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Published: Saturday, 4/9/2005

Howell a quick learner at Augusta

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

AUGUSTA, Ga. - David Howell of England, playing in his first Masters, figures he's a pretty quick learner. Through 26 holes, he's taken the upper hand at Augusta National Golf Club, where only one tournament rookie, Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, has ever won a green jacket.

"You can be as experienced as you want, but if you don't hit the ball straight and you don't hit it where you want to, you're not going to do very well," Howell said. "If you know where you want to go and you fire at the pins and hit great shots, you're going to do well. Experience doesn't make up for good golf at the end of the day."

At yesterday's end, Howell was tied for the lead in the

water-logged, weather-delayed Masters.

He was the first off the tee for the second round, starting on the back nine, and went on a birdie binge that got him to 5-under through eight holes before play was suspended.

Luke Donald and Chris DiMarco are also at 5-under, one shot better than Vijay Singh, who never started his second round, and two shots ahead of Mark Hensby and Stuart Appleby.

Americans will remember Howell as half of the all-rookie European Ryder Cup pairing that earned a crucial point at Oakland Hills last September. He and Paul Casey surprised Jim Furyk and Chad Campbell of the U.S. squad in a four-ball match.

He feels that experience helped prepare him for his debut at Augusta National.

"I wasn't particularly nervous on the first tee, so you can probably look back to the Ryder Cup," Howell said. "The drama of teeing off in that for the first time - you're never going to get anything more nerve-wracking than that.

"I guess I just have a general feeling that I'm really making my way in this game."

He made his way around the back nine impressively. He knocked a 6-iron shot to inside five feet on No. 10, then drained a 25-footer with a lot of break on the next hole. He two-putted from long distance for birdies on both par-5 holes and made a tricky, slick six-footer from behind the hole at the par-3 16th.

"It was only eight holes," he said, "but I'm delighted with my day's work."

DANGER LURKS: Another European Ryder Cup player, Donald is also a Masters rookie, and although he's off to a good start at 5-under he remains respectful of Augusta National.

"I've only played 20 holes, so there's a lot of golf to be played and there's danger lurking around every corner at Augusta," the co-leader said. "So I'm not going to think about my position. If I keep playing the way I've been playing, then I'll start worrying about it come Sunday."

QUOTE-UNQUOTE: Nick Price, on the bad weather that seems to have followed the PGA Tour from event to event this year:

"I think what we should do is find all the drought-stricken areas in the world and schedule PGA Tour events there. That would take care of things."

LEFTOVERS: After resumption of first-round play yesterday morning, Tiger Woods putted off of a green for the second time.

On Thursday, he had an eagle putt run past the cup, down a slope and into Rae's Creek at No. 13. Yesterday, his birdie putt at No. 6 failed to navigate the slope to the cup, fell off to one side and trickled off the green. He shot 74 .

Appleby finished off a 3-under-par 69, his best-ever start at the Masters. In eight previous starts the 33-year-old Australian has missed the cut five times and has never finished in the top 20.

Play was suspended before Appleby was to start the second round.



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