In the field

Wednesday, April 08, 2009
By Billy Byler
Staff Writer

SINGH'S ACE: A big roar erupted Tuesday afternoon when Vijay Singh made a hole-in-one at the par-3 16th hole -- by skipping his shot across the water.

Players often indulge fans by skipping their tee shots across the pond that guards the green, but Singh set a standard that is unlikely to be matched.

According to a tournament official, Singh's ball skipped across the water, hit the bank, landed on the green and rolled about 15 feet into the cup.

Playing partner Ken Duke teed it up after Singh, but he thought better of trying to match the 2000 Masters Tournament winner's feat and put his ball into his pocket.

COURSE GETS COLD SHOULDER: Cold and windy weather plagued Augusta National Golf Club for the second day Tuesday, and many golfers avoided the course completely.

Instead, they took advantage of the putting green, driving range and chipping area, including Bob Hope Chrysler Classic winner Pat Perez .

"On Sunday it was perfect, so I know what it's going to be like," he said. "I've basically just done a lot of putting the last couple of days."

Tiger Woods skipped out on a round of golf Tuesday, but Phil Mickelson braved the wind and cold to get in a round with amateur Drew Kittleson early in the day. Mickelson said he didn't want to break routine.

"It's my only practice round of the week. I don't like to play on Wednesday," he said. "I like to just work on my game, practice it and try not to get too tired heading into Thursday."

NATIONAL PRIDE : A reader comment posted below Geoff Ogilvy 's online profile at augusta.com offered a hint of how much Australians want a Masters victory.

"Good luck, Geoff," the poster wrote. "Please make Monday morning interesting to us golfers in Australia."

Ogilvy's countrymen have suffered disappointment watching the Masters each April. With a 12- to 14-hour time difference, Sunday's final round typically comes early Monday in Australia. The Aussies have watched Bruce Crampton (1972), Jack Newton ('80) and Greg Norman ('86, '87 and '96) come close to a green jacket, only to finish in second place at Augusta.

This year, Australians are putting their hopes on Ogilvy. The 31-year-old won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and Mercedes-Benz Championship this year and is No. 1 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup points standings.

The 2006 U.S. Open champion said he hopes to give his fellow Aussies what they're looking for.

"Australia would be pretty excited Monday morning if one of us Australians won the tournament for sure," he said.

Ogilvy was a teenager when he watched Norman's meltdown in 1996.

"It was a very hard day to watch," he said. "I don't think anybody was comfortable watching that day.

"I went straight off to the golf club, as you do when you're 20 or 19, because that's all you do. You hang out at the golf club all day. And it was quiet. It was a pretty down day in Australia. It wasn't very nice."

FIVE MORE YEARS : Mickelson confirmed at a news conference Tuesday that he has signed an extension with Callaway and will play this week with his usual set of clubs in the bag.

"We just did it this week, actually," he said. "We extended our relationship five more years. I just felt like in the last five years I have won my major championships, I have come closest to No. 1 in the rankings than I've ever been, and I felt like Callaway's support staff and the engineers and technicians have been a big part of that."

Mickelson said he will use the same set of clubs this week that he used to win the WGC-CA Championship at Doral three weeks ago.

FOREVER A SPARTAN : At least one golfer took an interest in Monday's NCAA men's championship basketball game. The North Carolina Tar Heels cruised to a fifth national title with an 89-72 victory over Michigan State.

"I'm heartbroken. It was a tough loss," said Jack Newman , a Spartan and one of five amateurs in the field this week. "We had a chance but North Carolina has such a high-powered offense, and we tried running and gunning with a team where that's their offense. Ours, we had to slow them down. We've got great athletes, but I think we were a little nervous and got outmanned."

If they win : As if the excitement of seeing a favorite golfer win the Masters isn't enough, some businesses are sweetening the deal by awarding customers free vacations or refunds on products if a certain golfer wins.

- Golf Vacations Ireland is targeting those who have jumped on the Rory McIlroy bandwagon. If the 19-year-old Irishman wins Sunday, which would make him the first amateur to do so, the family-run business will give away $76,000 worth of vacation packages to four lucky fans who enter the contest at the company's Web site. An additional $24,000 will be donated to The First Tee.

- TaylorMade and Golfsmith are offering a promotion this week involving Sergio Garcia . Customers who purchase a new R9, r7 Limited or '09 Burner driver from TaylorMade will receive a full refund from Golfsmith if Garcia wins the Masters. The promotion runs through Saturday, so shoppers on the fence can wait to see how Garcia does through the first three rounds before making the purchase.

Such deals aren't new to Masters Week. In 2007, a Hyundai dealership in Augusta offered a monthlong promotion leading up to the tournament that would refund the purchase of a new Sonata to any buyer if an Augustan won the tournament.

Augustans Charles Howell III , Vaughn Taylor and Larry Mize were in the field that year.

Mize didn't make the cut, and Howell, who did, quickly fell out of contention on Saturday. But Taylor went into Sunday tied for fourth and only two shots off the lead. He shot 75 to finish tied for 10th and six strokes behind eventual winner Zach Johnson .In this StorySergio Garcia (Stats | Bio | Photos)Charles Howell III (Stats | Bio | Photos)Zach Johnson (Stats | Bio | Photos)Rory McIlroy (Stats | Bio | Photos)Phil Mickelson (Stats | Bio | Photos)Larry Mize (Stats | Bio | Photos)Greg Norman (Stats | Bio | Photos)Vijay Singh (Stats | Bio | Photos)Vaughn Taylor (Stats | Bio | Photos)Tiger Woods (Stats | Bio | Photos)