Notes: SubAir keeps the greens dry

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- If The Masters was just a putt-putt contest,
the tournament likely would have started Thursday.

The opening round was rained out for the first time since 1939,
but the greens held up just fine against nearly 4 inches of

Augusta National has installed a ''SubAir'' system that
literally sucks the water out of every green. It takes four hours
to totally dry the greens, half that time to make them playable.

''The greens don't have much water,'' said Will Nicholson,
chairman of the competition committees. ''They're soft, but that
SubAir system sucks it out very, very well.''

SubAir was invented by Marsh Benson, a former course
superintendent who's now senior director of the club grounds.

In 1994, Benson came up with the idea of hooking large blowers
to pipes that already run beneath each green. They can be used to
suck water out of the grass, or reversed to blow hot air on a
frosty morning.

The first SubAir was installed on the 13th green. Since 2001,
the system has been used on every hole -- most noticeably at No. 8,
where a large plume of water was spraying into the air Thursday.

''It looks like a sprinkler has broken,'' Nicholson said.
''That's water being sucked out of the green and thrown into the

Rookie Byrd
Jonathan Byrd will be playing in his first Masters. He doesn't expect it to be his last.

The 25-year-old Byrd qualified for his first major by finishing
39th on the money list last year, earning more than $1 million.

''It's definitely a dream come true and you kind of pinch
yourself to think that you're actually going to play in it,'' said
Byrd, who was PGA Tour rookie of the year.

Then, he added, ''There's another part of you that says, 'This
is what I've been working for, this is what I see myself doing for
the rest of my life.'''

Byrd is from Columbia, S.C. -- about 70 miles east of Augusta.

''I can't imagine Thursday morning, being there on the first tee
box when they announce Jonathan Byrd,'' his father, Jim, said. ''I
know I'm going to have some tears in my eyes.''

Byrd, an All-American at Clemson, is a little nervous about
being tapped as the hometown hero of sorts at Augusta.

''I'm going to know so many people following me,'' he said.

Bargain prices
The Masters has been called the toughest
ticket in sports. If you're lucky enough to land one, it might be
the best bargain, too.

Tickets for the four-day tournament cost $125 -- compared with
$400 for the cheapest Super Bowl ticket and $175 for a box seat at
a World Series game.

Once inside, fans used to paying $6 for a hot dog at a big
league park might be surprised at the concession stand prices.

The most expensive item on the menu is $2.50, the cost of the
chicken breast and Masters club sandwiches. The famed pimento
cheese sandwich goes for $1.25, while a domestic beer sells for

TV guide
USA Network postponed its live coverage of The
Masters when the tournament was called off Thursday for rain, the
first time in 64 years the first round was scratched.

USA will expand its live coverage on Friday, starting at 2 p.m.
ET until conclusion. Initially, coverage was supposed to run from
4 to 6:30 p.m.

The network will repeat its coverage from 8-10:30 p.m. ET.

Player's takes
Three-time Masters champion Gary Player has
never been one to hold back his opinion.

During a wide-ranging interview, the 68-year-old golfer offered
his thoughts on autograph seekers, the women's issue at Augusta
National, comparisons between Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus and
other topics.

''Any man who charges to give an autograph should get his butt
kicked,'' Player said. ''It's the public who makes the stars what
they are. The amateur is the heart of the game, not the

Player, who lived in South Africa during the days of apartheid,
said if it were his club, he would let a woman in.

''Eventually, it will happen,'' he said. ''But that's just my

He said the media's penchant for comparing Woods and Nicklaus is
silly because they're playing different games.

''Tiger plays with a metal club head, the ball goes farther, on
a perfectly manicured fairway, with his own jet and $5 million a
week,'' Player said. ''Jack played on a lousy fairway, with lousy
balls and wooden clubs and he got around on a Greyhound bus.''

According to Player, the only conclusion that can be drawn:
''Tiger in his era is the best and Jack in his era is the best.''

Harrington's choice
Padraig Harrington expects to play the PGA
Championship in August, even though his wife is scheduled to give
birth to their first child the day after the tournament.

''She'll push me out the door to play,'' he said.

Caroline Harrington is the force behind her husband, arranging
his travel and accompanying him to most tournaments.

''She's competitive herself,'' the Irish golfer said. ''She's
watching and living golf as I play golf. She celebrates the birdies
and feels discouraged by the bogeys.''

She is in Augusta this week for The Masters, following her

''I'm not dependent,'' her husband said, ''but it's nice to have
her there.''

The baby is due Aug. 18, the day after the final round of the
PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club near Rochester, N.Y.

''She'll join me on tour and come along as she can,'' Harrington
said. ''We're a new and growing family. I don't know what to
expect. We'll learn as we go.''

No one has gone on to win after leading the
first round since Ben Crenshaw in 1984. ... Jay Haas is playing in
The Masters for the 20th time, the most for any non-winner. Next on
the list: Scott Hoch and Nick Price with 18 apiece.