AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Nearly from the beginning, the Masters tournament has been about second chances. It has given them to players who have had the green jackets literally swiped from their shoulders as well as to those who lost completely by their own undoing.
This year, it could happen to either Chip Beck or Scott Hoch.
Beck finished second to Bernhard Langer two years ago, when his decision not to go for the pin and possible birdie on the 15th hole in the final round might have cost him a shot at winning. The move was widely second-guessed after Langer won and Beck was criticized severely.
Hoch finished second six years ago, when he blew a 2 1/2 -footer for birdie to prolong a sudden-death playoff that Nick Faldo won on the next hole and caused press room pundits to give the loser a new label: "Hoch as in Choke."
"I took everything good from what happened in 1993," said Beck, whose 4-under-par 68 yesterday included bogeys on two of the last three holes to put him two strokes off the lead. "I played well enough to win. I'm looking forward to being there again."
Hoch stayed in contention for two rounds the following year, but hasn't really made a serious challenge for redemption since. He missed the cut a year ago, only the second time that had happened in nine trips to Augusta.
"Everybody makes mistakes -- just look at all the mistakes the presidents make," said Hoch, who shot 69 . "You've got to live with them. I had my chance. That's all you want to do, and hopefully I'll have more. But you know, that's the way it goes. It's disappointing. But it's history. You can't change history."
Speaking of second chances, it appeared for a while yesterday that Beck might have lost his. During his press interview, Beck casually mentioned that his caddie used a compass to read wind direction, then added, "All the great caddies use them."
Since using compasses during a tournament is against the Rules of Golf and grounds for disqualification, there seemed to be a controversy brewing. But it was quickly quashed when a Masters official came into the press interview area and said, "Chip meant that his caddie used it during a practice round, not today."
Woods shoots par
The Masters debut of U.S. Amateur champion Tiger Woods did not get off to an auspicious start. Playing with Olazabal, Woods, 19, had a 30-footer for birdie on the par-4 first hole that he putted off the green. He chipped back to within 10 feet, then made the putt for bogey.
"More than anything, I got adjusted to the putting," said Woods, who started off bogey-birdie-bogey but finished with a solid even-par 72. "I lost my focus on the first hole. I went brain-dead."
Woods received a note from Charlie Sifford, the first black player to enter a PGA Tour event. He later found out that Lee Elder, whose appearance here 20 years ago was the first by a black player, watched him at the first tee.
"I didn't know he was here," Woods said of Elder.
Woods had some impressive moments, including hitting an 8-iron over the 500-yard 15th hole on his second shot. He wound up birdieing the hole to get back to par.
When he walked up the 18th fairway, the normally stone-faced Woods was wearing a huge smile.
"You probably wouldn't have seen me smile that much if I had hit a bad shot," he said. "For me, I felt really good coming up 18 because I had a chance to go 1-under. Even though I didn't, I still feel pretty good."