Golf: Danny Lee ready to turn pro after Masters meltdown

New Zealand teenager Danny Lee crashed out of the US Masters golf tournament today undone by a putting meltdown on the slick and speedy greens.

The 18-year-old amateur's putting woes were exemplified by a horror six putts on the 10th hole in an eventual score of 81.

Lee was making his maiden appearance at one of professional golf's four major tournaments.

"It was that 10th hole that cost me my tournament," Lee told media after his round.

"I wasn't playing that bad but it's just that the greens have been lightning fast, and I think I have to learn how to putt on fast greens."

Lee look assured on the front nine even earning a pair of Augusta National crystal goblets for eagling the par five, eighth hole to move to one over par.

The 18-year old Rotorua amateur then ignited hopes of playing all four rounds, and securing the coveted low amateur award, when he moved to level par in the event after a birdie at the par four ninth.

But it all came unstuck at the downhill 495-yard par four 10th hole where he six-putted from around three metres to crash from level par to five over.

Lee was left devastated and despite a par at the next, any remaining enthusiasm the reigning US Amateur champion had was completed drained when he dropped a further five shots in three holes from the par three, 12th.

Lee doubled the 12th, bogeyed the par five, 13th and dropped a further two shots at the par four, 14th to slump to 10-over par and extinguish any hope of playing all four rounds.

The youngster ended his round with a closing hole bogey and a score of 81.

"It was very tough out there and I played really well the first nine holes but then six-putted 10 and that just really let me down," he said.

Lee admitted the disaster on the 10th hole played on his mind for much of the remaining eight holes.

"I was feeling really hurt and upset after what happened at 10 and I blame that for what happened to me in those three holes (12, 13 and 14) near the end of my round, he said.

"I was trying to get back up the board but I just kept three-putting from inside five feet, and I was getting really disappointed."

Lee said despite the disappointment, "I really enjoyed the week but these are still the fastest greens I've ever played".

"I played with Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman for the two rounds, and Tiger was playing behind me, so I have really enjoyed the experience."

He said the crowds who followed him were good.

"They were cheering me up and that's even though I didn't play that good ...

"Hopefully I can qualify for next year but I will need to do well in the tournaments (before then) because I would love to come back again and try to play all four rounds."

Lee was among four amateurs in the field, none made it through to the final two rounds.

Lee will turn professional next week before heading to New Orleans and a start in the $US6.3 million ($NZ11.06 million) Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

"I am really looking forward to turning pro now and hopefully my putting will get better after this week."

Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell shared the lead at the midway point of the Masters on Friday while Tiger Woods was seven strokes off the pace heading into the weekend.

Perry shot a 5-under-par 67 to pull even with Campbell at 9-under 135. The first-round leader had a 70.

Woods plodded to a 72 and 142 total through 36 holes. The best score was turned in by Anthony Kim, who set a Masters record with 11 birdies on the way to a 65. Bouncing back from an opening 75, he put himself just five strokes off the lead.

Argentina's Angel Cabrera was alone in third, one stroke back, after his second straight 68.

Perry tapped in for birdie at the final hole for a 5-under-par 67 in much tougher conditions, setting himself up to make a run at becoming the oldest major champion in golf history.

The American will be 48 years, 8 months, when the green jacket is handed out on Sunday, four months older than Julius Boros when he won the 1968 US PGA Championship.

Campbell shot 70, tying him with Perry at 9-under 135. Woods could manage only a 72 and will go to the final two rounds seven shots off the lead.

"I really believe I can win this tournament," Perry said.

Campbell might have something to say about that. He bounced back from a tough back side to make a 25-foot birdie putt at No. 18, putting himself in a familiar position. Three years ago, he entered the weekend with the lead but fell back during a rain-plagued third round that extended over two days.

He finished in a tie for third, three strokes behind winner Phil Mickelson.

"It's nice that I have been in this position before," Campbell said. "There's a long ways to go, but it's definitely nice to not be on foreign ground."

No one made a bigger move than Anthony Kim, the emotional leader of last year's winning US Ryder Cup team that also included Campbell and Perry.

The 23-year-old American, a polar opposite of Perry (in age) and the soft-spoken Campbell (in temperament), shot a brilliant 65 despite a stiffer breeze, firmer greens and tougher pin positions than he faced on Thursday while struggling to a 75.

Kim, playing in this tournament for the first time, probably wondered if he'd make the cut after the opening-round debacle. Now, having set a Masters record for the most birdies on one round (11), he's solidly in contention for a green jacket with a 140, just five strokes off the lead.

"I haven't been making 11 birdies in two days," Kim said. "To make 11 in one day is pretty special, and to do it Augusta is incredible.

"If I can keep my putter hot, I like my chances here."

Kim pulled himself together after making a bogey at No. 9 and a double-bogey at the 10th. He drew a few insights, he said, after reading a story about Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, one year younger than Kim and killed in a car wreck early Thursday shortly after pitching in a game.

"I refocused on the 11th tee. I made some good swings. I told myself, 'No matter what you shoot, I want you to put this tournament round in perspective.'

"Look, it's been my dream to be at the Masters all my life. I didn't want to pout about bogeys. I just wanted to go out there and have some fun. That's what made 11 birdies a lot easier."

After opening with a 70 that could have been much better if not for a balky putter, Woods lost ground to the leaders on Friday. An 8-footer to save par at No. 18 caught the lip and popped out, leaving the world's No. 1 player with plenty of ground to make up over the final two rounds.

"A lot of wasted opportunities today," Woods said. "I didn't get a whole lot out of my round."

His putting must improve if he's going to have any chance of chasing down Campbell and Perry. Of course, Woods overcame a five-shot hole on the final day at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks ago, sinking a birdie putt on the final hole.

"I hit some good putts, a little bit better today than yesterday, but I didn't make many," Woods said. "Obviously, I need to putt a little better than I have."

While players such as Kim, Perry and Steve Stricker (69) did just fine, Augusta National did show its teeth a bit after a hosting a birdiefest on Thursday, when 19 players shot in the 60s and 38 broke par, both records for an opening day at the Masters.

The wind had picked up considerably, swirling through Amen Corner and firming up the greens. Puffy, white clouds whipped across the sky, and the forecast warned of possible storms before the day was done. Plus, the pins were placed in more devious spots, leaving little room for error.

Larry Mize went from 67 to 76. Tom Watson soared from 74 to 83 - his worst score ever at Augusta. New Zealand amateur Danny Lee played the first five holes after the turn at 10 over, including a quintuple-bogey 9 at the 10th.

"Obviously today is a lot more difficult," said Todd Hamilton, the 2004 British Open champion who stayed in contention with a 70. "If you have no wind, the guys on the tour are going to play very good. You throw in some wind with a tough setup golf course, that's when you see some trying times."

Campbell got off to the best start in Masters history on Thursday, making birdies on the first five holes. He strung together four in a row on the back side, challenging the course record before bogeys at 17 and 18 left him with a 7-under 65.

He got off to another strong start on Friday with birdies on two of the first four holes. He got to 11 under when a brilliant approach at No. 10 left him with a short birdie putt, vaulting him five strokes ahead of anyone in the field.

But Campbell ran into trouble in Amen Corner. He flubbed a chip at the 11th, leading to his first bogey of the day, and had another at the picturesque 12th. Things looked really grim when he bogeyed the 17th as well, but a 25-foot birdie on the final hole put him in a much better state of mind.

"I was a little unhappy with the way I played the back nine," Campbell said. "A birdie on the last hole definitely

Gary Player and Fuzzy Zoeller won't be back for the weekend.

Player went out for the final round of his Masters career, which has stretched to a record 52 appearances. Zoeller decided to call it quits on the 30th anniversary of winning at Augusta on his very first try.

-AP

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