- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 9, 2005

AUGUSTA, Ga. — All this wet weather on the PGA Tour is driving the players to distraction. Or rather, it’s driving them to the clubhouse first and then to distraction.

During yesterday’s delay at the Masters, Nick Price joked that he was “standing on the balcony with Shigeki Maruyama from Japan, Carlos Franco from Paraguay, Angel Cabrera from Argentina and Thomas Levet from France, and we were all complaining about the rain in our different languages.”

As well they might. This is the fifth straight event that has been disrupted by liquid sunshine — and the seventh this year. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the leading money winner on the Tour right now was Noah.

“It’s been a long year,” Fred Funk said — and this comes from a man who just two weeks ago won the biggest tournament of his life. “We had a mess at Riviera, a mess here, a mess last week [at the BellSouth], a mess the week before [at the Players, where he persevered for the victory] … .”

Charles Howell III is probably wandering around the premises mumbling incoherently about “dry land” — like a character in “Waterworld.” Poor Charlie hasn’t played a tournament without disruption since Pebble Beach back in early February. Most players’ bags have 14 clubs and one umbrella; Howell’s has one club and 14 umbrellas.

Then there are the mudballs these conditions produce — what a nuisance! They fly off your clubface with all the predictability of a Gaylord Perry spitter. I don’t want to tell the rules committee its business, but this might be the time to rewrite the lift-clean-and-place rule … to allow for the use of a high-speed hose.

It was only Friday, and already the field was looking frazzled. “It’s hard to stop and start and stop and start and stop and start,” said Chris DiMarco, who was tied for the lead at 5 under.

He’s got that right. When somebody asked Price how many times he’d warmed up yesterday, he replied, “I forget.” (Which, come to think of it, should have been what Billy Casper said when somebody asked him how many strokes he took on the 16th hole Thursday.)

Speaking of Casper, he certainly hasn’t helped matters any. I mean, we’d probably be right on schedule, perhaps even a little ahead, if Billy hadn’t shot a 106 in the first round, backing up the field all the way to Savannah. And what about all those divots he dredged up? Can you imagine how long it took the grounds crew to repair the damage? That might be why play didn’t resume yesterday until 9:45 a.m.

I’m joking, of course. What else am I supposed to do? The Masters is in a state of suspended animation. Day One ended without the first round being completed, Day Two ended without the second round being completed and Day Three almost assuredly will end without the third round being completed. Which means, for an ink-stained wretch like me, only one thing:

Operator, can you give me the number for United Airlines? I need to rebook my return flight.

“It’s going to be a struggle to get the tournament in by Sunday,” Price said. “I’ve never seen anything like this with all the rain — and I didn’t even play in Atlanta or at Bay Hill [or in the Honda, lucky fellow]. The guys who did must be ready to move to the desert.”

If only to get away from … each other. They’ve spent an awful lot of time together lately, waiting out the weather in the clubhouse. Ordinarily, they’d just sit around and tell stories, “but after four weeks of this stuff,” DiMarco said, “the stories are getting a little old.”

Except for the one, maybe, about Tommy Nakajima. Edwin Pope of the Miami Herald was telling us about Tommy the other day, about the time he needed 13 whacks to get the ball in the hole on No. 13.

“They brought him into the press room, and somebody asked him if he lost his composure,” Pope said. “Tommy spoke very limited English. ‘No lose composure,’ he said. ‘Lose strokes — many, many strokes.’ ”

We end this column with the sound of snoring — emanating, if inside sources are to be believed, from the nostrils of Jeff Maggert and Jay Haas. Yes, some players actually have the capacity to snooze during weather delays. Now there’s a rare talent.

“What we ought to do,” Price said, “is contact all the drought-stricken areas of the world and tell them, ‘For $10 million, the PGA Tour will come there and solve all your problems.’ ”

They’d be growing cranberries in the Sahara inside of a year.

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