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Notes: Amateur Barnes falls one short

4/14/2003

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.

Hardware
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.

Singh's slide
Vijay Singh was in contention again going to
the back nine Sunday.

The result was the same.

For the second straight year, 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.''

Woeful Walrus
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.

Tidbits
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.