Toms, Garcia Among Early Masters Leaders
Friday, April 11th 2003, 12:00 am
News On 6
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) _ The sun finally broke through at Augusta National and Tiger Woods got off to a shaky start in his pursuit of a record third straight green jacket Friday.
Woods bogeyed the first hole at the Masters, hitting four ugly shots before chipping in from about 40 feet. He also bogeyed Nos. 4 and 5, hardly looking like the guy who dominated Augusta the last two years.
While Woods struggled, David Toms and Sergio Garcia were among the early leaders at 3 under. Vijay Singh, the last guy not named Woods to win the Masters, was 2 under through eight holes.
Woods is trying to become the first player to win the tournament three years in a row, a quest delayed one day because of wet, soggy conditions.
Woods _ and the other 92 players in the field _ were scheduled to play 36 holes on an Augusta National course soaked by four inches of rain this week.
Playing in the next-to-last group off the first tee, Woods began shortly before 10 a.m. As he waited to hit, the sun cut through clouds that had cast a gloomy pall over Augusta since Sunday. Waiters, busboys and cooks wandered out from the clubhouse to get a look at his first shot.
It wasn't pretty. Woods appeared to mis-hit 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 his fifth shot into the hole 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 Woods had said he would try to avoid.
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 Jack 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.
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.
But 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.
She said it was time for all of the 300 or so members to publicly declare where they stand.
On Thursday, she was joined in a teleconference by Jackson, who said protesters from his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition plan to have their voice heard and said arrests could occur if they are not allowed close enough to the gates of Augusta National.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the plan by local authorities to have the protests limited to a 5.1-acre site about a half-mile from the course.
``Plan B is arrest if plan A is denied,'' Jackson said.
Burk also said the corporate executives among the private club's membership need to be accountable to their stockholders over the issue of barring women memberships.
``If they believe Augusta National is right to continue excluding women, then I challenge them to hold a news conference and tell us publicly,'' Burk said.
Stamina figured to play a big role in Friday's round. Memo to those who took Palmer in the office pool: The 73-year-old King isn't likely to make the cut for the first time since 1983.
Arnie shot a 44 on his first nine holes. Tommy Aaron, 66, was struggling even more, taking a triple-bogey at 2 and a qua