Skip to main content

Clarke Leads Woods Struggles

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Tiger Woods' pursuit of history at Augusta National got off to a shaky start Friday, opening the Masters with a 76 -- his worst first-round score in a major since turning pro.
Sunshine finally broke through after nearly a week of nastiness, but Woods and many others probably wished they could have stayed home another day.
Only seven of the 93 players broke par in the first round, which was delayed a day by rain. Jack Nicklaus shot a 13-over-par 85 -- his worst round ever at the Masters.
Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland wasn't bothered at all by the soggy course, grabbing the lead with a 66. And this was a stunner: U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes was tied for second with Sergio Garcia after a 69.
The 22-year-old Barnes will always have something to tell his kids. Playing with Woods, the Masters rookie beat the two-time defending champion by seven strokes.
Woods struggled to his worst opening round in a tour event since a 76 to start the Western Open in 1998. The only time he opened with a round this poor at a major was the 1996 U.S. Open.
Something else to consider. The world's greatest golfer had a birdie-less round for the first time since the third day of the 1999 British Open.
At least Woods had a chance to quickly make up for his poor showing. Since Thursday's play was rained out, Augusta National scheduled 36 holes in an attempt to get the tournament back on track.
After a quick break, Woods and the others returned to the course for Round 2.
Starting on the back side, Clarke missed a 2-footer to save par at No. 11. That was about the only thing that went wrong. He got rolling with an eagle at 15 and was flawless the rest of the way, adding two more birdies and no bogeys.
Garcia birdied two of the last three holes to drop three strokes behind the leader, who had the largest 18-hole advantage at the Masters since Nicklaus was three-up in 1982.
The Spaniard was joined on the leaderboard by Barnes, a senior at Arizona and son of a former NFL player. The amateur looked a bit nervous on the first hole, taking a bogey, but he finished with one of the rare birdies on the brutal 18th.
Nick Price and Mike Weir were at 70. Toru Taniguchi and David Toms also broke par with 71s. That was it for players in the red.
Woods, trying to become the first golfer ever to win three straight green jackets, started his day with four ugly shots. As he walked off 18, his streak of 10 straight sub-par rounds at Augusta was over.
Last year, the world's best player started with a 2-under 70, leaving him three strokes off the lead. He went on to an easy three-stroke victory over Retief Goosen, joining Nicklaus and Nick Faldo as the only players to win two straight green jackets.
If Woods can win this week, he'll take home his fourth Masters championship. That would tie him with Arnold Palmer and leave Woods trailing only Nicklaus, who has six.
As Woods arrived at the first tee, the sun finally cut through the clouds for the first time since Sunday.
Waiters, busboys and cooks wandered out from the clubhouse to get a look at his opening shot.
It wasn't pretty. Woods appeared to mishit his drive, which didn't even make it to the bunker at the top of the hill. Playing from the edge of the rough, Woods knocked his second shot over the right side of the green.
He was too strong with his next shot, chipping past the flag and watching the ball catch a ridge and slide off the opposite side of the green. He was short with his next chip, the ball rolling back off the green as the gallery groaned and Woods stood with his hands on his hips, a look of disbelief on his face.
He quickly recovered, chipping in his fifth shot from about 40 feet for an improbable bogey.
Woods ran into more trouble at the par-3 fourth, where his tee shot went long and he failed to save par. At No. 5, Woods lost another stroke after driving into the 10-foot-deep bunker, which he had planned to avoid.
While 36 holes were scheduled Friday, it seemed likely only a handful of groups would get in both rounds before dark. The rest will have to return Saturday morning to finish the second round.
The course, stretched to 7,290 yards by changes last year, was playing even longer. The fairways were softened by persistent rain, which forced the first round to be called off for the first time in 64 years.
'It was so long. Wow!' said Gary Player, who shot 82. 'I'm hitting 3-wood and 5-wood on every hole. I need more strength.'
Sunny conditions were expected for the weekend and that was good news for Masters officials, who hoped to squeeze in enough play for the tournament to end on Sunday as usual.
Sandy Lyle hit the opening tee shot. Fanfare was minimal. Club chairman Hootie Johnson wasn't on the first tee since the Masters did not have honorary starters for the first time since 1982.
Johnson may have other things on his mind.
Martha Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson called on any Augusta National members who oppose the club's all-male policy to resign.
'If they do not agree with this policy, they must resign their memberships,' said Burk, who plans to lead protests on Saturday.
The 63-year-old Nicklaus, an Augusta National member, had seven bogeys and three double-bogeys for his worst Masters round ever. His previous low point: 81 on a wind-swept day in 2000.
'The course wasn't much of a problem,' he said. 'I was.'
Nicklaus rarely got his irons close to the hole. When he did, the putts wouldn't fall.
'I was horrible with the putts,' he said, 'and where I was putting from wasn't very good, either.'
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • 2003 Masters Photo Gallery
  • Augusta National Course Tour
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.