Beck doesn't gamble, but still pays the price THE MASTERS


AUGUSTA, Ga. -- He did not blow a lead, as Curtis Strange did here in losing to Bernhard Langer eight years ago. He did not blow up, as Dan Forsman did in the course of one hole yesterday.

But Chip Beck is bound to hear about how he blew any chance, however small, he had to win the 57th Masters when he chose not to go for the green in two on the par-5 15th hole. He was trailing Langer by three shots at the time.

"I didn't want to throw it away with one hole, one shot," Beck said later after he wound up losing by four shots to Langer. "I thought I could make a birdie, but the wind fooled me."

Instead of trying to drill a 3-wood onto the green -- he had 236 yards to the front and 250 to the hole -- Beck laid up to hit a wedge. When his next shot went over the green, Beck had to scramble just to make par while Langer made birdie.

"I'm happy with my decision," said Beck. "Obviously if I could do it over again, I would have gone for it. If I executed better at 14, 15 and 16, who knows what could have happened?"

Why would he have gone for it?

"Because I lost," he joked.

But Langer seemed to question Beck's decision and, in a way, his heart. Langer recalled talking with his caddie, Peter Coleman, while Beck was debating whether to go for it.

"He [Coleman] was surprised he wasn't going for it, and I thought he should," said Langer. "I said, 'I don't mind if he doesn't. If he makes birdie, he has a good chance [to win].' If I had been in his shoes, I definitely would have gone for it."

The disappointment Beck felt didn't deter what was his best finish in nine visits here; his best previous finish was a tie for eighth in 1989. His pain could be eased by a second-place check for $183,000.

"I feel like I played well," said Beck, 36. "I felt like I had some chances and I didn't come through."

Daly's strong showing

When John Daly reached the green of the monstrous 555-yard second hole in two yesterday, he looked down at his ball sitting eight inches from the cup. He looked at the gallery and smiled as he picked up his ball to mark it.

"Pulled it," Daly said before tapping in for eagle to go 4-under.

Daly got as low as 6-under after 13 holes and as close as three shots behind Langer, but no closer. He missed a chance for birdie at No. 15, another par-5, when he pulled his second shot left of the green and couldn't sink a 10-footer coming back. He later bogeyed 16.

"Definitely this is great," said Daly, who finished tied for third after coming in tied for 19th last year in his first Masters. "I had some chances. I'm proud of the way I played. This helps me a lot."

Daly, who spent three weeks in alcohol rehabilitation earlier this year after being charged with assaulting his wife, was warmly received by the crowds here. He said he plans to play a pretty full schedule in advance of this year's U.S. Open.

"This sets me up well for the rest of the year," said Daly, who went over $1 million in career earnings with an $81,000 check.

Almost left out

After falling out of contention by giving away four shots on the back nine Saturday, and after having more problems yesterday, Russ Cochran wasn't concerned about breaking Bob Charles' 30-year record for best finish by a left-hander -- a tie for 15th.

"I just wanted to be top 24, but I kept making bogeys," said Cochran.

Cochran ended up tied for 21st, earning another trip to next year's Masters. It will be his third. "I think I learned a lot Saturday that I'll hopefully be able to use when I come back," he said.

Odds and ends

Tom Watson set a Masters record by making his 19th straight cut, but his four-round total of 6-over 294 was his highest by four shots. . . . Despite playing in only three events on the PGA Tour this year, Langer is ranked third in earnings with $609,500.

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