6:55 pm Nice effort. Tiger's birdie try comes up a couple feet short, setting up a kick-in par.6:50 pm Tiger's approach at 17 is on line, but some 30 feet short. He'll do well to two-putt for his 4. 6:48 pm Couples checks in at Butler Cabin. "I still think I can play," he says (you think?), "and if I putt well, I still think I can be a factor." … And on his Air Hefners: "Thank god I'm playing well, because if I wasn't I'd be hearing what people really think about them." 6:41 pm Adam Scott is 3-under thru 15 (bet you didn't take him in your office pool), as is his playing partner Adam Scott. The third player in their group? Duval. No shortage of figurative scar tissue among that trio.6:35 pm All three players in the Tiger group will have a decent look at birdie at 16. Ahead at 18, Couples makes par for a 66.6:32 pm I can't remember ever seeing so many leaves and assorted tree debris on the course. Must have been all that wind. 6:30 pm Tiger Woods has never made two eagles in the same round at the Masters … until today. He drops his slippery 7-footer at 15 (yes, for eagle) and suddenly he's at 4-under. Feherty, after a hearty applause for TW: "Somebody out there loves him." 6:28 pm A wretched double-bogey for David Duval at the 14th. He was even, now he's 2-over. An impossible golfer to figure out is Duval.6:24 pm Woods, at the par-5 15th, throws a dart to 6 feet from an ungodly distance. Feherty is awestruck. We need to start talking about where this round ranks among Tiger's all-time greats. Given the pressure, the hype, the anticipation, the distractions … unreal. 6:20 pm Reader Eric Paulson checks in with a dream Sunday headline: "TW v. TW: Woods and Watson lead the Masters." Like it. Hemingway might dub that pairing "Old Man and Deceit."6:14 pm Woods failed to get up-and-down at 14, dropping back to 2-under. Couples made birdie at 17 to take the solo lead at 6-under. He then split the short stuff at 18. Heroic stuff. 6:08 pm Mike Walker Jr. of Golf Mag fame: "Vijay Singh's ball isn't yellow. That's just the color your ball turns if you go a few holes without wiping the pollen off it."Walker's not kidding. It's crazy down here. After five days in Augusta, my belly button lint is yellow. 6:02 pm Tiger yanks his approach at 14 long and left. "No! Gaaad!" he yells as he chucks his club in disgust. Ladies and gentlemen, your kinder, gentler Tiger.6 pm Speaking of … Couples, in his Air Hefners, keeps on rolling, crushing a drive at 17.5:56 pm The Champions Tour's lowly ratings tell us we don't like watching old guys beating old guys. But old guys (Watson, Langer, Couples, et al.) beating up on young guys? Different story entirely.5:53 pm The gallery groans as Tiger's putt shoehorns out. Still, Peter Kostis notes, nobody has read that putt better today. Tiger (-3) cleans up his birdie; Kuchar (-2) and Choi (-2) match. Classy play from this group.5:47 pm Tiger stays hot, cozying his second shot at the par-5 13th to 10 feet. Yet another good look at eagle.5:45 pm Couples (5-under) has 15 feet back down the slope at the par-3 16th for birdie. One birdie and a pair of pars over the last three holes will give him the clubhouse lead. 5:38 pm Faldo chatted with Sergio Garcia (remember him?) last night. Faldo: "Are you ready?" Garcia: "No." Well, you gotta appreciate the kid's honesty. He's 1-over thru 15.5:36 pm Curtis Strange isn't convinced that Tiger's "back." "Let's see how he handles the pressure on the weekend," Strange said. Actually, I thought today's round was the real pressure-cooker for TW. If he gets out of here today with a 69 or 70, it's so on. 5:31 pm If you thought Billy Payne gave Tiger Woods an earful yesterday, you should read what New York Times columnist George Vecsey had to say about Payne, all but accusing the Augusta National chairman of racism. "Just asking," Vecsey wrote, "but would Payne have been so quick to deliver his little sermon to a white golfer who was caught straying? My guess is that some kind of double standard whacked Tiger Woods on the backswing. How dare he stray after all they’ve done for him?" Yep, newspaper columnists sometimes hit it O.B., too. 5:25 pm Faldo just described the condition as "absolutely idyllic." So much for that tornado warning. Seriously, though, if it remains dead calm out there, Tiger could be staring at his first-ever sub-70 first round at the Masters. Talk about a welcome-back party. 5:21 pm More good news for that group as they stroll to the par-3 12th tee. The wind that was ripping through Amen Corner just an hour ago has taken a coffee break. Tiger takes full advantage, nearly jarring his 9-iron. I'm picking up a distinct scent of eau de birdie. 5:17 pm The Woods-Choi-Kuchar group makes a trio of pars at the difficult 11th. Tiger is smiling — a genuine, Lord-it's-good-to-be-back smile.5:14 pm My eyes at Amen Corner, Golf Mag's Mike Walker, checks in with this nugget:
On the 11th hole, amateur Chang-won Han made a "Kenny" — that is, he
got up and down after almost hitting Kenny Perry in the head. Perry was standing on the 12th tee when Han's approach to 11
whizzed by his ear. Han recovered with a sweet pitch to 5 feet and
drained the putt.
5:08 pm Anybody out there watching this thing in 3-D? Love to hear your take. I spent 10 minutes this morning watching a replay of the par-3 contest in three dimensions. It certainly brings the contours of the course to life, but I walked away in need of Dramamine. Give Augusta credit, though. When it does something, it always does it right. The camera operators they brought in are reportedly some of the same guys who worked on Avatar. Seriously.5:03 pm Woods bangs his drive into the trees up the right side of the 11th fairway, but it kicks back out onto the first cut. That's not the first fortuitous bounce TW has received today. Could the golf gods be looking after him? 4:59 pm Will Tiger's hiatus from competition cost him this week? If Jack Nicklaus is right, we may not know until Sunday afternoon. Earlier this week Jack shared a juicy anecdote about Seve Ballesteros at the 1986 Masters. Jack said that Seve told him before the tournament that the Spaniard hadn't been playing much and that he didn't feel sharp. "So all week I kept waiting for Seve to make a mistake," Nicklaus recalled. It came Sunday at the par-5 15th, where Seve pulled his approach into the drink. Game over. Jack wins. 4:54 pm Woods has a par attempt from 12 feet above the hole at the par-4 10th. Nope … leaves it just short. That'll drop him back to 2-under.4:50 pm The weather isn't good — a soft rain is falling and the Augusta-area telecast was interrupted minutes ago by a tornado warning — but all in all, it's not terrible. Perhaps Augusta will avoid the worst of the storm and get the first round completed today. 4:48 pm Mickelson (67) checks in for an interview at Butler Cabin and explains why Augusta National isn't necessarily a bad course for a player to find his game. "I feel like I don't need to be perfect here," Lefty says. "I feel like I can miss shots and still recover."4:45 pm One thing's for certain: Tiger has been practicing his a– off. "He has blisters on top of blisters," his coach Hank Haney told the Golf Channel yesterday. His score shows it too: 3-under thru 9. 4:41 pm Props to Matt Kuchar, who's playing in the group with Tiger. Kuchar posted a front-nine 33, quieting any suggestions that he might not be suited to handle the pressure and attention of Tiger-palooza. The third member of their group, K.J. Choi, is also managing. He went out in 35.4:37 pm Sandy Lyle, donning Tiger red, just finished his round at 3-under. Man, does experience help at this place.4:34 pm Woods drains his birdie, too, for his second straight 3. "Eleven hundred yards covered in six shots — that's just incredible," Nick Faldo says. 4:32 pm Vintage Tiger. After pulling his drive into the pine trees on the left of the 9th fairway, he rips a hooking approach around the corner and up on to the green. He'll have 8 feet for birdie. Ahead at 12, Couples drops his putt for bird.4:26 pm Fred Couples (-2) sticks one at the par-3 12th. Forget Watson. You get the feeling Freddie will be contending here when he's 80.4:20 pm Sorry for the delay everyone, technical difficulties. Tiger made eagle at No. 8 to get to -2. 4:07pm TW ought to get at least one back on the 8th, though. His second shot into the long par-5 just bounded off some mounds right of the green, kicked onto the green and rolled to about 15 feet from the hole. Nice eagle try. 3:58pm Tiger bogeyed the brutal par-4 7th to drop back to even.3:55pm T-minus 5 minutes until actual TV coverage. Don't know about you, but I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. 3:51pm I’m with pretty much everyone else re: Tiger’s new Nike commercial. It gives me the willies. When the picture gets all crackly near the end, I keep thinking TW is going to crawl out of my television set like that scary girl from The Ring. Still, any PR is good PR, and this is one of the hot stories on Masters Thursday. Score one for the Swoosh.3:46pm Twelve shots behind Kim: Jim Furyk, who posted a startling 80 today. How Mr. Consistency goes and cards just 7 pars is beyond me. Maybe he's still thinking about his ace in the par-3 tourney yesterday.3:41pm Solid round of 68 from Anthony Kim. A.K., you'll remember, won in Houston last week, though with less-than-dominating form. Sort of how Tiger has won in recent years. That's not a bad thing. 3:37pm Reader Jim Smith asks why there's no TV coverage until 4 p.m. The short answer, Jim, is that Augusta National is a proud participant in the Mystique Protection Program. In other words, the club revels in giving the public just enough to keep it wanting more. Look at the upside, though. Not long ago, we only got the back nine on Sunday. 3:32pm Watson just did his duty in the interview room. Some great stuff, including this anecdote:
It's been a wonderful week. My son [who's caddyng for Watson this week] proposed marriage when we played the practice round. We played on Sunday on Augusta National, the 13th hole, and his bridetobe didn't know anything about it. Everybody was in on the scam, including Mr. Payne, from the top down, everybody knew. Got some great pictures of it, so we had a nice celebratory dinner at La Maison downtown, with my brother, and that started the week off very nicely. I think a big part of my success today was having my son on the bag. He said, "Dad, show me. Show me you can still play this golf course." You know what, I wanted to show him I can still play the golf course.
Mission accomplished, Pops.
3:23pm And how about Philly Mick — 5-under through 16. A victorious Lefty embracing Amy and the kids on Sunday evening? Keep some Kleenex handy. 3:21pm Gritty performance by David Toms. Dude loaded up on cortisone for his bum shoulder earlier in the week before going out today and posting a 3-under 69. Willis Reed-esque. 3:15pm Steve Sands of the Golf Channel caught up with Tom Watson. "How do it explain the 67," Sands asked. "Luck," Watson said. Sands pushed him for more, but got little. "It's a good start and that's something I haven't done for years at Augusta National," Watson said. Question now is, Can he package it with a good middle and end?3:11pm It’s all but certain the House of Payne will soon become the House of Rain. There’s some ugly stuff heading east from Atlanta, expected to arrive right about … well, now. I saw a guy selling ponchos outside the National earlier this afternoon. “Buy one!” he cried. “If it don’t rain, I’ll give you your money back!” 3:08pm Thanks, CB. Nice work, though I'm sure "Sunshine" Cecilian will be sad to see you go. What a start …. who would have thunk a 60-year-old — the same guy who recently called himself a "ceremonial golfer" at the Masters — could help temper the Tiger talk today. Unbelievable story. Even more unbelievable: we've gone this long with no live TV coverage. Mercifully, the ESPN telecast kicks off in less than one hour. -AB 3:02pm Score a par for Tiger on no. 4. He's rolling along nicely at 1-under through four. You have to think he would have taken that entering today. Coming up shortly, Golf Magazine Senior Editor Alan Bastable will take you the rest of the way, until 7pm. Thanks, y'all. (Or as they say in Georgia, "all y'all.") Enjoy the rest of the action. -CB 2:57pm Wow. We now have a four-way tie on the leaderboard: Watson, Westwood, Mickelson, and Yang, all at 5-under. Twelve majors between them. And the weather hasn't turned ugly… yet. -CB 2:54pm I've been enjoying your work for some time, John. Well-played. 2:50pm I've got a new fan on the boards! My good friend John Cecilian writes (among many other posts): Connell's new job…..shining Tiger's shoes and then his clubs…work on it dude THIS IS NOT A LIVE BLOG of anything except Tiger….GOLF mag editors….find better help please... THere are a lot of players playing well…but it is Tiger Tiger Tiger Tiger Tiger….seriously, no mention of a 60 year old for almost the entire blog who shoots a 65.
2:47pm Watson's 67 ties his lowest round ever at the Masters, from 1980. Amazing. He has a one-shot lead. -CB 2:45pm How Tiger birdied the par-4 third: Big drive down the right-hand side (with club twirl), then a skippy-bitey three-quarter wedge that grabbed to 5 feet, then a simple putt dead-center. -CB 2:40pm Tiger just carded his first birdie today — on no. 3 — to get to 1-under. A reminder: Tiger has never shot in the 60s at Augusta on a Thursday. I know, I know. It's early. Just saying. He looks sharp, calm, confident. Whether it's Buddhism or Bootyism, it agrees with him. -CB Buddha thunk it? -CB 2:34pm A shout-out to the Masters folks for getting select video clips on players' online scorecards, allowing you to watch highlights from several holes. Great idea, especially with TV coverage starting so late. -CB 2:31pm Correction! Too much coffee for me. Tiger made par on the first two holes, not birdies, which I initially wrote. My bad. -CB 2:25pm You can watch video highlights of Tiger's first hole in 144 days on the Masters website. Just find Tiger's name on the leaderboard and click to open his scorecard. There, you can click on his first hole. -CB Earlier, I quoted Tour winner Paul Goydos, who told me that Tiger's distance control today would reveal how he's handling the pressure. Well, Tiger split the first fairway, hit his approach pin-high, and barely missed his birdie putt. If he's nervous, imagine how he'll look when he's zen. -CB See what not having 7 different cell phones can do for your focus? -CB 2:20pm Tiger is steady early, with two straight pars to start. -CB 2:17pm It's already been an incredible day at Augusta, for non-Tiger-related reasons. Tom Watson birdied the 18th hole to post a 5-under 67. He's the sole leader. Time flies. Is it last July already? -CB 2:14pm There are a few other guys in the field, like two-time Masters champ Phil Mickelson. Lefty just rolled in an eagle on no. 13, to shoot up the leaderboard to 3-under. Y.E Yang's now at 4-under. -CB 2:12pm And here's a quick first-tee take from David Dusek of Golf.com: I was on the first tee last year as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods teed off on Sunday. The gallery assembled that day was HUGE. Today’s was bigger. Inside the ropes near the famous oak tree, scribes from around the world gathered to see The Man walk to the practice green and then hit his first competitive shot in 144 days. He walked through them smiling, nodding, and to applause from club guests. When he arrived on the first tee 10 minutes later the crowd roared—men, women and children alike. He shook hands with K.J. Choi, Matt Kuthar’s caddie, Kutchar himself and then Choi’s caddie. And when it finally came to for him to hit—it was his honor on the tee—he smoked a driver to the top of the hill, just left of the fairway bunker. Before the ball landed, he twirled the club in his left hand and and picked up his tee. 2:07pm More reportage, from Golf Magazine's Cameron Morfit:
Also, I'm told by ESPN's Tom Rinaldi, who was stationed on the practice area, [Tiger] was the only player who got a round of applause when he walked out there to the practice range. -CB 2:05pm Adds Walker: Over/Under on how many sappy columns will begin: 'today is the first day of the rest of Tiger Woods life.' I say 3.5. Mike… 3.5? More like 35. Oh by the way: Woods made par on his first hole. -CB 2:02pm We have Amen Cornered! Reports Golf Mag's Mike Walker, of Tiger's first-tee circus: Connell, Electric scene at the first tee for Woods. Fans crowded ropes around the clubhouse like the pope was there. Full-throated cheers and whistles when he walked out, when he was announced and after he smoked his drive. All that was missing was Woods turning to the crowd and yelling, 'Are you not entertained?' Great stuff, Mike and Cameron. -CB 2:00pm Adds Cameron Morfit: Airplane trailing banner around over Wash. Road: "Tiger: Did you mean bootyism?" -CB 1:59pm Golf Mag's man on the scene Cameron Morfit was there at the first tee. He gives this Tiger report: Interesting fact: A line formed, a sort of tunnel between the fans, from the roped-off area under the big oak tree to the practice putting green. Then, a few minutes before Tiger came through it, suddenly security moved the line about 10 feet over closer to the par-3 course. I think that was deliberate, in case anyone had planted themselves and was planning to do something. On his way to the practice putting green, smiled, tight-lipped, as he received enthusiastic applause. Got a louder than average round of applause when introduced on first tee, but slightly muted from a normal round of applause for Tiger. Gave the club twirl after opening drive, right down the middle. Smiled and tipped his cap as he walked off the tee. Choi and Kuchar also hit good ones. -CB 1:55pm Correction. Very warm applause for Tiger, I'm told. No TMZ-related shenanigans. And no good-luck kiss from Morganna the Kissing Bandit. More details to come in a minute, from Golf Mag's Cameron Morfit. -CB 1:52pm Tiger's tee shot found the first fairway. Polite applause. Stay tuned in a minute for a more detailed report. -CB 1:48pm I confess to getting so caught up in the Tiger Watch that I almost forgot that TOM WATSON IS LEADING THE MASTERS. -CB 1:44pm Meanwhile, Phil taps in for par on no. 11 (which feels like half a birdie), and steps to the tee on the par-3 12th. He's at 1-under, with two par-5's to go. -CB 1:42pm We have lift-off. Tiger's due on the tee now. We'll get you details on Tiger's first post-scandal tee shot as soon as possible. -CB 1:40pm Read this Tiger piece, from the latest S.I. It's by S.L. Price. You won't be able to stop once you start. -CB 1:37pm OK, people. Post your prediction for Tiger's first round score. Assuming the weather doesn't get Wizard of Oz nasty, I see him shooting a 2-over 74. Not bad after 5 months off.
Gimme your number. Quick! Minutes to go! -CB 1:33pm Reader Brant Davidson writes: I know Tiger is used to pressure, but do you think this kind of pressure is going to get to him or is he that mentally solid that he can keep it in check? I think he'll be fine, in terms of pressure. I can only echo what Tour winner Paul Goydos told me last night: For Tiger, the hardest part is over — meeting the other players, the fans, the media. That's what probably made the butterflies in his stomach chug Pepto. Now he's in his element. He's doing what he was put on this earth to do: Play golf. Whether or not he'll play well? We'll find out. Tiger rarely tears up Augusta on Day 1. He's never broken 70 here in the first round, and has shot as high as a 76. He might shoot a 76 today, but I don't think it'll be due to nerves. I think it would be rust. -CB 1:30pm Twelve minutes until Tiger makes his first competitive swing in 144 days. (But who's counting?) 1:29pm And Ernie follows suit! He makes his birdie putt on 12, from 7 feet, to join the leaders. With the par-5s to play — and some ugly weather approaching — Easy is setting himself up to be the first-round leader. -CB 1:27pm Westwood, playing the best golf of his career, drains a 15-footer on 13 for birdie to take a share of the lead, at 3-under. -CB 1:23pm Nick Faldo told me, "Ernie is now in his late prime. This is the time for him to win a Masters. He's running out of time. He only will have so many chances." In other words, it's now (or soon) or never. Ernie's playing like he knows that. There's a sense of urgency. -CB 1:21pm Els sticks his approach on no. 12 to 7 feet beneath the hole. A confident swing. -CB 1:17pm T-minus 25 minutes 'til Tiger. (Why do I have "Final Countdown" by Europe ratting around my brain?) Dustin Johnson birdies 11 and 12, then pars 13. He's at 1-under. -CB
Ernie Els birdies 11. He's now at 2-under. The Big Easy is definitely back. -CB 1:15pm Els is playing with Kim, who is 2-under through 10. A report from Golf Mag's Cameron Morfit at Augusta: I saw Kim hit just one shot today so far, a wild hook into the trees on the par-5 second hole. He immediately started to get ready to hit a provisional until he was signaled that the ball was okay. -CB 1:12pm Ernie, perhaps the hottest player in golf, just striped an iron on the par-4 11th to about 4 feet. He'll have that for birdie to get to 2-under. -CB 1:08pm Quiros, who does have the length, leaves himself a tough birdie putt from 10 feet on the par-5 13th, after reaching in two. He putts like a guy who drives it 340 yards. -CB 1:04pm He has the experience and the game management, but at 156th on Tour in driving distance (271 yards per poke) I don't think Toms has the muscle to win at Augusta. -CB 1:01pm Hardest hole today? Not surprisingly, the 500-yard par-4 11th, playing at a 4.4 scoring average. 1:00pm Quick Leaderboard check! David Toms leads alone at -4, through 16. And Cabrera (remember him?) and Marino share second place, at -3. -CB 12:56pm No one's talking about Jerry Kelly, who shot a rock-solid par-72 today. No one except Golf Magazine Senior Writer Cameron Morfit, that is. He reports: Just got some quotes from Jerry Kelly after his even-par 72. He bogeyed 18, so he wasn't thrilled with his score relative to how he hit it, but he was tied for the clubhouse lead with Nathan Green of Australia. Kelly was fifth here in 2007, but said, "I'm a much better player now than I was then. It's just a matter of playing golf, letting go. I just kind of brain-cramped on three or four shots and those were the ones that cost me." "It hasn't changed that much yet because it's still petty humid, the sun isn't out. So it hasn't really firmed up and sped up quite yet. I don't know what it's going to do this afternoon. The wind is definitely swirling, it's gusting, but very manageable. It's set up to score today, there's no question about it. They were very kind, thinking there might be some heavy wind and some tough conditions coming in. I think that's as easy as you're going to see Augusta, which is still not easy. The tees are very generous, but they've done that thinking the weather is coming. They were nice." -CB 12:52pm Talk to me, people. What kind of shenanigans might TMZ be up to? And, how'd they get in? Sneaking in via a green Port-o-Let? Their reporters are aggressive, so nothing would surprise me. And it's not like they're worried about losing their media credentials. -CB 12:49pm Reminder, y'all. Tiger's teeing off at 1:42, less than an hour from now. Says Mike "Man on the Scene" Walker: "I'm hearing that TMZ will try to make a big splash somehow at 1:41pm." -CB 12:46pm Another astute point Goydos made, about Tiger. If you want to know how he's handling the pressure/grandeur of the event, watch his distance control. Emotion = adrenaline which = overshooting greens. If Tiger's pin-high all day, then look out field. Something to watch. -CB 12:43pm Watson calmly brushes in an artificial-knee-knocking 5-footer on 13, to save his par from the creek. He remains at 2-under.
Meanwhile… T-MINUS ONE HOUR TIL TIGER! -CB 12:41pm Watson will have a par putt on 13, after finding the hazard with his second shot. -CB 12:39pm Was Tiger's Nike commercial over the line? A reader named Eric read when my mind when he wrote to me: It seemed icky. Too soon. I'd have laid low for a while. Of course, laying low is what got him into the problem in the first place. -CB 12:37pm Nooooooo! Watson's approach shot on the par-5 13th gets Ike Turnered by the wind, falls short, and finds the creek. Like Paul Goydos said in my interview with him today: At Augusta, you can make almost any score at any time. On 13, you could make an eagle, or an 8 in a heartbeat. -CB 12:33pm A rough start for Ogilvy, who made par on the par-5 13th. He's at +4. -CB 12:31pm Quick weather report from our Masters meteorologist Stormy Weathers, aka Gary Van Sickle from Sports Illustrated. He's on the scene and writes: i just tweeted that the weather began to turn to crap 15 minutes ago. wind just began whipping up big time, i'd say 20-30 mph. scoring going to get killed. best thing that could happen for players is if rain stops play during the brewing gale. -CB 12:28pm What does the Blogosphere think? Can Watson make a Turnberry-esque run at Augusta? -CB 12:21pm Watson strokes a nice chip to a few inches on no. 12. It's so close, even Watson could make that one! He'll make par and remain 2-under, and tied for the lead. -CB 12:18pm Watson's 7-iron on the par-3 12th just … barely … clears the water, to find the front collar. Phew. -CB 12:16pm Tim Clark's fluorescent yellow golf ball (!!) finds the front bunker on the par-3 12th. You can't run on the grounds of Augusta. But you can use a yellow golf ball? -CB 12:14pm Leader Steve Marino misses a 5-footer for par on 11, falling back to 2-under. Maybe I misheard the Masters.com commentator, but I swear he just called him "Dan Marino." Which means he'll never win the Big One. Meanwhile, Tom Watson shares the early lead at the Masters. -CB
Jack won in 1986 at an advanced age. Is 60 the new 46? -CB 12:11pm TW (the 60-year-old TW) is playing in his 36th Masters, and he hasn't made the cut since 2002. I can't imagine he can do at Augusta what he did at Turnberry. It's just too long. But Watson keeps surprising us. -CB 12:09 pm If anyone can steal at least some spotlight from the World No. 1, it's Tom Watson. He stands at 2-under, and is about to tap in for a par on the brutal par-4 11th. -CB 12:07 pm Thanks, Mike. Strong, strong effort, my friend. Connell Barrett here. I'll be with you all until 3pm, which includes cyber-witnessing Tiger's opening tee shot at 1:42pm. Keep the comments coming. I'm psyched… stoked, even! The Masters is back. Amen. -CB 12:03 p.m. Birdies on No. 12 and 13 get David Toms to 2-under, and with that I'm signing off for the day. You're in the capable hands of Golf Magazine editor at large Connell Barrett. Yes, his talent is large, but his heart is even larger. See you later. -CB
–MW 11:59 a.m. Reader Brian Sullivan asks: I get the Tiger and
the late starts could get stuck with alot of wind. But if their is rain
and especially if there is a stoppage folllowed by a restart on a wet
course, could that be a big time bene ?
Golf.com's David Dusek reports that Nike will have no further comment on the Tiger Woods commercial beyond what they wrote in last night’s release: "We support Tiger and his family. As he returns to competitive golf,
the ad addresses his time away from the game using the powerful words
of his father." It’s
worth noting that this ad has a VERY short life span. If first aired at
6:00PM EST last night and will not be shown again after 4:00PM today.
Acording to Gast, Nike has another golf ad ready to go that features
Stewart Cink and Lucas Glover –MW 11:25 a.m. Leaderboard
update (Major winner version):
Marino, -3 through 8
Gay, -2 through 8
Watson (!), -2 under through 8
Hamilton, -2 through 2
Cabrera, -2 through 2
Furyk, -2 through 2 11:24 a.m. Weather report from Golf.com's David Dusek could spell trouble for Woods and the other guys in the afternoon group. The flags on the
scoreboard by the first fairway are whipping right now and there are
dark clouds gathering in the sky. Players who got out early this
morning, like Marino, Langer, and Hamilton will be happy to get in all
the golf they can before this front arrives. For Tiger, it’s not going
to be a fun first day back at the office. 11:20 a.m. Reader Richard Holtzclaw has a better answer than Michael Campbell for the question who traveled the farthest to this year's Masters. Pretty sure Tiger traveled the farthest – being that he's been to hell and back. 11:15 a.m. A lot of big names at -1 in the early going, including ErnieEls, who won twice this year on the Florida swing. Others at -1 include Toms, Clark, Casey, Ishikawa and Furyk. Also, two of last year's major winners, Y.E. Yang (PGA) and Angel Cabrera (Masters). –MW 11:11 a.m. Reader Thomas Hawley apparently has no interest in being a member of Augusta National. Did you see that
press conference from Augusta yesterday? It came on ESPN this morning
while I was getting dressed, this guy from the club giving his comments
on the state of the world and especially the state of Tiger Woods. What
a pompous ass! I couldn't believe how the guy went on and on, sounding
like he was some kind of medieval bishop or something. Even my wife
said she couldn't believe it and she was barely half-listening.
Certainly I feel that Tiger's behavior reflects in an extraordinary
negative way but my God, I certainly don't believe it's my place to
speak to the world with moralistic judgments on it. I've thought for
years that those Augusta National guys were way, way too hung up on
their own importance but this really blows it away. Tiger ought to run
his own tournament on the second week of April next year, put up $8M or
something, have it in Bermuda, and then they'd see how important they
11:08 a.m. Contender watch: Lee Westwood is 1-under through 4. Westwood has been performing well on the game's big stages. Just a matter of time before he breaks through, and things look to be falling into place for him. 11:05 a.m. Thanks to Charlie Hanger for subbing me there. I'm back for the rest of the hour after catching up with Golf Magazine's Alan Bastable, who checks in with a Fuzzy sighting. My favorite sight so far this morning: Fuzzy Zoeller and two pals sitting at a table near the first tee, sipping on what appeared to be a round of bloodies. Vintage Fuzz. –MW 11:04 a.m. A few changes at the top of the leaderboard. Here's the latest:
1 Steve Marino -3, thru 7T2 Bernhard Langer -2, thru 10T2 Nathan Smith -2, thru 8T2 Tom Watson -2, thru 7T2 Todd Hamilton -2, thru 6 10:55 a.m. Reader Travis Wright says he knows from whence the Earl Woods audio came in the Nike commercial: The audio from the new Tiger commercial was from an old interview doen with Earl talking about how he taught Tiger the game. He was talking about how he let Tiger hit a shot and then would ask him questions like "Why did you do that?" "What were you thinking?" and "What did you learn from it?"…I can't remember when the interview was done but I'm positive that is what he was talking about. 10:53 a.m. Ok, leaderboard check. Mickelson parred the first hole. Our leaders look like this, big start from Ishikawa:
T1 Bernhard Langer -3, thru 9T1 Steve Marino -3, thru 6T3 Tom Watson -2, thru 6T3 Bill Haas -2, thru 4T3 Ryo Ishikawa -2, thru 2 10:47 a.m. As great as Masters Thursday is, it's also painful for us golf fans. Why oh why can't we get morning-to-evening TV coverage? As a fan, how upsetting is the scarcity of Thursday-Friday coverage? It's great when it's on, and maybe it wouldn't feel so special if they showed every shot, but I'd still like to see it all day. Your thoughts? 10:40 a.m. Reader Michael says: I was just wondering if Tom Watson has an 8 iron in his bag? And if so, is it bent like a pretzel? The hero to the boomer generation can't be as serene about that shot as he seemed standing in the breeze at the British last year. I am very glad to see he is back in play… even sans an 8. According to Jack Nicklaus, Watson was definitely torn up about the shot. Nicklaus recounted their post-Turnberry conversation in his Augusta press conference earlier this week. You can read about it here, but this is a highlight:
I said, "Tom, you played a great tee shot on 18 and you played what
appeared to be a great second shot. Just happened to be just that much
too long." I said, "You picked the right club for your third shot."
He said, "Oh, I'm glad to hear you say that. I'm getting a lot of flak on that." [laughs]
I said, "I know you're a good chipper, but it's the only club in your
bag — the putter is the only club in your bag you were not going to
lose the tournament, because you were going to knock it on the green."
He said, "Yeah, but I goosed it."
I said, "Yeah, but so what, so did everybody else." I said,
"You had to get the ball on the green." I said, "Now then you hit the
putt like the rest of us would."
10:34 a.m. Ok, now time for the other moment we've all been waiting for — Phil Mickelson's tee time. So much going on his life now that it's hard not to root for him, but so far his game has not been top-shelf this season. Damon Hack set up Phil's situation this week here. CH 10:30 a.m. With Langer at the top of the leaderboard, now's a good time to link to Michael Bamberger's story from the SI Golf+ preview issue. CH 10:26 a.m. Omer Jilani asks: So were Tiger's press conf comments about his dad planned based on the Nike ad?? "The Machine" is back to work!! Don't think I can be that cynical, that Woods was starting the Nike ad at the press conference, but it does seem like synergy at its weirdest. One mystery, and we're taking guesses from the crowd: Where did Nike get that audio? What was Earl talking about there? CH 10:20 a.m. OK everyone, Charlie Hanger here from Golf.com spelling Mr. Walker for a bit. He's needed on television, big shot that he is. I'll try to keep this sucker going from midtown until he returns. 10:12 a.m. Leaderboard update: Hot Tub Time Machine edition
Langer -3 through 7
Gay -2 through 8
Watson -2 through 4
Marino -2 though 4
Haas -2 through 3
Cusak -2 under through One Crazy Summer 10:02 a.m. Eric Moore asks: Who traveled the farthest for this years Masters? Of active players who is the oldest & youngest?
Langer -2 through 5
Smith -2 through 3
Marino -2 through 2
T1 Tom Watson -2 through 3
9:44 a.m. Reader Michael is making me think twice about taking Ernie Els in the Live Blog pool. I followed Els at
the Shell last weekend. He took driver off the deck twice and both
results looked just like when I tried to pull it off. As he walked
through the galleries he seemed drugged. Honestly I couldn't see that
he was in ANY form… much less winning form. I might bet AK, but Els?
Anyway, I was enjoying watching the wonderful Couples in action.
Enjoying the blog guys. –MW 9:40 a.m. InJennysMind asks via Twitter: Is there any way to watch the masters? Right now, no, but you'll be able to watch the featured group of Mike Weir, Lee Westwood and Italian amateur Matteo Manassero on Masters.com. They tee off any minute now.
–MW 9:35 p.m. Contender watch: Geoff Ogilvy is even through 2. I know they're talking thunderstorms later today, but Augusta is a postcard right now. Blue sky, sunny, a little cooler. 9:30 p.m. Friend of the Blog Jordan wants to know: You think Oosthuizen has any chance of breaking the jinx and winning the Masters and the Par 3 in the same year? Jordan's referring to the fact that the Par 3 winner has never won the main tournament. Athletes are superstitious and some golfers will tank the Par 3 if they think they have a chance to win. I don't think Oosthuizen's going to be the guy this year, but somebody will win them both one year. –MW 9:25 a.m. Leaderboard update (Tom Watson edition):
|1||Brian Gay||-2||through 4|
|T2||H. Slocum||-1||through 6|
|T2||B. Langer||-1||through 3|
|T2||G. McDowell||-1||through 2|
|T2||R. Sabbatini||-1||through 2|
|T2||N. Smith||-1||through 2|
|T2||Tom Watson||-1||through 1|
9:20 a.m. I saw Stewart Cink horseshoe a couple putts at the Par 3 Tournament yesterday. Not a good sign for the nicest man in golf, who tees off with Padraig Harrington and Charl Schwartzel at 1:20 p.m.
Longtime Friend of the Blog Brady Riggs like Schwartzel as a Masters dark horse. Schwartzel swings the club really well, and he was not afraid to go toe-to-toe with Els at Doral. I really like his game. 9:14 a.m. Know why Augusta National looks so nice? Hard work. They hose pollen off all the bushes and skim the ponds every night. 9:07 a.m. Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Eddie Merrins, teaching pro emeritus at Bel Air Country Club and coach of the UCLA's 1988 championship golf team, is picking Ernie Els to win the Masters.
"He's swinging well, he's putting well and I like his attitude," Merrins said. "If there's one thing Els ever needed it's a kick in the fanny. He has immense talent." Els tees off at 10:13 a.m. with Anthony Kim and Ryo Ishikawa. –MW 9:03 p.m. Golf Mag's Cam Morfit clearly has some time on his hands this morning until Els goes off: Big week for B. Gay and Begay. One's leading the Masters at 2-under through 3, the other's making his debut on Golf Channel. Notah Begay is doing a nice job on The Golf Channel, but that buzz cut is too severe. He looks like someone who pulled you over on the interstate. –MW 8:59 a.m. Brian Gay leading the Masters at 2-under through 3. Five guys at 1-under. First group on 5. The show is about to begin as Ogilivy, Martin Kaymer, Mike Weir, Lee Westwood, Anthony Kim and Ernie Els are all teeing off in the next hour or so. Mickelson is at 10:35 a.m. and Woods of course is 1:42 p.m. –MW 8:55 a.m. I thought Augusta National chairman Billy Payne's comments on how Tiger Woods let people down were excellent. He's the first person within the game to offer any direct criticism of Woods. But KC Star reporter's Jason Whitlock's response via Twitter was priceless: who knew God made a high horse low enough for Billy Payne to saddle? –MW 8:52 a.m. Would you like to see Palmer and Nicklaus play the entire round today? No chance, Nicklaus said on Tuesday. I don't think I'd be allowed to. The only thing that's good about that,
I don't have to go chase it. (Laughter) doesn't make any difference
where I hit it. I have never seen anybody follow one of those shots
yet. No, we are not going to play anymore. 8:48 a.m. Reader Luke Ridgway asks: Who had the better drive out of Nicklaus and Palmer for their opening tee shots? Palmer was shorter but kept it in the fairway, while Nicklaus was farther but in the right rough. You have to give Palmer the edge. And it definitely matters to those two guys, who compete in everything. –MW 8:44 a.m. The Golf Channel is showing a repeat of The Hank Haney Project. If I was programming director, I'd run Caddyshack on a loop all day with leaderboard updates. Speaking of which, Oosthuizen gave on back at 4. He's now at 1-under and Peter Oosterhuis' position as best golfer whose name starts with two Os is safe. –MW 8:39 a.m Great stuff from Arnold Palmer on the first tee today, via Sports Illustrated's Damon Hack. Arnold Palmer reached into his golf bag and grabbed driver. "Put on your ear muffs," Palmer said, predicting a loud collision of
titanium and urethane. His tee shot settled on the right side of the
fairway. "How did you do that?" Jack Nicklaus shot back, sticking his tee into the ground and hitting his own driver a little farther and a little more to the right.
8:05 a.m. The 2010 Masters has officially begun. Nicklaus and Palmer got things started with the ceremonial tee shot at 7:40 a.m. (Nicklaus' prediction: "We'll have fun and we'll both belt it out there about 150.") The first group (a "pairing" means two) is Nathan Green, Heath Slocum and Louis Oosthuizen and they are playing No. 1.–MW 8 a.m. Welcome the Masters Live Blog, where we're still waiting for our Tiger Woods hug. I'm Mike Walker, a senior editor for Golf Magazine, and I'll be with you today with news from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine writers on the course, leaderboard updates, and interviews. Got a question or comment, please post it below. For golf fans, this is Christmas morning, so let's have fun today. –MW
Starting at 8 a.m. Eastern, GOLF.com will be live blogging Thursday's first round. Three Golf Magazine writers will share duties for round 1: Mike Walker, Connell Barrett and Alan Bastable.
You can also read the blog, join the discussion and keep up with our leaderboard in our new Masters Nerve Center. To join the discussion now, you can leave a comment at right or at the bottom of this post.