Golf: Price joins gang of four

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The Independent Online
NICK PRICE made it a quartet of first-round leaders in the 63rd US Masters after the Zimbabwean completed the 18th hole yesterday morning. Price and David Duval were forced to abandon their rounds with a hole to play on Thursday evening as the light faded but both returned to par the 18th.

Price, joint holder of the course record, scored a 69 to take him alongside Davis Love, Brandel Chamblee and Scott McCarron at the top of the leaderboard, while Duval, who missed a 12-foot birdie putt at the last, signed for a 71.

Duval, one in front of Tiger Woods, only hit eight greens in regulation. Having been three under at the turn, he then dropped three shots in a row from the 12th. "I played pretty well," said the world No 1, "but not as well as I can."

It was not until the 16th that Duval hit a green in the required number of shots on the back nine. The bogey at the short 12th came from a misjudgement off the tee, a badly hooked drive ended up in the creek on the left at the 13th while the wind switched on his approach to the 14th.

But someone in such rare form as Duval has been in winning for the last two weeks tends to generate his own luck and when he pushed his drive at the 17th, the ball not only rebounded back off one of the new trees planted on the right, but cannoned far up the fairway as well. A birdie resulted.

Compare and contrast with Nick Faldo, whose form and fortune is at its lowest ebb. When the three-times Masters champion pulled his drive into the trees on the second, he was completely stymied and had to take an unplayable. The double-bogey seven set Faldo on course for an 80.

Only five players scored worse. One was the amateur, John Miller, three others were also former champions: 67-year-old Billy Casper, Arnold Palmer, 69 and making a record 45th consecutive appearance, and the 76-year-old Doug Ford. Joe Durant, a playing partner of Faldo, was fated the moment he won Wednesday's par-three contest.

The only high point of Faldo's round came when he hit a seven-iron to four inches at the 16th. At 27 over par for his last five rounds at Augusta, Faldo set out yesterday desperately trying to avoid the cut for the third successive year. "It's the same old story," Faldo said. "It's getting closer but it's not close enough." His cause was not helped by an outward 37 yesterday, which included a 30-footer for birdie at the seventh but bogeys at the fourth, playing the hardest hole on the course, and the ninth.

Thursday was one of those fascinating days when Augusta, as a links does, changed hue with the changing weather conditions. Hot and humid for most of the day, the course was drying out fast and all the leaders bar Price, plus Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal, who both scored 70s, had enjoyed early tee times.

In the afternoon, the defending champion, Mark O'Meara, had a 70 and Greg Norman, whose record here boasts three seconds and two third without a win, compiled a 71 as first the wind got up, then calmed as a thunderstorm came in, delaying play for 95 minutes. When the players got back out, it was very blustery and while Ian Woosnam had earlier hit a drive and a wedge from 102 yards at the last, Darren Clarke needed a three-wood and a three-iron to cover the 405 yards.

After straining his back on the range just before teeing off, Clarke hung on well in the end for a 75. "I have never had anything like this before," said Clarke. "I had shooting pains on every shot." But his real problem came on the greens, where, without considering he had putted badly, he took 40 putts.

That did not even include a penalty shot for the ball moving after he had addressed it. "This keeps happening to me," Clarke said. "It happened at least three times last year, including once here."

Lee Westwood also battled back well from another of his poor starts in a major. Five over after 12, Westwood birdied the 13th and 16th for another 75. The majority of his round was hard work as the 25-year-old struggled in the heat with a temperature, but he was more comfortable in the cool of the evening after the storm.


US unless stated,

par 72


B Chamblee, D Love, S McCarron, N Price (Zim)


C Montgomerie (GB), JM Olazabal (Sp), J Leonard, A Magee, J Sluman, L Janzen, M O'Meara


S Pate, B Estes, S Lyle (GB), E Els (SA), I Woosnam (GB), M Ozaki (Japan), G Norman (Aus), J Haas, D Duval


C Stadler, J Daly, B Glasson, T Woods, *S Garcia (Sp), S Elkington (Aus), C Franco (Par), V Singh (Fiji), M A Jimenez (Sp), *T Immelman (SA), F Zoeller, F Lickliter, B Jobe, S Cink, J Furyk


R Mediate, T Lehman, S Appleby (Aus), P Stewart, *T McKnight, C Perry, B Watts


O Browne, G Hjertstedt (Swe), R Floyd, B Faxon, F Couples, T Watson, J Huston, B Crenshaw, P Mickelson, J Parnevik (Swe), *H Kuehne, P Azinger


S Hoch, C Pavin, C Parry (Aus), T Herron, S Stricker, M Calcavecchia, D Clarke (GB), L Westwood (GB), B Tway, P-U Johansson (Swe)


JP Hayes, P Sjoland (Swe), L Mize, L Roberts, F funk, B Langer (Ger), J Cook, B Andrade, T Bjorn (Den), M Brooks


S Jones, *M Kuchar, T Aaron, C Coody


S Verplank, T Dodds (Nam), S Ballesteros (Sp), J Maggert, B Mayfair, D Toms, G Day


H Sutton, G Player (SA), W Wood


G Brewer, N Faldo (GB)


*J Miller


A Palmer


B Casper


J Durant


D Ford

*denotes amateur