AUGUSTA, Ga. — You can't win the Masters on Thursday, but you can lose your temper, your grip and much hope of winning. A handful of players — including some pre-tournament favorites — couldn't get anything going no matter how hard they tried.
"It's a bit disappointing," Charles Howell III said after an opening 78 that included a double-bogey on 11 and a back nine 41. "I had some really good practice rounds. I've been playing a lot better coming in here."
Misery loves company, and Howell had plenty of it Thursday.
Butch Harmon played with Fred Couples and Adam Scott three weeks ago and was amazed that Couples, 48, was having no trouble keeping up with Scott, 27, off the tee. The 1992 champion entered the tournament tied with Gary Player for the most consecutive cuts made at the Masters (23), and coming off a T4 at the Shell Houston Open last week seemed to be playing so well that he seemed like a lock to break the record this year. Alas, he shot a front nine 40 on the way to a round of 76 on Thursday.
"I was a little bit off," he said.
There may be a simple explanation for that. According to Harmon, Couples hurt his back again on the 17th hole at Redstone on Sunday, sending him once again to his latest back specialist, this one in Waco, Texas.
"Tomorrow I'll play in the afternoon," Couples said, "go get some rest, and I hope I'm not back on the same drag where I don't feel good."
In one of the more surprising results of the day, considering his victory at the CA Championship at Doral and a tie for second place at the Shell Houston Open last weekend, Geoff Ogilvy shot 75. The Australian star opened with nine straight pars but hit a loose iron shot into 10 that resulted in a double-bogey 6. Another bogey at the 12th and pars on 13 and 15 left Ogilvy signing a birdie-free scorecard for his opening round.
Another popular pre-tournament favorite — reigning British Open champion Padraig Harrington — shot a 74.