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 werenâ€™t sure who it would be.
Like many of you, Iâ€™ve been watching the Masters for a very long time. For PGA golf, itâ€™s my high point of the golf year. Iâ€™ve seen disasters, cliffhangers and â€œif you would have told meâ€ 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 â€œAh ha! Heâ€™s already five down. Check the history books, and youâ€™ll find little comfort in that theory. Heâ€™s never a first round kind of guy at the Masters. Heâ€™s a Sunday guy.
The Tiger lovers, on the other hand, are saying, â€œAh ha! Perfect position.â€ Who knows, they might be right. The lead changed hands like musical chairs today, and when the azaleas had settled, Lee â€œgreatest golfer who never wins majorsâ€ 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 â€“ on his birthday, yet! And when did Lowedicus Theodorus â€œLouisâ€ Oosterhuizen manage four under? I didnâ€™t even see him on the board an hour ago.
Peter Lawrie was up there for a while. Wasnâ€™t he one of those troublesome European Ryder guys? Jiminez of Spain and Molinari of Italy are in the way, and you canâ€™t say â€œOh, donâ€™t worry about it. Heâ€™s never won the Masters.â€ 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 heâ€™s a three major winner. And what about my man, Fred Couples? Fifty two years of age is looking pretty good, isnâ€™t it, tying Tiger for the first round.
If youâ€™re going to gauge Tigerâ€™s chances of winning, Tigerâ€™s going to have to take care of it himself, because that many golfers arenâ€™t going to tank as a collective. We havenâ€™t even asked, â€œWhereâ€™s Phil?â€ 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 â€“ be very afraid (although I believe that in one of todayâ€™s photos, he was caught throwing it from behind a tree. I donâ€™t see any club, do you?)
Amidst all the wild lead changes, there was a constant in todayâ€™s first round. We wonâ€™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 thatâ€™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 womanâ€™s face would brighten things up around here, but Iâ€™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 itâ€™s anything like the first.