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Flagstick faux pas puts Azinger in hole

Associated Press
Published September 6, 2003

HAMILTON, Ontario - Paul Azinger lost two strokes and a spot on the Canadian Open leaderboard in the second television-related ruling of his career.

Azinger was penalized Friday after a TV viewer alerted PGA Tour officials that the veteran player's caddie, Ted Scott, removed the flagstick from the hole while playing partner Fred Funk's ball was in motion on the 13th green - barely moving about 2 feet past the cup after a chip.

"The rules of golf sometimes can be harsh," said Mike Shea, the PGA Tour's senior director of rules who also took part in a TV-related ruling involving Azinger in 1991 at Doral. "Paul handled it very well. He took his medicine like a man."

The ruling left Azinger with 2-under 68, putting him three strokes behind leader Charles Howell III after the second round. Azinger was found to be in breach of Rule 17-2b for "unauthorized attendance" of the flagstick.

"It's clear in black and white," Azinger said during ESPN's broadcast. "I understand that, but common sense ... You just kind of grin and bear it. I've got two more days to play, and maybe it will inspire me to do better. It's just one of those things."

In 1991, Azinger inadvertently moved a rock taking a stance in a hazard. A day later, a viewer called officials, and a video review showed that Azinger violated the rules. Because Azinger did not include a two-stroke penalty in the round, he was disqualified for signing an incorrect card.

"None of us knew what happened. We had no idea," said Funk, two strokes back after 68. "I can't imagine sitting at home and seeing something and saying, "Got to call it in,' especially something like that."

Howell, seeking his second victory in three seasons on the PGA Tour, shot 68 on the Hamilton Golf and Country Club course to take a one-stroke lead over Tom Byrum (69), Kenichi Kuboya (67) and Hidemichi Tanaka (70).

John Daly withdrew because of a swollen right hand after playing eight holes. Daly, who opened with 5-over 75, was 8 over when he walked off the course.

JOHN Q. HAMMONS HOTEL CLASSIC: Karrie Webb birdied her final four holes to lead the opening round of the LPGA tournament in Tulsa, Okla.

Webb felt "pretty good" about her chances after finishing 5-under-par 65. Mustering more bravado after a year of disappointments was difficult for her.

"I just don't go into the tournament every week almost expecting to have a top-10 or a top-five finish like I did two or three years ago," Webb said. "I just go in there now and try really to play hole by hole and not get too far ahead of myself."

Webb finished one stroke ahead of Donna Andrews and four ahead of defending champion Annika Sorenstam. Tammie Green was third with 3-under 67.

Webb, who in 2001 became the youngest woman to win a career Grand Slam, has struggled to have even a couple of close finishes. The 28-year-old's confidence reached a low point earlier in the year, she said.

"I knew the gap that was between me playing really good and playing so-so and finishing 20th every week was my mind, just a little bit of confidence," Webb said.

A slow start left Webb 1-under par and well in the pack when she missed the fairway on No.13. But she made her shot through the trees.

She hit a wedge to about 12 feet and sank her putt on No.15. Using an 8-iron, she set up birdie putts from the same distance on the final three holes.

KROGER CLASSIC: Gil Morgan closed with a pair of birdies for 7-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead over Larry Nelson, Jerry McGee and Bruce Summerhays in the first round in Maineville, Ohio.

Nelson missed a chance to tie Morgan when his 30-foot birdie putt burned the edge of the cup on 18. He already had eagle on the 553-yard, par-5 eighth, as did Jim Thorpe, who was in fifth at 67.

Seven players were tied at 68.

Altogether, 48 of 81 players shot better than par 72 over the 7,064-yard Tournament Players Course, where the "lift, clean, replace" rule was in effect because of heavy rains this week.

Morgan, who had five birdies on the back nine, called the soft fairways "fairly receptive" and the greens "very receptive."

"I was close to the hole quite a bit, especially on the back nine," Morgan said. "I didn't have many long putts.

"I hit a lot of balls right at the hole. I had enough confidence that I didn't mind going for the pin."

Morgan had seven birdies and no bogeys. He was so accurate with his irons that he had four other birdie chances.

"I did leave a few out there," Morgan said. "I had a chance at 2, 3, 6 and 7. I was inside 12 feet all those times and didn't make any of those."

Morgan is pursuing his first win this year on the Champions Tour, where there have been 22 winners in 24 events. Only Bruce Lietzke and Tom Watson - both of whom did not play the Kroger - have won twice.

EUROPEAN MASTERS: Defending champion Robert Karlsson shot 4-under-par 67 to lead by one stroke after two rounds of the European PGA Tour event in Crana-Sur-Sierre, Switzerland.

Karlsson, who led after every round last year, was at 10-under 132. Eduardo Romero, the 2000 champion, was at 133 after his 67.

Ernie Els, who shared the first-round lead with Karlsson, had 69 and was tied with Trevor Immelman (66) and Michael Campbell (67) at 134.

The tournament is the first of yearlong European qualifying for places on next year's Ryder Cup team.

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