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Published: Sunday, 4/13/2003

Masters notebook: Palmer unable to break 80

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AUGUSTA, Ga. - After shooting 83 for the second day in a row, Arnold Palmer missed his 20th consecutive cut at Augusta National and threatened again to make this his final Masters.

“I'm not really happy with my game,” said Palmer, who had to finish four holes yesterday morning. “I may not [come back]. We'll see.

“I shot a pair of 83s. It's difficult when you can't break 80. I've always said when I can't break 80, I'll keep my game in private. I guess I'm getting pretty close to that.”

Nobody is expecting Palmer, 73, to act on his threat.

He returned for his 49th consecutive Masters this year after he and Jack Nicklaus persuaded Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson to continue the lifetime exemption for former champions. And he has said many times he wants to make it 50 in a row in 2004.

“It could have been a pair of 90s if I didn't work hard,” Palmer said. “It's terrible. If you can't be competitive, don't play. And you can't be competitive out here if you can't drive it in the fairway.”

NICKLAUS STRUGGLES: Jack Nicklaus was humbled and discouraged by his inability to handle Augusta National, which played longer than its 7,290 yards after five consecutive days of rain. The Golden Bear finished at 18 over, his worst score by 10 shots in 42 Masters.

It was the only fifth time he has missed the cut at the Masters, but the second time in a row and third in his last eight.

“I didn't enjoy the last two days,” said Nicklaus, who shot an opening-round 85.

The owner of six green jackets, also hinted he may not return.

“If we have dry conditions, I'll play,” said Nicklaus, whose previous worst score at Augusta National was 8-over 152 in 1994. “If it's like this again next year, I may drop out on Wednesday. I don't want to clutter up the field. I did this year.”

MAKING PARS: Vijay Singh, the 2000 Masters champion, put himself in contention with 16 consecutive pars in his second round.

Singh birdied the second hole in the second round, then ran off 16 pars in a row to shoot 71. What's more, Singh went 33 holes without a bogey - the final five holes of his first round to the 11th hole of his third.

He's 2-under going into the final round.

DISASTER FOR DUVAL: David Duval, once the No. 1 player in the world, continued his bewildering play.

Duval shot a second-round 83 to finish at 18 over. His round included four double bogeys.



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