The Loop

Barnes seizes major stage again

April 09, 2010

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The last time Ricky Barnes was at the Masters, he beat Tiger Woods head-to-head.

That was seven years ago, when the reigning U.S. Amateur champion was in the traditional pairing with the defending Masters champion.

This time he's played him dead even.

Barnes shot 69-74 in the 2003 Masters, outdrove Woods most of the first two rounds and played himself into the next-to-last group on Saturday. Woods was just making the segue from Butch Harmon to the new swing taught by Hank Haney, and shot 76-73 paired with Barnes.

"It was nothing but good memories," Barnes said coming off the 18th green on Friday at Augusta National. "Everything was good. I was an amateur. I had nothing to lose."

Barnes has more to lose this time around. Exempt by finishing second in last year's U.S. Open, Barnes played his best golf since Bethpage and finds himself six-under-par, in a tie with Woods going into the weekend.

"I think I was telling somebody last night, I never wanted to come back here unless I was a pro," Barnes said after making birdie at 18 for a second-round 70. "It's one thing to get invited by a member -- I would never turn it down. But now that I'm here, I want to take it a step further and compete on Saturday and Sunday."

Barnes has entered 20 tournament since last year's Open, with a T-9 in this year's Northern Trust Open as his only top-10. His brother Andy, the assistant coach at Arizona, is on his bag again. And while the style of golf between Bethpage and Augusta National is decidedly different, the degree of difficulty isn't.

The idea was floated to Barnes that he needs a major test to narrow his focus. This is his first major since Bethpage.

"I wish that were the case," Barnes said. "I definitely like golf courses were par is a good score. Sometimes grinding out a great par is better than making birdies. I've been fortunate enough to do that at Bethpage and here."

--*Tim Rosaforte

(Photo by Getty Images)