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Archive for Friday, April 8, 2005

First day wet, wild at Augusta

April 8, 2005

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— What started as a wet Masters soon turned into a wacky one.

Tiger Woods hit a shot into Rae's Creek -- with his putter.

Billy Casper hit five shots into the water on one hole and took a 14, the highest score on any hole. He made history, but not the record books, because after adding up his score of 106, he decided not to turn in it.

David Toms was standing over a putt on the 14th hole when a gust blew it back into the fairway.

Ernie Els spent more time in the trees than in the fairway.

About the only thing that restored some semblance of order Thursday at Augusta National was the rain -- and having Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen on the leaderboard.

The long day began with a 51/2-hour rain delay. When it ended in darkness with 68 players still on the course, the clubhouse leader was Mark Hensby of Australia, who had a 3-under 69 in his Masters debut.

"It's hard to have expectations on such a demanding golf course," Hensby said.

Indeed opening day at the Masters was full of surprises. This was the fourth straight week, and ninth time out of 15 tournaments this year, that bad weather delayed a round.

Jack Nicklaus watches his shot to the seventh green during the
first round of the 2005 Masters. Nicklaus, in what might be his
final Masters, was 4 over par after 12 holes when play was
suspended because of darkness Thursday at the Augusta National Golf
Club in Augusta, Ga.

Jack Nicklaus watches his shot to the seventh green during the first round of the 2005 Masters. Nicklaus, in what might be his final Masters, was 4 over par after 12 holes when play was suspended because of darkness Thursday at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

Chris DiMarco birdied three straight holes and was at 4 under par with four holes still to play, and that wasn't terribly alarming. He played with Mickelson last year, and even gave Lefty the right line on the winning putt.

When told about Woods' misfortunes -- an eagle putt that went off the green and into the water, an approach that hit the pin and went into the bunker, DiMarco shrugged.

"He's got a few good breaks over his career," DiMarco said. "So you know what? Darn. It's golf."

Hensby was one of only 24 players who finished the first round, and his hard-earned 69 showed that Augusta National doesn't have to be firm and fast to be punishing.

"You can play good shots and get rewarded, and then you can hit good shots and not get rewarded," he said.

Luke Donald of England was another shot behind with four holes left in his first round, while the group at 2 under included Mickelson, Singh, Ryan Palmer, Retief Goosen and Stuart Appleby.

Players were to return at 9:45 a.m. Friday to complete the first round, and barring any more weather delays, the tournament should be back to normal -- if there is such a thing at Augusta -- by the weekend.

Trying to hold down his No. 1 ranking, Singh was a model of consistency in a first round that was out of whack before players even arrived at Augusta National. Along with picking up three birdies on the front nine, Singh twice saved par with 10-foot putts. His only bogey came on the 11th hole, a three-putt from about 100 feet, missing a 5-footer for par.

"I played pretty well today," Singh said. "I hit my driver beautifully and had some good saves. It was just disappointing how I finished. Maybe I should have waited ... on the second putt from 5 feet. But who knows? I may have missed it tomorrow."

Mickelson was all smiles when he stepped to the first tee, looking very much the way he did when he left the Masters last year wearing a green jacket. He opened with a bogey, but kept himself out of trouble most of the day and gave himself ample birdie chances.

He chipped in for birdie on No. 2, stuck a wedge inside 4 feet on the third and twice made pars with beautiful lag putts to within 3 feet, including his final hole at No. 11.

Tiger Woods watches his drive on the second hole. Woods was 2 over
par through 12 holes in the first round at the Masters on Thursday
in Augusta, Ga.

Tiger Woods watches his drive on the second hole. Woods was 2 over par through 12 holes in the first round at the Masters on Thursday in Augusta, Ga.

Goosen, the forgotten figure in all the hype over the "Big Four," made a rare birdie on the par-3 12th, then recovered from a tee shot into the azaleas on the par-5 13th to escape with par.

It wasn't the fast, fiery course most players wanted, conditions that have not been around for the Masters since the course was super-sized three years ago.

Based on the scoring, they might be thankful for the rain.

Even with the greens soft and holding approach shots, only 10 of the 92 players were under par, and already there were five scores at 80 or higher among those who finished.

Woods hasn't broken par in the first round of the Masters since he won in 2002, and that's where he was headed this year -- some of that because of bad shots and bad judgment, some from sheer bad luck.

He reached the par-5 13th in two with a risky shot out of the pines, leaving him a 70-foot eagle putt. But he misjudged the speed so badly that the ball raced by the hole, tumbled down the bank and went into Rae's Creek. Woods left the ball there, replayed the putt and fared much better, two-putting for a bogey.

He looked as though he might get that shot back when his approach into No. 1 descended on the flag, but Woods turned away in shock when it hit the bottom of pin and spun off to the side into a bunker, turning birdie into bogey.

He wasn't alone in his misery.

Paul Casey, who tied for sixth last year in his Masters debut, took a 10 on the 13th hole and shot 79. Toms shot 41 on his outward nine, a tough start for someone who was expected to contend this week.

Still, nothing quite compared with Casper.

A 51-time winner on the PGA Tour who got overlooked in the Big Three era of the 1960s, the 73-year-old got plenty of attention in his return to Augusta National.

His five balls into the water came on the par-3 16th and added to a 14, the highest score on any hole in the Masters. By the time he finished 12 holes, he already shot his age. His score of 106 would have gone into the record books, except Casper declined to turn in his card.

"That's going in the scrapbook," he said.

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