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“It was smart,” Laird said. “I’m glad they did it. It would have been stupid to leave us waiting there all day.”


FEELING AT HOME: The first time Charles Howell III saw the Masters, he thought everyone from Augusta won, no one made a bad shot and the greens were easy.

He’s learned a lot since he was 7.

Back at the Masters for the first time since 2008, Howell matched his best round at Augusta National with a 2-under 70 on Friday. He’s at 2 under for the tournament heading into the weekend, three strokes behind leaders Freddie Couples and Jason Dufner.

“Of course it means a lot because I’m from here. But the Masters is the Masters for everybody,” said Howell, who grew up in Augusta and still has family here. “It’s not like it’s a regular stop on the PGA Tour and I’m from there.”

Despite growing up in the shadow of Augusta National, Howell has never fared well at the Masters. He’s missed the cut three of the last five times he’s played, never broken 70 and never finished better than a tie for 13th.

And instead of feeling as if he’s coming, well, home, when he returns, he’s never felt comfortable at Augusta National.

“It’s a hard golf course,” he said. “Some players like (Phil) Mickelson, I’ve heard him say a lot of times he feels great and really comfortable every time he gets to Augusta. And it’s a place I’ve never been 100 percent at ease with yet.”

But his luck may be changing.

He had the only bogey-free round of the day Friday, and finally earned some Masters crystal with his eagle on 15.

“That it’s difficult and it takes a lot of patience,” Howell said when asked what he’s learned over the years. “You’re not going to have many bogey-free rounds at Augusta National.”


FAMOUS FRIENDS: NBA great Charles Barkley is colorful, outspoken and wildly entertaining.

Jason Dufner is … not.

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