Golf: Augusta takes revenge on Faldo

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The Independent Online
Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, the two men who made the 1996 US Masters such a thrilling spectacle, yesterday cleared the way for Tiger Woods, and even Colin Montgomerie, to provide the dramatics at Augusta National this year. While Norman was unlikely to make the half-way cut at seven over, Faldo - the defending champion - was certain to do so for the first time at the tournament. He returned a second-round 81 which included a nine at the 13th.

Montgomerie, delivering on his promise to contend for the first time at Augusta, was five under for the day through 13 holes to take a one- stroke lead over Woods, John Huston and Paul Stankowski. The Scot went to the turn in 33, then holed a long putt at the 10th, hit his approach dead at the 11th, and after three-putting at the 12th, picked up another shot at the 13th.

For the second day running, Faldo went to the turn in 41. Teeing off at three over, the three-time champion madea terrible start. After three holes, he was four over for the day. He double-bogeyed the first after taking three to reach the green and then three-putting, something he was to do twice more on the front nine, despite the fact that the greens were slower after being watered overnight.

It was as if Faldo was traumatised by having been the man who signed the card which contained Woods's back nine 30 on Thursday afternoon and got no better when he bogeyed the 10th. Then came the par-five 13th, where he hit that glorious two-iron during the final round last year. Faldo had never taken more than a bogey six in his 53 previous rounds at Augusta, but having laid up short of the creek, he twice pitched into the water.

Faldo, whose previous worst round here was a 79 on his debut in 1979, did birdie the last, but that was little consolation as his playing partner, Tom Watson, closed with four in a row. "Sorry, no, I'm flabbergasted," Faldo said to requests for a comment on his 81. "I'm shell-shocked, I'll see you next year."

This was a rare chance for Faldo, who became the seventh defending champion to miss the cut, to make a sizeable contribution to his Ryder Cup points. He will still receive a small, three-figure sum, but European captain Seve Ballesteros would not have expected, at 11 over, to beat the Englishman by a shot.

Faldo's game tee-to-green could not have been in better shape coming into the tournament, but the severity of the greens on Thursday exposed the weaknesses in his putting and the loss of confidence spread through the rest of his play.

It was Norman's greatest wish to put his calamity of a year ago, when he let a six-shot lead slip to Faldo in the final round, behind him, but after only five tournaments this year, the Australian was not ready for this test.

Norman added a 74 to his first round 77, but was in position to make the cut when he was one under for the day through 14 holes. But, as on Thursday, the Shark again went swimming at the 15th and according, to his partner, Jack Nicklaus, that "took the wind out of his sails". Warren Bladon, the British Amateur champion, shared the Australian's 151 total to take low amateur honours.

In contrast to Faldo, Ian Woosnam relished the easier conditions and his 68 could have been even better. The Welshman gave himself a number of chances in an round of two very different 34s. He had two birdies in his front nine and five birdies and three bogeys coming home. "I played really well and I feel I'm back in it now," said the '91 champion, who was at one over, while Lee Westwood and Sam Torrance also looked like making the cut at four over.

Jack Nicklaus made sure of making the cut by shooting a 70. The man of whom Bobby Jones once said: "He plays a game with which I am not familiar", was still marvelling over Woods's dramatic back nine on Thursday evening. "In the conditions we had yesterday, that's phenomenal," the six-jacket champion said.

"As tough as the course was, you have such an advantage to have wedges in your hands so you can throw the ball high to land them on these greens. It's what I used to do. I used to be playing eight-irons and nines and wedges and sitting back and chuckling while everyone else played long irons. If he is on his game, he can reduce a gold course down to nothing and that is why he is so special."

Informed that Woods drove the green at the 360-yard third hole in practice, Nicklaus added: "It is a shame that Bobby Jones is not around to see it because he should have saved the superlatives that he used about me for Tiger. If he is doing things like that, then he is certainly not playing a game with which we are familiar."

US MASTERS (Augusta): First-round scores (US unless stated): 67 J Huston. 68 P Stankowski. 69 P Azinger. 70 T Woods. 71 C Rocca (It), JM Olazabal (Sp), N Price (Zim). 72 L Janzen, S Appleby (Aus), C Montgomerie (GB), D Berganio, D Love, F Couples, T Tolles, P-U Johansson (Swe), B Langer (Ger), W Wood.73 C Rose, J Parnevik (Swe), S Lyle (GB), K Perry, T Lehman, E Els (SA), F Funk. 74 D Forsman, J Sluman, D Waldorf, D Hart, D Frost (SA), J Furyk, M Calcavecchia, M Ozaki (Japan). 75 S Cink, S Torrance (GB), F Zoeller, C Pavin, V Singh (Fiji), B Crenshaw, T Watson, N Faldo (GB), M O'Meara. 76 J Leonard, F Nobilo (NZ), S Elkington (Aus), P Mickelson, G Player (SA). 77 J Cook, L Westwood (GB), T Aaron, S McCarron, D Ogrin, M Brooks, J Maggert, J Morse, C Stadler, T Kite, B Faxon, Y Kaneko (Japan), G Norman (Aus), J Nicklaus, S Stricker, I Woosnam (GB). 78 DA Weibring, E Fiori, S Scott*, B Tway, D Duval. 79 S Hoch, L Mize, M Bradley, R Floyd, W Bladon* (GB), G Boros. 80 T Hogarth*. 81 M McNulty (Zim), S Ballesteros (Sp). 82 J Miller*, S Jones, R Allenby (Aus). 83 C Coody, B Casper. 84 G Brewer. 85 D Ford, L Roberts. 87 K Green. 89 A Palmer. * denotes amateur

Ballesteros lost in time, page 28

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