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In the field

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

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Mike Weir knew what Jack Nicklaus was trying to say. That did not mean he agreed with him.

Jesse Dowdy sprays down the No. 8 fairway after Tuesday's practice round. (Michael Holahan/Staff)

Nicklaus has used Weir as an example among his comments about the lengthening of Augusta National Golf Club.

Weir won the Masters Tournament in 2003, but Nicklaus said the recent changes were going to remove a medium hitter, such as Weir, from having a chance to win again.

"Jack was talking about the changes affecting the character of the course with me in mind," Weir said. "I see the advantages to the longer hitters here. But that's always been the case. It always will. But I don't think it means I can never seriously contend again. I can, even though so many things have to go right for me this week to be able to do that."

Weir shared a story about where he was in 1986 when Nicklaus won the Masters for the sixth time.

"I was at Huron Oaks Golf Course in Ontario watching it on TV," Weir said. "The few commercials they did have I would run out and putt outside for like five minutes and then run back inside to watch it. I was back and forth watching it, especially when all the drama started happening on the back nine."

Some who have seen this knot in a tree near No. 6 tee at the National say it looks like the face of a baby. (Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff)
Daniel Normington (left) and Akeem Meyers, 17-year-old juniors at Cross Creek High School, clean the stands near the 15th green at Augusta National. Many area students work during the Masters Tournament, which coincides with spring break. (Ross Taylor/Staff)

FUN FOUND: Fred Funk and Craig Stadler played to the crowd when teeing off No. 1.

Funk hit a practice ball off the tee right into a youngster. The ball was plastic - similar to a Wiffle ball - and harmless.

A panicked crowd soon realized there was nothing to worry about. Funk even let the boy inside the ropes, autographed a real ball for him, then let him take a swing.

RETURN TRIP: Defending champion Tiger Woods was asked whether he returned to the site of his dramatic chip on the par-3 16th hole that was the signature shot of last year's victory.

Laughter soon followed.

"I'm not going over there," Woods said. "I didn't want to be over there in the first place. I'm not going to go over there and chip a shot again unless I put it over there again. Hopefully, that won't happen."

FRIENDLY WAGER: David Howell was shown a betting slip from the Imperial Palace Casino in Las Vegas. A $20 bet was placed on Howell at 65-to-1 odds. The owner of that slip wanted to know if those were good odds. Howell has three top-10 finishes on the European Tour this year, including a victory.

A win at Augusta would mean a $1,300 payday for the bettor.

"Sixty-five-to-1 huh?" Howell said. "You know, that's not that bad of a mark right there. I'm playing pretty well right now. Maybe I will be able to provide you with a little bit of excitement on Sunday, then."

FUN FOUND, PART II: It's relatively common to see a player try to skip the ball across the pond at No. 16. A tandem of tour players attempting an avoid-the-drink duet is another matter.

Right-handed Rocco Mediate was one-half of the combination. Lefty Phil Mickelson was the other. The playing partners set up a foot apart and tried a side-by-side skip show.

Neither made it. Mediate's best efforts had no chance to reach the green. Mickelson's effort came up a few feet short.

Their show followed a near hole-in-one from Arron Oberholser in the same group. Oberholser teased the crowd with a shot that missed the cup by about two feet.

MAIN MEMORY: Jim Furyk has one vista in mind every year when he comes to the Masters.

"I like to come in on the weekend before and play the course," Furyk said. "It's nice to walk to the first tee and look around and there's no one out here. It's so peaceful and serene. This course with all the people here is amazing. But when you're here and almost have it to yourself is just about as perfect as perfect gets."

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