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Friday, April 9, 2004
Daly storms out of Augusta National

Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Mike Weir can put away the clubs. The only thing on his weekend schedule is giving away a green jacket.

Weir became the first defending Masters champion since Jose Maria Olazabal in 2000 to miss the cut, falling short by a stroke when he bogeyed the 18th hole Friday.

The Canadian lefty pulled himself together after putting two balls in the water in the first round, signing for a 79. The second round was nine strokes better, but he couldn't get up-and-down after hitting through the last green.

"I played well," Weir said. "I just hit the wrong club on the last hole."

At least Weir had a reason to hang around for the weekend: The defending champion puts the green jacket on Sunday's winner.

The others were free to go.

That included John Daly. A popular winner at Torrey Pines two months ago, he showed his temperamental side when he stormed away from Augusta National after a bogey on 18.

Daly stopped off in the locker room for all of two minutes, grabbed a plastic bag and an autographed guitar and went looking for his car, flanked by two security guards.

When reporters asked if he would stop to talk, Daly never looked back. When a woman asked for an autograph, he brushed right past her.

Daly had plenty of company in his frustration. Craig Stadler, the 1982 champion now playing on the Champions Tour, missed a four-footer for par and the cut on 18. Others didn't come that close: Len Mattiace, who lost to Weir in a playoff last year; three-time champion Nick Faldo; British Open winner Ben Curtis; and Adam Scott, who captured The Players Championship just two weeks ago.

Jack Nicklaus came up short, too, and didn't back off earlier pronouncements that this likely was his final Masters. Of course, the Golden Bear has been known to change his mind when the azaleas start blooming.

"Is there any reason why I should come back?" Nicklaus asked, shaking his head. "That's the point. What can I accomplish by playing?"

He seemed content with back-to-back rounds of 75, which left him two strokes off the 4-over 148 cut. At least he redeemed himself for a horrible, humiliating performance last year, when he opened with an 85 -- his worst score ever at Augusta.

"Really, the only reason I came back this year was to make up for what I did last year," Nicklaus said. "I was embarrassed by that."

Tom Watson, his emotions churning after the death of longtime caddie Bruce Edwards, had hoped to honor his friend by making the cut.

But the putter let Watson down. He struggled to a 76 for the second day in a row, unable to get anything going on Augusta's slick greens. He didn't have a prayer after stumbling in Amen Corner, his tee shot at No. 12 splashing down in Rae's Creek.

"My friend was on my shoulder," Watson said. "He just didn't read those putts well. Or maybe I didn't listen that well; that's more like it."

Edwards, who caddied for Watson for almost 30 years, died Thursday morning after battling Lou Gehrig's disease.

Daly was a last-minute qualifier for the Masters, getting in through that hefty payday at Torrey Pines -- his first PGA Tour victory in nine years. Despite all the ups-and-downs in his tumultuous life, he usually plays well at Augusta, finishing as high as third and missing the cut only once in his previous nine appearances.

He tried to rally after a 78 on Thursday, putting himself in good position when a birdie at No. 13 put him 3-under for the day. But he bogeyed the next hole with a three-putt and went to 18 needing a par to stay alive.

Daly's second shot flew the green, and a terrible chip skidded past the flag and rolled onto a lower plateau, about 40 feet away.

"He's done," a fan mumbled.

Exactly. Daly's last-ditch putt came up about 5 feet short and he rushed out of Augusta.

The race for the cut was actually quite thrilling. There was still hope for Daly, Weir and a whole bunch of other guys at 149, if only one more player would join them.

In the next-to-last group, Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington sank short but testy putts to save par. If either had missed, 57 players would have made the cut instead of 44 -- the smallest number possible.

That group includes two amateurs. Public Links champion Brandt Snedeker and U.S. Amateur runner-up Casey Wittenberg both slipped in at 148.

"Relieved is the best way to put it," Snedeker said.

Contrast that with Larry Mize, the 1987 Masters champion and a seeming shoe-in when he went to 18 needing only a bogey to make the cut.

Mize put his tee shot in the trees and had to play his second shot on the adjacent 10th fairway, but he was still in good shape when he pitched to 20 feet of the flag.

What happened next was painful to watch: The first putt came up 4 feet short and the next one sped 10 feet past the cup. His hopes dashed, Mize took two more putts for a triple-bogey.

"I was trying to make birdie," he said. "That's got to be your mentality. You don't want to think you're going to make par."

But he sure would have taken a par as he drove down Magnolia Lane, the clubhouse in his rearview mirror.