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Amateur Dunbar's dream turns into nightmare after crashing at 'Delta Booth'

Alan Dunbar's dream week at the Masters turned to a waking nightmare yesterday after the 22-year-old Irish amateur took as savage a beating on the front nine as Augusta National can dish out.

Dunbar had the wind knocked out of him by a cruel triple-bogey eight on the second hole of his first round 83.

Already one-over after a bogey at the first, Dunbar pull-hooked his drive deep at two into trees on the left of the fairway.

This area is nicknamed 'The Delta Booth' by professionals because going in there on Thursday or Friday usually is the cue to buy an airline ticket home.

The talented Rathmore man found out why after finding his ball in the hazard under the thick canopy. Following his penalty drop, Dunbar could only look on in silent anguish as his ball bounced back off a branch into the stream.

Back on the fairway in five, Dunbar then took another three to get down.

It's of little consolation to the British Amateur Champion that Padraig Harrington took nine at this hole on Saturday four years ago, though it does show how close even Major champions sail to disaster at the Masters.

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Dunbar, who turns professional after this event, had seven bogeys and that triple and a solitary par at nine on his card as he completed the outward half in 46, three shy of the record 49 posted by Charles Kunkle in 1949.

However, he deserves credit for pulling himself together and playing the back nine in a one-over 37, even chalking up a nice birdie four at 15.

Dunbar will be extended the sympathy of every golfer, professional or amateur, including his fellow Portrush native and Rathmore Golf Club member Graeme McDowell.

"I noticed he got off to an awful start and I feel for the kid," said the 2010 US Open champion after signing for a 73 himself. "You don't wish that on anyone but we all have our bad days when nothing goes right... I remember coming through the ranks and people saying things to me after my tough days, that it's all experience," McDowell went on.

"Those are kind of the most horrible, unreassuring things I've ever heard in my life but 10 or 15 years on, I can see they were all building blocks to who I am, the way I play and the wins I've had.

"Still, it's a tough day for Alan and there's no getting around that. He'll learn and he's good enough. He's just got to bank it and move on.

"He's probably going to feel embarrassed and small out there but it's a wonderful problem to have, playing at the Masters as British Amateur champion. He's going to turn pro after this and he's got a great career ahead of him," McDowell insisted. "He'll be able to put today behind him quickly enough."

Several horror stories unfolded on Augusta National's first hole yesterday, making one half-expect to see Alfred Hitchcock nudging his way through the jam-packed congregation around the green.

Charl Schwartzel, Lee Westwood and Rickie Fowler were prominent among the mighty humbled as Tea Olive, a 445 yards par four, offered the 92-man field a daunting "Welcome to the Masters".

With Augusta's infamous first tee butterflies fluttering on Masters Thursday, it can be difficult to find sanctuary on the fairway, especially with a cavernous bunker dominating the right side of this uphill, gently doglegged hole.

Any shot into its heavily sloped green is daunting but yesterday's hole placement, situated on a small, table-sized plateau in its distant back left corner, almost smouldered with evil intent.

Clearly they don't believe in gentle introductions at Augusta.

Irish Independent