The Masters Chronicles XX: Day Two
By BILL HUFFMAN
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Wind is the great neutralizer at the Masters. It giveth and it taketh away.
That force certainly was with Anthony Kim in Friday’s second round at Augusta National, as the young gun from Texas suddenly awoke from a season of doldrums to roll in a tournament record 11 birdies en route to a 7-under-par 65, easily the day’s best round.
That broke the all-time Masters mark of 10 birdies in one round recorded by Nick Price in 1986, when the South African set the course record with a 63.
“I haven’t made 11 birdies in two days, so to do it in one is pretty special,’’ said Kim, who had four kick-in birdies and was outside of 15 feet only once while holing the other seven.
“I don’t really know what happened. The putter got hot, and my confidence kept getting bigger on every hole. Obviously, to do it at Augusta National is amazing. And (with the wind) it feels like a 58 right now.’’
On the other end of the wind and its gusts of 25-to 30-mph was Padraig Harrington, who is going for his third consecutive major championship. The Irishman got stung with a one-shot penalty on the 15th hole when a gust moved his ball after he had addressed it, and it left him just shaky enough to hoop out two birdie putts, including his final effort at the 18th hole.
Hopefully for Harrington, who is at 2 under after a 73, he won’t come up one shot short on Sunday in his bid for “the Paddy Slam.’’
Tiger Woods, who bobbled back and forth between 2-under and 3-under all day until a bogey on his final hole (for the second straight day) left him with a 72 and 2-under, did a good job of putting the wind in perspective.
“Not only is it blowing, but it’s changing (direction) all the time,’’ reported the four-time Masters champ, who found himself seven strokes behind the co-leaders, Chad Campbell (70) and Kenny Perry (67), who were at 9-under 135.
“So you can go through pretty much a three-club swing (because of the wind).’’
Tiger was tight-lipped, keeping his answers short and sweet after a day when he launched four shots into the gallery and left several putts incredibly short.
Was it a tough day? “Yeah.’’
Was the wind difficult? “Yeah, you might say that.’’
Are you frustrated with your game? “Yeah.’’
Is coming from seven strokes back at the midpoint do-able? “Yeah.’’
But his track record at the Masters shows that his biggest comeback after 36 holes was six shots when he won in 2005, and from four shots back in ’02. Those are his biggest rallies, so to speak, in the majors.
Campbell, who many thought already should have won a major, was at 11 under through 10 holes before he overcame three bogeys with a birdie on the last hole.
Perry, who should have won the 1996 PGA Championship, holed his five birdies without a bogey, which was just short of a miracle around here.
“Very difficult out there, the wind is swirling,’’ noted Perry, who has missed five cuts in eight tries at the Masters, his best finish being a tie for 12th in 1995.
“I was able to choose the right club at the right time and execute the right shot. That’s the secret out here.’’
Plus, as Perry pointed out, he’s riding some momentum.
“I feel like I can win this. I’ve already won at the FBR (Open) this year and three times (on the PGA Tour) last year. I’m driving it great, and if I keep hitting fairways like I’m doing, it’s going to make life a lot easier out here.’’
There are several other big names which still have a chance. Guys like former U.S. Open champ Angel Cabrera (68), who was one shot off the lead at 8 under, and Phil Mickelson (68), who came within inches of a double eagle at the par-5 13th that helped him move to 3 under.
But many others were gone with the wind and the cut of 1 over, including Greg Norman (3 over), Ernie Els (2 over), Retief Goosen (2 over) and Adam Scott (2 over), to name a few.
Perhaps the biggest victim, however, was amateur sensation Danny Lee, who unbelievably got blindsided by a quintuple-bogey 9 at No. 10 – the highest score ever recorded at that hole. Just as unbelievably, he needed SIX putts to do it. Lee went on to a back-nine 47 and 81 that seemed so unlikely when he made the turn at even par through his first 27 holes.
But that’s the way it goes at the Masters, where the lessons often come via the school of hard knocks.
Scottsdale amateur Drew Kittleson missed the cut at the Masters, but did claim a couple of pieces of Waterford Crystal for his efforts in a “wild round’’ of 72 that included two eagles.
In the end, “Amen Corner got me,’’ concluded Kittleson, who finished the tournament at 6-over-par but was 4-over through that storied stretch from Nos. 11 through 13.
Actually, it was the 12th hole, the short par 3 over water that caused the damage. Kittleson made double bogey there on Thursday and tripled it on Friday. Had he made pars, he would have made the cut of 1 over.
“The wind there (at No. 12) is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,’’ said Kittleson, who picked up the triple when he “played ping-pong’’ from the back pine straw to the front bunker back to the pine straw.
The saving grace was the par-4 11th hole, where he made a rare eagle there by holing out a 6-iron “into the wind’’ from 193 yards – only the sixth eagle at No. 11 in Masters history.
“It was right on the flag, and then (the gallery) just erupted,’’ he said of the deuce. “All my friends started bowing down, and then I went over and did a Hale Irwin at the U.S. Open and high-fived everybody. It was fun”
His other eagle came at the par-5 15th, where a 6-iron “downhill and downwind’’ from 215 yards settled 30 feet from the cup and he made the putt.
“Maybe I should have hit more of those (6-irons),’’ quipped the sophomore from Florida State who got into the tournament as the runner-up in the U.S. Amateur.
“But it was unforgettable, a real dream come true.’’
Kittleson, who had opened with a 78, said he had been trying hard to make an eagle, knowing that the crystal was the prize. And he had missed on two earlier opportunities from short range.
“Then I finally came through twice. Awesome!’’ Kittleson said with a big smile. “It was something to draw off of, that I’d like to think I’m close to where I need to be to play with these guys.’’
Asked what he planned to do with the crystal, Kittleson smiled and said, “I’ve got a plan.’’
“I’ll make a place for them, like in my hand, so I can drink out of them,’’ he said.
Even though he’s still a year away from being 21, he left the impression that he wasn’t talking about soda pop.
Of the 10 players with ties to the Valley of the Sun, five made the cut and five missed it, Tim Clark (71) and Geoff Ogilvy (70) still being very much in it at 5-under and 3-under, respectively.
Also moving on to the weekend were Paul Casey (72), Bubba Watson (72) and Aaron Baddeley (74), who were all at even par. Not as fortunate, besides Kittleson, were Mathew Goggin (7 over), Chez Reavie (7 over), Billy Mayfair (8 over) and Pat Perez (10 over), who had eight 5s on his back nine en route to a 79.
“Oh, I struggled out there today in that wind,’’ Clark said of his effort, which was mighty considering he made four bogeys on his first 10 holes to pull back to even par then erupted with an eagle at No. 13 followed by three birdies over his last four holes.
“On the front nine I think I hit two greens (in regulation) and I three-putted both of those. I was getting a little hot before the eagle settled me down.’’
Clark said he drew on his second-place finish here in 2006, when the winds also played a factor.
“I guess I was one of the lucky ones today because my scorecard (didn’t include) any double bogeys in this wind,’’ Clark observed. “In fact, I haven’t made a double bogey in the tournament – and I could (have) – so that is what’s kept me in it.’’
Gary Player, the “Jack LaLane of golf,’’ played in his 52nd and last Masters this week, shooting scores of 78-83 before bidding adieu. At age 73, he finally passed Arnold Palmer for most starts even if he hasn’t made the cut around here since 1998.
“The golf course is so long, and I’m hitting a wood to almost every single hole,’’ reported the svelte but small (150-pound) Player.
The little South African with the big heart won green jackets in 1961, ’74 and ’78, the last one coming at the age of 42. He came close to a fourth but in his “biggest regret’’ lost a two-shot lead with two holes to play in 1962, and eventually a playoff to Palmer.
Always emotional and driven, Player made a teary exit as he became the first player to surpass 12,000 strokes for his career at the Masters.
But Player plans to be back next year and join Palmer as a ceremonial starter, much as Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead were for many years. Palmer currently goes solo as the ceremonial starter and the third member of this historical trio, Jack Nicklaus, has made no indications he plans to join them.
“I’ll exercise even harder,’’ said Player, who always is in the fervent mode. “To make sure I out-drive Arnold.’’
Yep, eventually it gets down to that.
Another former Masters winner, Fuzzy Zoeller, also retired this week from the annual chase for the green jacket, but Zoeller’s exit wasn’t as fuzzy a feeling as Player’s.
That’s because the 57-year-old Zoeller, who was the first player ever to win the Masters in his first try (1979) is known for one regrettable moment rather than his 30 years of participation. That snafu came in 1997, the year Tiger Woods ran away with the tournament by 12 shots, and Zoeller made a flippant remark to a reporter that eventually cost him dearly.
“So you know what you guys do when he gets in there,’’ Zoeller said way back then of Woods, who was about to meet with the media after his victory. “You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year (at the Champions Dinner). “Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.’’
The remarks went unnoticed for about a week until a television editor noticed them and brought them to the public’s attention. Even though Zoeller apologized immediately, a 21-year-old Woods didn’t accept the apology until days later.
Zoeller, who made the cut here two years ago when that line soared to 8 over, finished it off with rounds of 79-76.
“Life is not a bowl of cherries, you know that,’’ Zoeller said of the bittersweet memories. “Will I miss it? You bet.’’
SEEN IN THE CROWD
Former Masters participant Doug Sanders, considered one of the most dapper pros ever to play the game, paid a visit to the course decked out in a purple-turquoise-and yellow sweater complete with purple pants and shoes.
“I came within a shot into the water at No. 16 of tying Jack Nicklaus in 1966 and forcing a playoff,’’ said the 75-year-old Sanders, whose best finish was fourth that year.
Asked if he wanted to be remembered for his colorful outfits, he shrugged.
“I guess I’d like to be known as the straightest driver of the ball in history,’’ he said. “The only time I ever left the fairway was to get a phone number.’’
Yeah, he also was well-known for that, too. . . .
Also paying a visit to Augusta National this week was former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “It’s even more beautiful than I could have even imagined,’’ Rice told the Augusta Chronicle.