First Round Masters: A Horse Race


First Round Masters: A Horse Race

We knew that Augusta would look her finest. We knew that the best of the best would be present. We knew that there might be controversy over membership questions, etc., and we knew that somebody would play great golf. We just weren’t sure who it would be.

Like many of you, I’ve been watching the Masters for a very long time. For PGA golf, it’s my high point of the golf year. I’ve seen disasters, cliffhangers and “if you would have told me” scenarios more than once. Today, though, it was chaos, and one trip to the refrigerator for a ham sandwich meant coming back to a whole different tournament, with a whole different leader board.

Much of the attention was focused, of course, on Tiger. The anti-Tigerists are saying “Ah ha! He’s already five down. Check the history books, and you’ll find little comfort in that theory. He’s never a first round kind of guy at the Masters. He’s a Sunday guy.

The Tiger lovers, on the other hand, are saying, “Ah ha! Perfect position.” Who knows, they might be right. The lead changed hands like musical chairs today, and when the azaleas had settled, Lee “greatest golfer who never wins majors” Westwood was up by one. How did that happen? Henrik Stenson was leading when I went for the sandwich; He shot an 8 on the final hole after a perfect day to crash through the floor – on his birthday, yet! And when did Lowedicus Theodorus “Louis” Oosterhuizen manage four under? I didn’t even see him on the board an hour ago.

Peter Lawrie was up there for a while. Wasn’t he one of those troublesome European Ryder guys? Jiminez of Spain and Molinari of Italy are in the way, and you can’t say “Oh, don’t worry about it. He’s never won the Masters.” Some of those people go on to win the Masters. It was nice to see slow play specialist Ben Crane, from my home town. Long driver Bubba Watson will have to be overcome if Tiger wants the jacket, as will former champion Vijay Singh, two strokes up. Padraig Harrington is one ahead, and he’s a three major winner. And what about my man, Fred Couples? Fifty two years of age is looking pretty good, isn’t it, tying Tiger for the first round.

If you’re going to gauge Tiger’s chances of winning, Tiger’s going to have to take care of it himself, because that many golfers aren’t going to tank as a collective. We haven’t even asked, “Where’s Phil?” yet. The human pinball of a golfer was all over the place today, but somehow managed to stand in the shadow of the head group when it was all over. Rory is in the mix, and Rory is Rory – be very afraid (although I believe that in one of today’s photos, he was caught throwing it from behind a tree. I don’t see any club, do you?)

Amidst all the wild lead changes, there was a constant in today’s first round. We won’t see it in the next three, but power of the sentiment surprised me, and I even saw it coming. Player, Palmer and Nicklaus hit ceremonial shots of the first to signal the beginning of the tournament, and I remembered vividly the beauty of that era. Incidentally, all three found the fairway, and Player went away with long ball honors.

 

And that’s the Masters. Ever new action housed in slow-moving elegance, new and exciting people chasing lofty goals through a timeless, unhurried tradition. I still think that a woman’s face would brighten things up around here, but I’ll try to exercise a little more patience until they tie up that loose end. Meanwhile, we should all get a lot of sleep for the second round, in case it’s anything like the first.

 

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1 comment

  1. Like you The Masters has a special place in my following of the PGA tournaments. My father, Pat Fletcher, played in the 1955 Masters. He was invited to do this after winning the Canadian Open in 1954. Although I don’t have complete memories of what he had to say about that experience, I do remember that he was very much in awe of it. He talked about the announcing on the first tee of the players and how well treated the players were during their time there.

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