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BellSouth Classic has international flavor

DULUTH - Golf is an international sport, and that was never more evident than the opening rounds of the BellSouth Classic in the group that included Retief Goosen, Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington.

Although if you ask them, it really doesn't make a difference.

"I'm pretty familiar with the American players as well, so I hadn't really noticed that the other two guys were also internationals this week," said Harrington, who hails from Dublin, Ireland.

"We do seem to end up together a lot," Goosen said. "It's just the luck of the draw I guess."

The quality of the players shows as well with South African Goosen ranked No. 3 in the world, Englishman Donald No. 10 and Harrington checking in at No. 25.

"No matter if they're internationals or not, it's just nice to play with guys that you've played with before and you get along with," Donald said.

"It also helps raise your game when you play with such good players, no matter where they're from."

Donald came into the tournament playing his best as well, winning the Honda Classic earlier in March- a tournament that saw Harrington finish in second.

"Getting the win under my belt at the Honda was nice," Donald said. "It has really helped my confidence going into Augusta."

All three made the cut in spite of some ups and downs during the second round, including Harrington's round, as he rallied after an eight on the par-4 12th to birdie three of the last six holes and finish at 1-under par for the day and 5-under for the tournament.

"All three of us really didn't play our best today," Goosen said.

"I'm a little disappointed with my round overall, but I'm pleased that I was able to come back after that eight and do well," Harrington said.

Donald shot a 2-under on Friday to go into the weekend in a eighth place tie at 6-under, while Goosen is tied with Harrington and nine others in 12th place at 5-under after firing a 2-under 70 on Friday.

Rain, rain stay away

One thing that has been notably absent from this year's BellSouth Classic has been rain, as the first two days have gone off without a hitch as opposed to last year, which saw lots of weather-related delays all through the tournament.

"It's been better so far, but hopefully we'll get some good weather through the weekend," Goosen said.

With a 30 percent chance of rain today and showers expected in the morning, the players know they will just have to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at them.

"You just have to play your best and let the weather do what it will," Harrington said.

April Madness

As the NCAA Tournament moves into Final Four weekend, some of the participant schools will also have representation at the TPC at Sugarloaf in the final two rounds.

Florida had the most golfers here with four, followed by two each from UCLA and LSU.

George Mason isn't represented on the PGA Tour.

Of the grads of the Final Four schools, David Toms of LSU, Scott McCarron of UCLA, and Brian Gay and Bubba Dickerson of Florida will all have to get updates on the Gators' game with George Mason as they made the cut and will be spending the weekend in Duluth.

Toms and McCarron will have plenty of time to talk about their teams' semifinal game on Saturday as they will be in a group together, teeing off at 9:41 a.m.

Chris DiMarco (Florida), Chris Couch (Florida),Corey Pavin (UCLA) and Brian Bateman (LSU) have reserved their seats on the couch for the Final Four, as they all missed the cut, which was set at even par.

Local scores

Georgia Tech grad Matt Kuchar shot a 2-over-par 74 on Friday, but still made the even-par cut with a 2-under score for the tournament.

Another former Yellow Jacket Troy Matteson missed the cut, scoring a 3 over.

Georgia products Nick Cassini and Bubba Watson also missed the cut, with Cassini finishing at 2 over in spite of a 1-under round on Friday and Watson firing a 4-over 76 for the tournament to get cut.

Watson and Matteson did finish high on one list, with the former Bulldog finishing the first two rounds third in driving distance and the former Jacket in sixth.

Stewart Cink, a Duluth resident, is at 3-under overall to make it into the weekend in a tie for 30th.

Duluth golf pro Jeff Amershadian didn't improve on his high first-round score, carding a second round 7-over-par to finish 143rd of 144 golfers.

Notes

John Hutson missed the cut for the first time in nine BellSouth Classics ... The even-par cut line is the first time the cut has not been over par since 2002 ... Paul Azinger withdrew after a 10-over par front nine on Friday ... Phil Tataurangi posted an eagle on No. 18 to just make it under the cut line at 1-under for the tournament.