Rousing farewell for Palmer

By Charles I. Robinson
STAR STAFF
crobinson@starhq.com

   AUGUSTA, Ga. -- While Vijay Singh made his move to the front, he could still see Retief Goosen and Ernie Els directly in his rear-view mirror.
   As for Arnold Palmer, he received the kind of Masters farewell that one might imagine.
   With the Augusta National course a soggy mess on Friday, Singh finished at 9-under to grab the lead at the end of two rounds.
   "I just feel like I'm playing a lot better now than I did two years ago," said Singh, going after his second green jacket. "That in itself should carry me through, if I keep playing the same way."
   Goosen and Els were both just one and two shots behind, respectively.
   However, the day clearly belonged to Palmer, who played his 147th and final Masters round.
   The 72-year-old player, a four-time Masters champion, was celebrated at every hole by his legions of loyal fans.
   "A lot of things came to my mind," said Palmer, fighting to hold back the tears. "The tournaments I won, some I lost. Certainly, as all of you know, there's both sides of it. The last couple of days, there was maybe a little heavy emotion within myself. It's not always noticeable, but the feeling is there."
   Palmer finished with an 85, but his score was of no consequence on this occasion.
   He walked off the 18th green to a thunderous ovation. David Duval, who didn't even make the cut, waited around the scoring hut to enjoy the privilege of watching Palmer finish up.
   In spite of the miserable conditions, Goosen shot a 5-under-par 67, leaving him at 8-under 136. Els was another shot back, also scoring 67 in the second round.
   Goosen's second shot at the par-5 13th found its way back into the water. The South African took bogey on a hole that usually provides at least a birdie chance.
   But Goosen bounced back with birdies at 14, 15 and 17.
   "I blocked my shot on 13 and then hit a poor chip," Goosen said. "From there on, I played nicely. I made a few good putts."
   Els birdied three holes and eagled another after play resumed.
   "Today, for some reason, I did the right things," Els said. "It was better than I was looking for. I was hoping to get to 4 or 5 under at best."
   Defending champ Tiger Woods finished the day four strokes off the pace. He only completed 10 holes due to a rain delay.