Fax of life saves Donald from disqualification

 

Augusta

Never let the fax get in the way of a good story. Luckily for Donald, who was summoned to the headmaster's office, it turned out that the tournament committee's administration department had got their fax wrong and not the world No 1.

A smudge on Donald's scorecard (probably caused by someone eating a doughnut) made his bogey five at the fifth look like a three as he signed for a three-over par 75 yesterday.

No tweets are allowed at Augusta National. Twits, however, caused Donald to have a very uncomfortable hour monitoring his blood pressure while "faxgate" trundled at a snail's pace around the venerable club.

The waiting world received the news that Donald was innocent of smudging or fudging his maths homework not by the tournament committee but by his wife Diane via the miracle of Twitter. "Just got off the phone with Luke, NOT disqualified," she tweeted. "Thank goodness." The fax machine, apparently, will be fixed with a new cartridge before next year's Masters.

It was not the best of ends to a stormy day for Donald. The thunder that was forecast for late Thursday afternoon arrived a lot earlier in his eyes. As if first tee nerves aren't enough to contend with, Donald had to stew gently for six minutes in the humid 80-degree heat before his opening drive was well and truly cooked.

The reason for the delay was Tiger Woods shambling around in the pines in the group ahead after duck hooking his drive a mere 220 yards into the trees. Donald's big miss went the other way. He trudged up the hill to find his ball resting among the pine needles. There were three trees blocking the path to the green and one particularly annoying low-hanging branch. A sideways bunt seemed the only sensible option.

But world No 1's see shots mere mortals can't even dream about. Donald stood behind his ball and his eyes scanned an arboreal route that only he could detect with what must be laser vision. He mopped his brow, took a deep breath and whacked his ball through a gap that wasn't there. But that pesky branch stretched out and just got a finger on his ball. It took 40 yards off the shot leaving Donald a knee-knocking pitch and putt to try to save par. The putt lipped out. It was a ragged start and it set the tone for a rare inconsistent struggle among the azaleas and dogwoods. Except there are no dogwoods at Augusta this year. They blooming bloomed and died already.

The status quo was briefly re-established with a bish-bash, rock 'n' roll two-putt birdie at the easy par-five second. He birdied the par-five eighth too but racked up a further three bogeys in five holes to head down into the back nine's Amen Corner after a two-over par front nine of 38 swipes and stabs. Bogeys at the 11th and 13th saw him exit Amen Corner in need of a few prayers to be answered at four-over par.

Donald was having a stinker. But then so was everyone else: the patrons that is, not necessarily the players. Whatever it is that the ground staff spread on the walkways to soak up the sodden grass in the aftermath of two days of thunderstorms and torrential rain, it isn't Chanel. The grass outside the ropes has been trampled into what looks like overcooked soggy spinach. It looks heavenly on your TV sets but it smells like a barnyard.

The valley between the tee and green of the par-three sixth is a popular picnic spot where patrons in summer dresses and inappropriately high-heeled shoes slip something stronger into their iced tea to watch the action. Donald's tee shot was again off line. His ball landed on the ridge that runs through the green and he watched in horror as his ball backed up and rolled down the slope coming to rest 55 feet from the hole. Three putts later and Donald could have been forgiven if he went in search of a stiff drink to ease his pain.

The patrons at the 18th green were not booing Donald, as any Bruce Springsteen fan will tell you. They were cooing. "Not "Bruuuuce" but "Luuuuke." They respect their heroes here. Donald will be hoping for a reprise of his greatest hits in a round-two encore. He is eight shots adrift of Lee Westwood's lead. Those are the bare fax.

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