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Masters Resumes With Weir in the Lead

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Most of the 93-man field returned to Augusta Naitonal under clear, blue skies Saturday to finish up the second round of the rain-soaked Masters. Canada's Mike Weir led the field at 6 under, while Tiger Woods was trying to overcome a poor start to defend his title.
Mike WeirSeeking an unprecedented third straight Masters victory, Woods stumbled through the rain-delayed first round Friday. He finished with a 4-over-par 76 - his worst opening at a major since he was a 20-year-old amateur playing the U.S. Open in 1996.
When Woods arrived at the clubhouse for a brief layover before the second round, he had yet to make a birdie and was seven shots behind his amateur playing partner, Ricky Barnes.
Barnes thoroughly enjoyed his first trip to the Masters, opening with a 69 despite the toughest scoring conditions for a first round at Augusta National since 1988.
Asked whether he expected to be seven strokes ahead of the world's greatest player after 18 holes, Barnes deadpanned: 'You're kidding.'
When the horn sounded to end play for the day, the sun had already slipped behind the Georgia pines, and Woods was back on track. He played the first 10 holes of the second round at 2 under and was 2 over for the tournament.
Woods was still far off the pace being set by a left-hander seeking his first major - no, not Phil Mickelson but Weir, one of just four players in the red when darkness fell.
Only 18 players made it through 36 holes on Friday.
Ricky BarnesBarnes was in the exclusive below-par group, still holding on at 1 under when play stopped. First-round leader Darren Clarke, who opened with a 66, dropped two strokes in the second round but remained at 4 under.
Then there's Mickelson, still lugging around that dreaded title of Best Player Never To Win A Major. It looks as if Lefty will be in contention again, standing 2 under with seven holes left to play in the morning.
This one is a bit of a surprise. Mickelson took a month off for the birth of his third child and didn't feel as though his game was in peak condition for a major.
'I'm not going to look at my position until the end of the second round,' he said. 'I want to see how I play the last seven before I really try to find out where I stand.'
Woods got off to a dreadful start: four errant swings left him with a 40-foot chip for bogey. It dropped, a shot that might be worth remembering if he makes a charge on the weekend.
But Woods still has a lot of work to do.
Not only was it his highest first-round score in a major since turning pro, it was his worst start at any PGA Tour-sanctioned event since a 76 in the 1998 Western Open.
Even more ominous: No Masters champion has ever started with worse than a 75; no winner has ever been 10 strokes out of the lead after 18 holes; and Woods has never opened with worse than a 72 in any of his 37 career victories.
He was unfazed by the deficit.
'Obviously, I would like to be a little better than I am,' he said. 'But I'm on the right track. I don't have to play a great second round, just have to play a solid one. That's what I'm doing.'
Indeed, Woods got himself on track with a birdie on his 22nd hole. He unleashed a big smile, licked his finger and gave the sign that indicated, 'Put one on the board.'
He birdied two of the next three as well, but a bogey on his next-to-last hole put a bit of a damper on Tigermania.
'I'm right where I need to be,' Woods said. 'I've still got a chance at the tournament, and there's a long way to go. The leaders aren't going to run away and hide here with the way the conditions are.'
Weir bolstered his score by making a bunch of 5- and 6-foot comebackers after sliding putts past the hole. Those are the shots of a Masters champion-in-the-making.
'I have always felt like the next step for me is to try to contend in major championships,' Weir said. 'So far, I'm doing it. We'll see if I can do it all week.'
On Saturday, some of the attention at Augusta will be diverted to a grassy patch of land along Washington Road, a half-mile from the front gate to Magnolia lane.
Martha Burk and opponents of the club's all-male membership are scheduled to protest, along with those who support Augusta National's right to keep women out.
They won't be alone on the weedy 5.1-acre lot that Sheriff Ronald Strength picked a half-mile from Augusta National's main gate to keep the one-day protest from snarling Masters traffic.
Among the other groups planning to picket are the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; Todd Manzi of Tampa, Fla., Burk's self-appointed nemesis; and Joseph J. Harper of Cordele, Ga., the leader of a Ku Klux Klan splinter group.
Woods wasn't the only golfer with back-to-back Masters championships having a miserable day.
Jack Nicklaus opened with an 85 - his worst score in 2,235 career rounds on the tour. He had plenty of company, too, with 14 other players scoring 80 or higher.
Overall, the average first-round score - 76.2 - was the highest at the Masters since 1988.
Nicklaus preferred to blame himself. He repeatedly wound up on the wrong side of the flag. Even when he was in good position, the putts wouldn't drop.
'The course wasn't much of a problem,' he said. 'I was.'

Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
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  • Photo Gallery
  • Augusta National Course Tour
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
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