Unsure at the start whether he could complete his round due to a neck injury, Justin Rose finished with a 69, the only sub-par score among the early starters in the second round of the AmEx World Championship here yesterday. Rose, who was four over for the tournament, ricked his neck running up an escalator at Atlanta airport on Monday.
"It was getting better with the treatment I was having but this morning it was terrible," Rose said. "I can't turn very far. Ten minutes before my tee times I didn't think I would be playing."
It helped that the 23-year-old birdied the first two holes. "I intended to give it a couple of holes but then I knocked 20 yards past my playing partners on the first and holed a putt from 40 feet, and that eased the pain."
On a chilly morning at the Capital City Club, the Crabapple course was again testing the best players in the world. Darren Clarke, the leading British or Irish player overnight at one under, will not win a second successive World Championship title after going to the turn in 45 with seven bogeys and a triple.
Sergio Garcia, the first-round leader on 65, and Tiger Woods, two behind, were among the later starters. For the second day running, the gallery was not exactly throbbing and though that might change for the finale tomorrow, it was very different from the huge crowds that turned out to watch the best players in the world at Mount Juliet last year and no doubt will again when the tournament returns to Ireland next year.
"It's a bigger event outside the States," Padraig Harrington said. "It should move around the world. It helps to have an atmosphere."
On a local level, the citizens of Atlanta currently have bigger interests than golf, with their college football team top of the list - today's third round will end early so television can switch to the schoolboys. Then there has been the baseball play-offs, although the games in Atlanta only sold out because the Braves were playing the success-starved but fanatically supported Chicago Cubs.
But there remains the conceit in American golf, which is awash with dollars, that if it happens here it is big but if it is overseas it does not rate. All four of the sport's World Championships are in the States this year, which is fine with Davis Love. "The sponsors want to go where they're going to get the most bang for their buck," Love said. "We want to see them move round the world once in a while but we certainly don't want two in the US and two overseas."
Love was one of the six Americans who passed up an invitation to the HSBC World Match Play at Wentworth. "It used to be that you chased extra money overseas but now our tour is getting stronger and the money is getting bigger and you don't have to," Love said. "I would much rather drive to Greensboro in my motor home than fly overseas."
But Love will not be making the short journey from his home in Georgia to Kiawah Island for the World Cup, another event suffering from top-name withdrawals, and don't even get him started on the Presidents Cup. The match between the States and the Internationals - non-Europeans from around the world - will be played in South Africa next month. The only other time it has left the States, the Americans, who have always won on home soil, were thrashed in Melbourne.
"The first few Presidents Cups in Washington were a lot of fun but then we had to start taking it on the road and it wasn't as much fun," Love said. "Almost all the International players play in the United States so why don't we play it here and make it easier for everybody?"
Amex World Championship (Atlanta, Georgia) Early second-round scores (US unless stated): 144 J Rose (GB) 75 69. 146 B Faxon 75 71; K Triplett 74 72; J Haas 74 72. 147 C Riley 74 73. 148 C Parry (Aus) 76 72; A Atwal (Ind) 76 72. 149 H Otto (SA) 76 73; P Lonard (Aus) 75 74; F Jacobson (Swe) 75 74; D Howell (GB) 74 75; C Montgomerie (GB) 74 75. 150 C DiMarco 76 74; S Verplank 75 75; C Campbell 74 76. 151 B Estes 77 74; C Howell 76 75; R Beem 76 75; D Love 74 77. 152 T Teshima (Japan) 77 75; B Curtis 76 76. 153 M Foster (GB) 76 77. 154 S Hoch 75 79. 157 R Jacquelin (Fr) 77 80. 158 M Campbell (NZ) 82 76. 159 Todd Hamilton 78 81. Leading first-round scores (US unless stated): 65 S Garcia (Sp).
66 T Herron, R Mediate. 67 K J Choi (S Kor), T Woods. 68 I Garrido (Spa), N Fasth (Swe). 69 L Roberts, M Weir (Can), J Randhawa (Ind), P O'Malley (Aus), D Clarke (GB). 70 P Price (GB), L Mattiace, K Perry, A Cejka (Ger), T Izawa (Japan), T Immelman (SA), V Singh (Fiji), S Kjeldsen (Den), J Furyk, J Kelly, A Scott (Aus). 71 B Davis (GB), S Appleby (Aus), S Flesch, E Els (SA), F Couples, N Price (Zim), A Forsyth, P Harrington (Irl). 72 J L Lewis, S Micheel, E Romero (Arg), R Allenby (Aus), L Westwood (GB). 73 P Mickelson, D Toms, I Poulter (GB), R Goosen (SA), F Funk, J Kaye, T Jaidee (Thai), P Casey (GB), B Tway.
* Sophie Gustafson shot a six-under 66 yesterday and held a one-stroke lead over Karrie Webb, Michelle Ellis and Grace Park after the first round of the Longs Drugs Challenge in Lincoln, California.