Monday, April 14, 2003
Barnes' solid showing ends one shot short of perfect
By Eddie Pells
The Associated Press
AUGUSTA, Ga. - Amateur Ricky Barnes would gladly turn in his sterling silver cup for a trip back to the Masters.
Barnes, who won the cup as low amateur, finished one agonizing stroke away from the 16th-place finish needed to guarantee a return invite to Augusta National.
"Lo Am is a great title to have, but I'd rather be the second amateur and in the top 16," Barnes said Sunday after a closing-round 1-over 73 left him at 291.
With the way he played over four difficult days at Augusta National, however, it seems a good bet the senior at Arizona will be back some day, if not next year.
The U.S. Amateur champion - "a hothead growing up," according to his mother - never really lost his cool. He posted the best amateur score here since 1998, when Matt Kuchar shot 288.
And, oh, yeah, Barnes beat his playing partner over the first two rounds, Tiger Woods, by six strokes over those 36 holes.
The lessons he learned: "The experience playing with Tiger. Getting over the nerves. Knowing I can compete with these guys."
And next? "It's back to Tucson. Back to reality," he said.
Mike Weir won the tournament. Darren Clarke, on the other hand, took home the crystal.
Clarke won two sets of crystal goblets for making a pair of eagles in the tournament, and also won a crystal vase for shooting the low score in the first round. His was the biggest haul of trinkets the folks at Augusta National hand out for various accomplishments like low scores, eagles and best amateur.
Weir didn't go home empty-handed, though. He won the gold medal, a sterling silver replica Masters trophy. He also won $1.08 million, the biggest prize in tournament history.
NOT SO EASY
The back nine, with two reachable par-5s and a few other good opportunities, should be Ernie Els territory.
It wound up costing him any chance at winning the Masters on Sunday.
After going 2 under through the front and hanging within four of the lead, Els knew his chance was coming.
"It was a perfect time to make a run," he said. "But the back didn't give me anything."
He shot 36 on the back to finish at 2 under for the day and 1 under for the tournament. That was good for a sixth-place tie with Vijay Singh.
"I felt I played good on the weekend," Els said. "I hit the ball solid, but didn't get enough out of any round."
He lamented the back side, where on Saturday he hit balls in the water on Nos. 13 and 15. He played those two holes, which are supposed to net birdies and sometimes eagles, at 1 over.
The worst of it, however, was No. 14 on Saturday, when he hit his approach within inches of the hole, only to watch it inexplicably spin uphill - and all the way off the green.
"I think 14 yesterday really cost me my chance," Els said.
Vijay Singh was in contention again going to the back nine Sunday.
The result was the same.
For the second year in a row, Singh faded down the stretch of the Masters, costing him a chance to compete for his second green jacket.
Singh, who won at Augusta in 2000, got to 4-under par with a birdie at No. 11, sticking a shot from 162 yards to set up a short putt. It was all downhill from there.
At the treacherous par-3 12th, Singh put himself in position to save par from the bunker, but a 3-footer rimmed out.
That seemed to unnerve Singh, who was forced to hit a shot left-handed at the next hole after an errant tee shot. He wound up with another bogey, then effectively ended his chances with yet another bogey at the 15th.
Singh wound up shooting 73, leaving him six strokes behind winner Mike Weir.
"I was doing well until I hit No. 12 and No. 13," he said. "After that, I couldn't get anything going."
A year ago, Singh also ran into problems on the back side. He took a quadruple-bogey 9 at 15 - which played as the easiest hole on the course - after knocking two shots into the water.
Singh didn't have any major blowups this time, but still didn't do enough to win.
"I played well but didn't make the putts," Singh said. "Next year."
Craig Stadler finished his water, slammed the cup into the trash, headed down the 14th fairway and grudgingly touched his cap to acknowledge the smattering of applause.
"It's only a game," one encouraging fan tried to remind him.
But on Sunday, it felt more like work for the Walrus.
Playing in the first group of the day, along with a non-competing marker, the 1982 Masters champion shot 77 to finish at 305, good for last place.
The best thing about the round was that it was over quickly. Playing fast, and at times even raking his own bunkers, Stadler played all 18 holes in a crisp 3 hours, 20 minutes.
Jeff Maggert, Jonathan Byrd and Tim Clark guaranteed return trips to the Masters in 2004 by finishing in the top 16. The rest of the top 16 are in, as well, but probably didn't need the good finish to make the field. ... Mark O'Meara finished at even-par 288 - his best showing at a major since the 1998 PGA Championship. ... Fred Couples entered the day in contention at 1 over, but shot 77 to finish 13 strokes off the lead. ... Weir became the 27th player to win his first major at the Masters. ... Total prize money grew from $5.46 million to $6 million, even though Augusta National lost revenue from its decision to drop TV sponsors in the dispute over admitting female members.
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