For par-3 winner Beck, course is uphill challenge THE MASTERS


AUGUSTA, Ga. -- History is going against Chip Beck in his chase for this year's Masters championship. In fact, it has been going against Beck since he won the annual par-3 tournament the day before the 57th Masters began.

Beck is well aware that nobody who has won the par-3 event since it was started here in 1960 has won the actual tournament. ZTC The closest was Raymond Floyd, who lost in sudden death to Nick Faldo three years ago.

"I love the challenge of breaking the jinx," Beck said yesterday after a second round of 5-under-par 67 put him at 5-under 139, two shots behind leader Jeff Maggert. "It sort of inspires me. I've been able to do things like that."

If Beck breaks one of the longest losing streaks in sports, he also would do something he hasn't done in his 15-year career: win a major. Beck has come close only once, when he finished tied for second behind Floyd in the 1986 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

Beck, 36, is one of those guys who has made a lot of money, but not won a lot of tournaments during his career: nearly $5 million in earnings, only four victories. This hasn't been a good year so far, and especially recently, when Beck missed the cut at his past two tournaments.

"I've had my worst month in the last six years," said Beck, who missed the cut at The Players Championship and then at last week's Freeport-McMoRan Classic in New Orleans, where he was defending champion. "But it really does strengthen you. It makes you tougher inside. I said to myself: 'You've really got to get your butt in gear.' "

Beck doesn't have a particularly good track record at Augusta National. He missed the cut the past two years and has only one top-10 finish in eight tries, a tie for eighth in 1989. Despite finishing 17th on the money list and earning nearly $700,000, Beck missed the cut in all four majors last year.

"It's pretty hard to take," he said. "It's the only standard you really have to measure yourself. Maybe you put too much pressure on yourself when that happens. Last week I hit the low point, but the chairman of the tournament said to me that he had a football coach in Texas who told him, luck is when preparation meets opportunity."

The opportunity is here for Beck.

But history is against him.

Left without a win

Russ Cochran, who finds himself tied with Beck, also has an obstacle to overcome. No left-handed player has won the Masters.

"A lot of people say things about left-handers and right-handers," said Cochran, who is a natural lefty. "I get a lot of support from left-handed players. As far as playing the game, I don't think it makes a difference."

And the streak?

"I'm not superstitious," he said.

Strange luck

Curtis Strange has had his share of bad luck and bad rounds here. He had more of each this week. After shooting an opening-round 77, Strange was even par through seven holes yesterday when he was forced to withdraw with tendinitis in his left wrist.

Strange's condition -- an inflammation of the sheath that covers the tendon -- had started to bother him during a practice round last week at home. Although he birdied the first hole, Strange knew he was in trouble when his first drive went barely 200 yards.

"Every shot hurt," said Strange, whose career has been on a downward spiral since being the No. 1 player in the world in 1988 after three of four years as the top player on the PGA Tour. "I was playing all right, but I couldn't hit the ball."

Funk misses cut

Former University of Maryland coach Fred Funk, playing in his first Masters, missed the cut after shooting a 2-over-par 73. Funk had shot a 77 in an opening round marred by four three-putt greens.

"I'm just really disappointed," said Funk, 36. "Yesterday I was hitting the ball on the wrong side of the hole all day. Today I had some chances, but I couldn't make any putts."

After birdieing the ninth hole to make the turn at 1-under, Funk missed birdies at 10, 11 and 12. Then on the short par-5 15th, Funk put his approach shot in the water in front of the green and wound up with double-bogey.

"I was 232 yards from clearing the water, downwind and downhill," he said. "I just hit a very fat shot. I was having fun until that shot. I didn't know if I had a chance to make the cut, but I just wanted to post a good score and take my chances. But overall, I think it was a good experience."

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