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Short chips from Augusta

Love is in the air

Graeme McDowell wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Wearing a blue T-shirt and shorts with a plain white cap pulled down to his forehead, he joined the massive galleries following his best pal Rory McIlroy around Augusta National at the weekend.

So damn proud was McDowell of his Ryder Cup playing partner's performance in holding onto the Masters lead on Saturday, he sent him a text straight afterwards.

Which drew the quote of the week from McIlroy not long after he signed his card.

"Yeah, I saw Graeme out there," said the young Ulsterman with a grin. "Actually he just texted me and told me he loves me. Don't know what that means ... if that's him or the beer talking."

Garcia in wilderness

The nightmare continues for Sergio Garcia.

Europe's greatest hope of a Major title doing into the new Millennium, Garcia sent a buzz around Augusta National on Saturday as he landed three birdies in the first five holes, lifting himself to seven-under and within three of the tournament leaders.

Yet after going out in 33, the 31-year-old came back in the proverbial ambulance, plummeting out of contention with four bogeys and a double-bogey on a back-nine 42, which pushed him back into the wilderness.

"I tried hard, but I don't know, just my head kind of went out on nine and I just couldn't recover," said Garcia, in what could be a fitting metaphor for his career.

Green Muppet

As Rory McIlroy carried the fight all the way into yesterday afternoon, Ireland's two other combatants were perplexed by their uncharacteristically poor performance on Augusta National's greens.

Harrington certainly was hampered by the neck muscle strain he sustained during his warm-up on Thursday. Yet as he reflected on his failure to make he cut, he bluntly admitted: "I putted like a muppet".

The Dubliner tied 96th in putting with five three-putts among the 68 strokes he made on 36 greens and clearly will hope this stunning slump stemmed largely from his injury.

McDowell, who also counts putting as one of his strongest suits, finished 99th and plumb last in putting with 70 in his 36 holes, including six three-putts.

Yet, he played sublimely from tee-to-green, tying third with leader McIlroy in Greens in Regulation on Friday night, despite missing the cut.

Irish Independent