opening effort, given the conditions. "Last year I was really nervous on the first tee and that was one of the reasons I shot 40 going out," Woods said. "This time I was more relaxed. I understand I'm a better player this year and that if I have some difficulties my game is good enough to get it back."

For once, Woods did not birdie the 15th, a hole which saw an 11 from Ignacio Garrido. Yesterday, out in the first pairing of the day with 75- year-old Doug Ford, the Spanish Ryder Cup player managed to par the hole in a level-par 72, some 13 strokes better than his first round.

Garrido, whose father, Antonio, also played in the event, was accompanied by a walking club member as marker on the back nine after Ford withdrew once he had taken 46 to the turn.