Thursday, April 9, 2009

A (Scoring) Day Unlike Any Other

You hear roars at Augusta, sure, but not like today. They are reserved for Sunday evening, when the leaders are on the back nine and players are fencing for the title of Masters champion.

The Augusta National jackets went to extraordinary lengths to avoid a day like Thursday. 65s? Two people at 66? A school bus full of guys at 67, 68 and 69?

Sometimes days end up perfect and today, in Augusta, Georgia, the best golfers in the world got one of those days. With little wind and accessible pin placements, it was a first round Masters for the ages.

At one point Chad Campbell was 9-under, making a charge at the course record 63 held by both Nick Price and Greg Norman. The course was playing so easily that I joked in my life chat that all Hunter Mahan had to do was birdie 17 and 18 to tie the course record. He pared 17 and bogeyed 18 to find himself a shot back of Campbell.

Maybe the only strange part of the day was watching Tiger Woods, what's the word, struggle. Woods, who hardly ever has a bad day striking the ball, was finding himself in the correct position on certain holes but couldn't capitalize. He made a birdie a 9 to get back to even par for tournament. He added birdies at 13, 14 and 15. He hit one of the better tee shots all day at the 16th, and in very un-Tiger like form, he missed. What was worse happened on the 17th, when Woods hit a towering short iron that landed just beside the cup. It was a formality as they say on tour, but Woods caught too much lip and the putt didn't drop there either. Patrons were left scratching their head.

At 3-under, there was no way Woods was going to screw up his first chance at breaking 70 in the first round of the Masters, was he? A perfect tee shot on 18 said otherwise, but the gusty wind that had him confused on the front nine was back and carried his iron shot a good 15 yards longer than he wanted. An uncomfortable pitch shot left Woods switching wedges (similar to his first round last year when he was over the 13th green, was undecided and eventually chunked the chip, leading to a bogey). He didn't catch it flush, it never checked and two putts later Tiger was in for a 70 ... again.

All in all, 38 people broke par on Thursday. The course was to be had and it was by most everyone you'd expect, sans Phil Mickelson. It was a day you could get the ball close and not worry about all the little knobs that make this course Augusta National. It was a fun day but not one you'd expect with the added length and the slick greens and the first major of the year.

Tomorrow Augusta will probably have a touch more bite. Who knew something so pretty could be so easy? I'm sure she will close those legs Friday in the AM.

Robert Beck/SI


The Armchair Golfer said...

I've been reading a lot of comments online about Tiger's ugly shirt. I think that was the problem. Different shirt, hole more putts.

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