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Solid putting surprises Stadler as he makes cut

Former champ is tied for 15th

Saturday, April 07, 2007

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Craig Stadler won the Masters Tournament 25 years ago. He's putting as though he wants to contend for it again this weekend.

Ben Crenshaw, who won the Masters Tournament in 1984 and 1995, ended Friday at 6-over par, in a tie with six other players for 33rd place. (Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff)

"The putter is looking real good this week," Stadler said. "Good this year. Made a lot of putts this week. I've had to in the places that I have hit it. Thankfully, I've got the putter going."

His flat stick was the main reason he's just three shots above par and within five shots of the lead after missing the cut in two of his past three Masters appearances. He enters the weekend in a 10-way tie for 15th place.

"I think I only missed one putt today," he said. "That was six or eight feet. And I missed just one more on 18 that was about 12 feet. I made a lot of four- or five-footers around here today.

"That's what you need to do. That's what I didn't do last year. ... It's just good to have earned the right to play again on the weekend."

He never wavered, even on a day when it looked as though a few other Masters champions - including Jose Maria Olazabal and Ben Crenshaw - were going to flirt with contention before falling down the leaderboard.

Olazabal is 4-over par after 36 holes. Crenshaw is 6-over par.

Craig Stadler is the only player in the top 20 who is older than 50. He is at 74-73 after two rounds. (Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff)

Stadler is the only player older than 50 in the top 20, but the scattershot nature of his round kept him from getting too high about his best back-to-back rounds at Augusta National Golf Club since 2002.

"I'm not too stoked," he said. "If I would have played well today, I would've said I played well. Go back and look at what I did today."

Stadler hit only 18 of 36 greens and 15 of 28 fairways over his two rounds, but he has a 74-73 to show for it.

"I didn't drive it as good as I did yesterday," he said. "I was five shots worse tee to green today than Thursday. But you make a good couple little wedges in there and hit a couple putts, and it makes all the difference in the world. You can fool a lot of people into thinking you are playing good with a putter that's nice to you."

He seemed surprised to be in contention after his performance on the final day last week at the Ginn Championship on the Champions Tour.

"I started hitting the ball decently last week, and I had a good bit of confidence on Sunday after finishing double bogey, bogey, par, par and double bogey," Stadler said sarcastically. "Then I come out here and do this. Go figure."

Fuzzy Zoeller finished the day tied for 46th place, earning him a spot in the next round. (Chris Thelen/Staff)

Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or jeff.sentell@augustachronicle.com.

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