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In the field

Friday, April 07, 2006

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Rarely in professional golf do two players feud, at least publicly, the way Australians Robert Allenby and Mark Hensby have been.

Mark Hensby has been engaged in a public feud with Robert Allenby. (Special)

A series of verbal jousts that started late last year led to Allenby's calling Hensby "a wanker" in an Australian newspaper Web site's article Wednesday.

"That's his opinion; I've said it before," Hensby said Thursday when he learned of Allenby's comments published by The Age, of Melbourne.

Asked whether he thought the spat has been overblown, Hensby said, "No doubt. I don't even know where it came from."

Last year, Hensby - known for being outspoken - criticized Greg Norman about his contribution to Australian golf before the Australian Open. Allenby and Stuart Appleby reportedly took offense when Hensby's comments were made public, and spoke out in criticism against them.

Hensby told Sports Illustrated that Allenby and Appleby didn't even know what had been said and was quoted as saying:

"Those two (Allenby and Appleby) really ripped me, and they didn't even know what I'd said. After that, I've really got no time for either of them. They aren't very smart people. And you can write that."

Robert Allenby (Special)

According to Wednesday's article on The Age's Web site, Appleby dismissed the issue after speaking to Hensby at The Players Championship.

But, the article said, Allenby was angry about Hensby's published comments. Allenby is quoted as saying: "He's a wanker, and that's the bottom line. ... On record, he is a wanker, and you (the media) can do what you like with it."

Allenby also said of Hensby in the article, "He thinks he's the smart person out of all this. Well if he was smart, he'd just drop it."

Hensby said Thursday: "I thought the Greg Norman thing was more of a distraction than anything (earlier). But it seems to have calmed down before rising back up again. But it wasn't a distraction for me out here at all, really."

A couple of Australian fans chimed in Thursday.

"We're awfully proud of Hensby," Sydney native Dave Crossman said. "He says what he means and means what he says. He doesn't pretend around and hide what he thinks. We sure all love him for that.

"I don't agree with what he said about Norman. You can't touch Greg Norman for what he did for Australian golf. We wouldn't have eight Australians at the Masters if it wasn't for Greg. I think most Australians are split between believing what Hensby said and what Allenby said."

Native Australian Chris Crawley, also in the gallery Thursday, was asked what would happen if Hensby and Allenby somehow ended up playing together.

"That would be worth seeing," Crawley said. "I think there would be a bit of smoke coming through the ears on that one. That'd be worth the trip over to get to see. There'd be some spit and vinegar on that round. I'd make a beeline to follow that one."

OGILVY'S DEBUT: In his first Masters Tournament, Geoff Ogilvy shot 70 and is tied for fourth.

"It wasn't too bad," he said. "I hit it well on the range when I warmed up, and my putting felt good. So it was a good start."

Ogilvy played with Chris DiMarco and Sergio Garcia, each Masters veterans. Ogilvy birdied the second hole, and he said that got him going.

"We had fun," Ogilvy said. "It was a comfortable pairing. I play practice rounds with Sergio and I've played with Chris. ... On the back nine, I didn't hit a bad shot."

LOVE REBOUNDS: Davis Love III was 5 over after making triple bogey 6 on No. 12, but he birdied the next four holes and finished with 74, six shots back of leader Vijay Singh.

COUPLES' CROWD: Fred Couples has always called Augusta National his favorite course.

Part of that is the kindness of its patrons. He especially appreciated the following for his group during the first round Thursday.

"I guess there's a couple of people around every hole who still root for the old guys," Couples said. "They make you feel good. The folks were awfully nice to me and Jimmy (Furyk) today."

LEHMAN REGROUPS: Tom Lehman, whose car was shot at late Tuesday night, talked about the ordeal Thursday.

He had been driving alone to pick up his son at the airport when a shot pierced the rear driver's side door. Authorities arrested Troy Willis Smith, of Augusta, in the shooting.

"It was a surreal experience," said Lehman, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain who shot 76 in the first round. "I'm happy they caught the guy. It was pretty crazy.

"If it wasn't such a serious situation, it would almost be amusing. You just don't see a bullet in your car every day. I've never seen it before. You open the paper every day and read about these things that happen to people. Totally random. I'm just lucky to walk away from it."

CADDIE'S SONG: The Professional Caddies Association announced Thursday the release of the song Five Feet Away, initially written and produced for Tom Watson's long-time caddie and friend, Bruce Edwards.

The song, dedicated to caddies worldwide, was played at Edwards' funeral after he died from ALS on April 8, 2004, the first day of that year's Masters Tournament. Two-time Grammy Award winner Michael Bolton has recorded the song.

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