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Monday, Dec. 22, 2014

'Old guys' lead the way after Day One

Posted Friday, April 9, 2010, at 7:37 AM

The leaderboard at the Masters after Day One shows a 50-year-old Fred Couples leading and 60-year-old Tom Watson just a shot behind. Maybe Raymond Floyd who missed his first Masters in 46 years, retired too soon!

"The greatest thing about this course is that there is a tragedy waiting to happen on every hole," said Watson after his best round ever at Augusta National Golf Club. In fact, the rebuilt British Open runner-up has missed the cut at the Masters 11 of his last 12 appearances. This is no ordinary Masters.

Will the two old guys, Couples and Watson, hold up over the weekend? Who knows, but they are being chased by some of golf's elite players. Phil Mickelson, Y.E. Yang and Lee Westwood are all just one stroke off the pace.

Oh yeah, there is one other guy who had less rust on his game than many had thought. That would be Tiger Woods. Thursday's first round was the first time that Woods has ever recorded two eagles in the same round. It's hard to believe that Woods had any stones left to turn at this hallowed venue; one that he has virtually owned Augusta National in the past decade, but he did.

My station was Hole 12, the famous par 3, with swirling winds and more balls in Rae's Creek than birdies on this day. Seven players dumped their tee shots into the water on the 155 yard hole. I was positioned at the base of Hogan's Bridge. Players cross Rae's Creek to access the green on what is arguably golf's most famous bridge.

It was a good spot to get an occasional nod from a player and tune in on some of the first round conversations. Mickelson and Yang were playing partners on Thursday. For the Korean who won the PGA Championship, it was his first visit to Augusta National. Mickelson and Yang strode side by side across the Hogan Bridge.

As they came off the bridge headed to the green, Mickelson offered this advice to his fellow competitor. "This is very difficult hole. Many times you think you hit great shot and it winds up long or short in the bunker."

The winds at Hole 12 were bewitching on Thursday. Three times in the first nine groups the wind changed directions. Most players took considerable time debating club selection. This is truly a shot that the player has to commit to. That is easier said than done.

For example, Kenny Perry addressed his ball and then backed off as the gallery up the hill on Hole 11 was cheering for an incoming shot. After reviewing the tee shot, Perry walked to his bag and changed clubs. Upon re-address, Perry backed off and returned to his bag to again change clubs. He finally hit the shot 15 feet from the hole. Much thought and much deliberation!

The swirling winds produced a constant shower of pollen in Amen Corner all day. The CBS camera crew located near my post on the bridge received numerous requests from the control trailer to have the seeds and pollen residue blown off Hogan's Bridge. The debris was not good for television aesthetics.

Both the 11th and 12th greens were constantly tended to by maintenance workers with blowers. Even Perry who has started wearing glasses was feeling the effects of the pollen. "I feel like this stuff is all over the inside of my mouth," Perry remarked to his caddy as he headed to the 12th green.

For golf's top two players it was a similar, but very different day. Phil Mickelson's entire family joined him at a PGA Tour event for the first time since last May and The Players Championship. His wife, Amy, has suffered from breast cancer. Mickelson has openly talked about the importance of having is family at Augusta this week.

Woods, on the other hand, is minus his wife and kids. During the round on Thursday, two small planes flew over Augusta National carrying banners with crass remarks directed to Woods. Evidently, not even Augusta National officials can control air space. My bet is they do the rest of the weekend. No matter how you feel about Woods and his highly publicized problems, this was an uncalled for gesture.

I will say this. I see a different Tiger Woods. He tipped his cap at every green stop as he was welcomed by the galleries. He was gracious and appeared to be able to interact with the gallery and not have it affect his play. Obviously, his first round 68 included five lipped out putts and the new/improved Tiger is very much a threat.

First hand, I experienced this today from Tiger after he hit it his shot seven feet from the Hole on 12. As he walked down the Hogan Bridge towards me, he made eye contact, nodded and said, "Hi, how are you doing?"

To which I replied, "Great, thanks. Nice shot you hit there."

And Woods responded, "Thank you."

Those that knew the old Tiger will testify that he never saw anything or anyone during competition -- under these circumstances. I am convinced this is a new Tiger in many ways.

This is no ordinary Masters!



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