Thursday, April 09, 2009

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- You would have had a hard time finding a spot against the gallery rope as Tiger Woods played through at the 2009 Masters on Thursday, with Stewart Cink and Jeev Milkha Singh.But if you waited 15 minutes, the crowd would thin as fans chased golf's present No. 1 player, allowing an unimpeded view of golf's future. Woods's group was trailed by three of the youngest, most heralded players in the field: Japan's Ryo Ishikawa, 17; American Anthony Kim, 23; and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, 19.The trio made up the final (2:03 p.m.) group of the day and seemed to have color-coordinated their outfits before the round. Ishikawa wore a red shirt, Kim white, McIlroy blue. Kim and McIlroy went with retro, with white belts, while Ishikawa's was red. All wore dark slacks.And all three displayed impeccable golf swings, at times hitting towering, precise drives and approach shots. You could see the game. Not that the "patrons" always knew what they were looking at, or who. After Kim hit a laser-like iron shot from out of the pine straw left of the eighth fairway, one impressed onlooker bellowed, "At a boy, Andrew!"Andrew, Anthony--whatever.Truth is, none of the three played well enough to gain any additional fame, and all of them made the kind of silly mistakes that typically plague fresh-faced Masters participants, especially at the par-5 eighth. Ishikawa tried to bite off too much from the fairway bunker, catching a tree and leaving himself with a long third shot to the green. He managed to reach the green with his long-iron third, however, and made par.After laying up in two, both Kim and McIlroy went at the sucker pin in the back of the green and airmailed the putting surface. Kim salvaged par; McIlroy fluffed his chip and made a painful bogey 6.On a day when the abundance of red numbers made the Masters seem like the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, none of the young guns took advantage. McIlroy finished at even par, Ishikawa at 1-over 73 and Kim at 3-over 75. Playing two groups ahead of them was the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, 18-year-old Danny Lee, who shot 74.Chad Campbell, 34, was seven shots ahead of the best of the youngsters, McIlroy, after an opening 65. Larry Mize, 50, the 1987 champion here, shot a 5-under 67. Greg Norman, 54, carded a 2-under 70.For the youngest, most promising players in the field, it seemed the 2009 Masters would offer seasoning, as expected. It would offer a lesson in humility, and patience (rounds took five-plus hours). But alas, it seemed almost certain there would be no green jacket. Not yet.More on: Rory McIlroy | Ryo Ishikawa | Anthony Kim | Danny Lee

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