Masters yields record lows Parry, Woosnam lead after 36 holes


AUGUSTA, Ga. -- You know the living is easy at the Masters when one of the two leaders after 36 holes walks into the press room after shooting a 66 and announces that he is driving "terribly." That's what Australia's Craig Parry did yesterday.

You know the living is easy at the Masters when the other leader, Ian Woosnam of Wales, makes only one bogey in the first two rounds -- and that one only because his drive landed behind a fuse box along the ninth fairway.

You know the living is easy at the Masters when 49-year-old Ray Floyd says "the conditions for scoring are the best" he has ever seen.

We know, we know.

We know because 47 subpar scores were shot yesterday, breaking by seven the Masters record for subpar scores in a round.

We know because 48 players are under par halfway through the tournament, breaking by nine the record for subpar totals after 36 holes.

We know because the 36-hole cut score of 145 ties the lowest in tournament history.

We know because Corey Pavin's hole-in-one on the 16th yesterday -- the ball flew straight into the hole -- made it two straight days for aces, coming a day after Jeff Sluman's on No. 4.

We know because Fred Couples made nine birdies yesterday and still wound up one shot off the lead.

"You get dry weather, perfect greens and no wind at all, and

you're going to get low scores like this," said Floyd, whose 68 left him tied with Ted Schulz in fourth place, two shots off the nine-under lead.

Parry, a 26-year-old from Sydney, Australia, had the day's best round along with Woosnam, with seven birdies and a bogey. Asked to explain how he did it, he proceeded to explain why he wasn't even playing particularly well.

"I started using a new driver three weeks ago, and frankly, it's not going well this week," he said. "I'm not getting into the positions from which I can make easy shots to the greens. But my irons and putting are picking up the slack."

He made birdie putts of 9, 12, 12, 15 and 18 feet.

A virtual unknown in the United States, he is a 5-foot-6, 168-pound short hitter who has performed well on the European tour the past four years, winning seven tournaments and earning more than $1.5 million. He qualified for the Masters by finishing in the top 16 at the U.S. Open last year.

He is another of the growing legion of Australians who have hit the big time in the wake of Greg Norman. Wayne Grady and Ian Baker-Finch have won major championships, as has Norman. Steve Elkington is one of the top players on the PGA Tour. None has won the Masters.

"Greg lost in a playoff to Larry Mize [in 1987] and Jack Newton was a runner-up years ago," Parry said. "I know this stuff. I can remember getting up at 5 a.m. at home to watch the Masters on television. The first Australian to win it would be remembered for a long time."

People long ago stopped counting golfers from the United Kingdom who have won the Masters. Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo and Woosnam have won the past four. (Mize was the last American to win.) Woosnam's victory a year ago was the pinnacle of his career. He hasn't played that well since. Until now.

"When I got here Sunday, I thought I was playing to about a 24 handicap," he said after his 66 yesterday. "But then I went out and shot a fantastic practice round Wednesday. Like a 63 or something. Nine birdies. And I feel 200 percent better.

"I think maybe my problem these last few months was that I was just too worried about my putting, which wasn't going well, and not concentrating enough on just scoring well. I know my confidence is a lot better. I've played really well these first two days."

Couples was just about as sharp yesterday with a 67, but a double-bogey on the par-4 14th kept him from the lead. He tried to get too cute with his approach shot, hitting it into a narrow area, and wound up knocking the ball off the green. Then he dubbed his chip.

"Sometimes you can get too greedy on this course," said Parry, who was playing with him.

But Couples was still more than satisfied with the round. The hottest player in the world coming into the tournament, with five top-three finishes on the PGA Tour this year, he was the consensus pre-tournament pick. The 67 not only left him in good shape for the weekend, but was evidence that he is still on a roll.

"I'm hitting a lot of good shots right now," he said. "I just feel like I'm on the hole a lot. Things are going very well."

They also are going well for Floyd, who almost won here two NTC years ago, losing in a playoff to Faldo. He cried that day because he thought it was his last chance to win a major championship, but he has gotten better and better with age.

The Masters

The leaders . . .

Craig Parry 69-66--135

Ian Woosnam 69-66--135

. . . and followers

Fred Couples 69-67--136

Ray Floyd 69-68--137

Ted Schulz 68-69--137

Jeff Sluman 65-74--139

Ian Baker-Finch 70-69--139

D.A. Weibring 71-68--139

Greg Norman 70-70--140

Lanny Wadkins 65-75--140

Jack Nicklaus 69-75--144

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