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April 09, 2009

Live Blogging Round 1 of the 2009 Masters

Posted at 7:17 AM by Connell Barrett | Categories: Augusta National, Live Blogging, Masters

Alan Bastable and Connell Barrett live blogged the first round on Thursday.

Alan Bastable, senior editor for Golf Magazine, covered the afternoon and evening

7:44 p.m Are the roars back at Augusta National? They were in today's first round. Chad Campbell flirted with the course record before settling for a 65; four other players shot 67 or better, including 51-year-old Larry Mize; and Greg Norman shot the same score (70) as Tiger Woods. It was Augusta National at its thrilling best -- legends keeping pace with superstars, birdies offsetting bogeys, all under a warm sun and clear skies. We can only hope there's more of that in store for this weekend. Thanks for visiting golf.com. Mike Walker will take over the blog tomorrow morning. Enjoy...

7:27 p.m How did Tiger's round feel after such a long layoff from the majors? "The same," he tells Mike Tirico. Right, stupid question. The final group closes up shop, and the first round of the 2009 Masters is a wrap. Thirty-eight sub-par rounds were carded today, a Masters record.  

7:22 p.m One group left on the course -- the tykes: Anthony Kim, Ryo Ishikawa, and McIlroy, who are making their way up 18. "These kids need to get in," Faldo quips. "It's nearly past their bed time."

7:18 p.m Two putts from there and Tiger makes a bogey 5, good for a two-under 70. Discouraging finish, though it will surely motivate Woods to get off to a fast start tomorrow morning. Three times Woods has shot 70 in the first round at the Masters and gone on to win. 

7:13 p.m After a monster drive up the heart of the fairway, Woods hits a monster approach into the gallery behind the green. That was a big surprise on a day where Woods has had a solid handle on his distance control. His chip from a downhill lie gets away from him and trundles all the way to bottom of the green, some 50 feet from the hole. 

7:04 p.m Tiger just needs to par 18 to shoot his first sub-70 round in the first round of a Masters. Seems like just a few holes ago we were packing his bags for him. 

6:58 p.m After dropping a double-breaking 12-foot birdie putt at 16, McIlroy has got it back to even. Hard to believe this kid is only 19 ... until you look at his hair. For all the attention on him today, J.M. Singh is playing a classy round. He's 2-under through 16. Woods, playing with Singh, hit his approach to five feet at 16 but couldn't convert, ringing out his biridie putt. That one hurt.     

6:50 p.m I haven't mentioned Kenny Perry today, though I should have. He just burned the hole for a birdie at 18 to finish with a 68. This guy would win more majors if only he'd play in them.

6:45 p.m Dick Friedman of Sports Illustrated is also a Lundquist fan. Friedman notes: "His terseness harks back to the immortal minimalist Ray Scott: 'Starr...to Dowler...touchdown, Green Bay.' " OK, Dick, I'll take your word for it.

6:42 p.m Tiger pushes his birdie putt through the left-to-right break at 16. He can't be thrilled with that 3. Stewart Cink, also Tiger's group, shouldn't be overlooked. He's at 2-under after a par at 16.  

6:36 p.m Brandt Snedeker just putted out for a 76. Now that's worth crying over. 

6:31 p.m As Tiger launches his tee shot at 16, a patron unleashes a throaty "GET IN THE HOOOOOOLE!!!" "Oh, please, not at the Masters," Faldo says. Tiger's shot lands 10 feet behind the hole.

6:28 p.m He didn't hit it. Woods's eagle effort from 18 feet comes up surprisingly short. Still, he cleans up his third straight birdie, propelling him to four off the lead. On a side note, is Tiger wearing two shirts? Or is that just a different fabric on the end of his sleeves?

6:20 p.m David Feherty reveals that he was the assistant pro at Rory McIlroy's home track in Northern Ireland 13 years before Rory was born. "Which is just depressing," Feherty adds.

6:18 p.m No announcer injects drama more effectively and efficiently than Verne Lundquist. As Kenny Perry sized up a long birdie putt at 16, Lundquist left it at this: "Here at the 16th. Kenny Perry. Treacherous." (Perry missed the putt.) Speaking of drama, here come Woods, who almost decapitated the flagstick with his approach at 15. Can you say eagle?

6:10 p.m Mahan couldn't save par from behind the green at 18. That's a 66 for the flashy Texan, knotting him in a share for second with Jim Furyk.

6:07 p.m The birdie baron, Chad Campbell, chats with Mike Tirico. Yes, Chad says, he was thinking about the 63. "It's hard not to," he says. 

6:03 p.m Mahan airmails the green at 18. Hard to know what's going on his head behind those dark, hipster shades of his. Back at 14, Tiger is hole high and putting for birdie. Drains it. That's two straight birdies and Tiger is 2-under. You can just sense a run coming on.

5:57 p.m Nantz projects the cut line will be 2- or 3-over. Faldo says even par.

5:56 p.m. We just got our first look at the Belfast phenom Rory McIlroy, who's at 1-over. With as much buzz as surrounds this kid, I'm surprised ESPN hasn't showed more of him. 

5:50 p.m. Faldo says, "I think Tiger wants to get one or more two [birdies] to feel like he's in touch." Not sure about that, Nick. Sure, he'd love some more birds, but not because he feels out of touch, or out of reach for that matter. Let's remember, it's Thursday.

5:45 p.m. Campbell's bid for 63 and a share of the course record darted past the hole, leaving him five feet coming back. Don't know if Chad was thinking about history when he hit that putt, but you have to give him props for giving it a solid rap. Uh-oh -- he missed the comebacker for a bogey-bogey finish. That's a 65.

5:42 p.m. Won't be surprised if we see an ace at 16 before the day is over. Guys are just peppering the hole, which is cut in a basin on the left side of the green.

5:37 p.m. Johnson's gutsy swing didn't pay off. He missed the putt. Up at 18, Campbell has found more trouble after pulling his drive into a fairway bunker up the left. He gets it up and out, but still has a long putt -- let's call it 45 feet -- for his 63. Tiger is on the green in two at the par-5 13th.

5:31 p.m. Two years ago Zach Johnson won the Masters by laying up on the par 5s each and every day. Just moments ago he pulled out a fairway wood at the 15th and knocked his second shot to 8 feet. Gives you a good sense for how differently the course is playing today. Mahan made his 2 at 16. He's now at 7-under, just one off the lead.

5:28 p.m. Mahan stuffs it to six feet at the par-3 16th. He's rallied nicely since that double bogey at 11. 

5:23 p.m. Campbell's sand shot -- his first of the day -- comes up some 25 feet short of the hole. Two putts from there leads to his first bogey. Jack Newman, the 21-year-old U.S. Public Links champ from Michigan State, just birdied 18 to shoot even par. He's the low amateur for the day.

5:19 p.m. No reason to fret Tiger's "slow" start. He hasn't shot under par in the first round of the Masters since 2002.

5:17 p.m. Zach Johnson, donning cherry red pants, almost drained an 80-footer for birdie at 14. Meanwhile, ahead at 17, Campbell pulled his drive into the trees and punched his second into the bunker fronting the green. Adios, 62.

5:13 p.m. Tiger couldn't take advantage of his recovery from the pines at 11. He two putts from 15 feet for par.

5:11 p.m. Campbell had to settle for par at 16 after a two-putt from 18 feet. ESPN has shown a ton of J.M. Singh, a player most fans don't know. Wonder if that was a mandate from Augusta National in its attempt to make the Masters more global.

5:07 p.m. Tiger just pulled a Tiger from the pine needles to the right of the 11th fairway. Seemingly with no chance to get to the green, he launched his approach through the trees to the front edge of the green.

5:01 p.m. Mahan gets back to 5-under with another birdie at 14. Aussie Aaron Baddeley has birdied four of the last five holes on the front nine to get to 4-under.

4:57 p.m. Campbell knocks a pretty little chip to kick-in range at 15, setting up his fourth straight birdie. Hell, he might shoot 62. Nantz reminds that no one has shot 62 at any major. Twenty-three players have shot 63.

4:51 p.m. We get our first look at Trevor Immelman, the all-but-forgotten Masters champ of one year ago. He's 2-over through 10. None of the last seven Masters champions has missed the cut in the year after he won the green jacket.

4:47 p.m. Campbell has 245 yards to the green at 15 and a nice, level lie. His approach takes one bounce on the back of green and trickles down the slope behind the green. He's still got a good chance for a 4. Meanwhile, back at 10, Woods missed his birdie chance from about 20 feet below the hole, leaving himself a five-footer from above the hole. Pured it. He stays even through 10.

4:41 p.m. Campbell, the leader at 8-under, ripped his drive at the par-5 15th. That should allow him to have a go for the green in two. Just want Campbell needs -- another birdie.

4:37 p.m. Mike Tirico is handling the clubhouse interviews for ESPN. Larry Mize, who shot 5-under, told Tirico that he's been working so hard on his game that there's no reason he shouldn't be confident with his swing. 

4:33 p.m. Faldo says he likes Woods's chances of shooting 4-under on the back nine. Tiger's off to a good start, ripping a drive down the center at No. 10.

4:29 p.m. Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland -- you might remember him from the '08 Ryder Cup -- rolled in a six-footer at 16 to move to 5-under. Perhaps he's the Zach Johnson or Trevor Immelman of this Masters?

4:27 p.m. Jeev Mikha Singh, the first Indian to play in the Masters, is playing in Tiger's group. But all eyes remain glued on Woods, who made his birdie at 9 to finish the front nine at even par.

4:23 p.m. Campbell is heating up again, with birdies on 12 and 13. He's now at 7-under. Woods stuck his approach to two feet at No. 9, setting up what will likely be his first bird.

4:20 p.m. Sorry, lost my wifi there for a moment. The usual CBS crew -- Nantz, Faldo, Feherty, et al. -- is calling the action for ESPN. Harry Connick Jr. narrated the opening monologue. Sappy as ever. 

4:08 p.m. After a birdie at 10, Mahan dunked his approach at 11. Double bogey knocks him back to 3-under. Man, I'm good.

4:03 p.m. Hunter Mahan's worth keeping an eye on. He's already 5-under with the back nine still to play, and we saw what kind of steel he has at last year's Ryder Cup. Wouldn't surprise me if he shoots 66 today.


4:00 p.m. Sorry, Mike. Woods came up short on the long par-3 fourth, then got up and down from the bunker to save par.


3:57 p.m. Get your remotes ready. ESPN's coverage starts in three minutes.


3:55 p.m. Tiger's not taking advantage of the good scoring conditions. He's 1-over through 7 holes. You gotta believe, though, if he can get within 4 or 5 shots of the lead come Sunday, he'll be a factor one way or the other. Just ask Sean O'Hair.  


3:51 p.m. Furyk has always been painted as a gritty player, the kind of guy whose attitude and accuracy suits the U.S. Open more so than the Masters. Be curious to see if you can keep it together.   


3:45 p.m. Jim Furyk made a big-time move, birdieing 14, 15, 16 and 17 to get to 6-under. Norman just told Golf Channel that he didn't have any goals for today, and that he would "extract" whatever score the course would give him. "I'm very happy with the way I played," he said.


3:35 p.m. Anybody think Sergio has a chance? Sergio doesn't. Yesterday he said: "I’m not feeling that great. I don’t feel like my short game is in good shape at the moment.”  I'm thinking maybe he's talking down his game to lower expectations. He's 1-under through 15. 


3:27 p.m. The top end of the leaderboard is starting to look like one you'd find at a Champions Tour event—Mize at 5-under, Langer and Norman at 2-under, Crenshaw at 1-under. You have to love that about the Masters, even if it rarely lasts past Thursday. 


3:20 p.m. If the forecast pans out, the only real chance of rain and high winds is tomorrow afternoon. That could be good news for Tiger, Anthony Kim, Rory McIlroy and tomorrow's other early starters. 


3:17 p.m. Jim, your dream finish may materialize yet. Mize has gotten it to 5-under through 14. Unreal.


3:14 p.m. Shingo Katayama finished at 5-under, good for the clubhouse lead. His recipe for success today? He missed just one fairway.


3:11 p.m. Norman is in the clubhouse. He shot a 2-under 70.


3:08 p.m. Kelly Tilghman reports that she bumped into Condi Rice, the former secretary of state, schmoozing outside the Augusta clubhouse. Tilghman said she has heard from a credible source that Rice may be in line for a high-powered job with the PGA Tour. You heard it here first ... okay, second.


3:00 p.m. Tiger is still even through three holes. Curious how he'll play the 240-yard par-3 fourth. It's a bear, and with the hole cut back left it plays more like 255. I watched Gary Player play that hole this morning and he couldn't get home with a driver. BTW, officially one hour until ESPN's coverage kicks off.

2:55 p.m. Just took a peek at the bottom end of the leaderboard, one of my favorite pastimes. Who would have thought Fuzzy Zoeller and Ray Floyd (both shot 7-over) would outplay Michael Campbell (8-over). Seems a long time ago Campbell basked in U.S. Open glory at Pinehurst.   

2:52 p.m. Jim from Texas asks: "How cool would it be if it came down to Mize and Norman again and Mize destroyed Norman again?" Not likely, Jim. But I'm curious if golf fans would rather see Phil and Tiger pitted against one another in the final pairing on Sunday ... or Shark contending down the stretch. Thoughts?

2:45 p.m. Retief Goosen, who I liked the win this thing, is struggling at 4-over through 17. I thought his win last month at the Transitions might set him for a big week at the Masters, where he has become a fixture in the top 5. Perhaps I thought wrong. 


2:40 p.m. Campbell, at 5-under, now has the lead by himself, one shot clear of Clark and Shingo Katayama and Angel Cabrera. Sandy Lyle just told Golf Channel that becuase of the tranquil conditions today, the par 5s are for the taking.   


2:34 p.m. Chad Campbell came out blazing with five straight birdies before parring 6 and 7. I'm told his opening birdie barrage is two shy of the Masters record.


2:31 p.m. Some updates on some fan favorites: Geoff Ogilvy, who many picked to win, is 2-under through 14.  Padraig Harrington, who has never broken 70 in the first round of the Masters, is 3-under through 13. Phil Mickelson is even through 13. Tiger parred the first.


2:27 p.m. Golf Channel interviewed leader-in-the-clubhouse Tim Clark, who said he was surprised by how short the course played. He also said the greens were particulalry receptive. That's good news for short-knockers and long-bombers alike. It's anybody's tournament.


2:23 p.m. Norman is hanging tough—2-under through 15. In my books, he's the best story at Augusta this week, and it's a story that appears is only going to get better. Had a chance to follow him a bit this morning and was struck by how determined he looked. And his galleries were massive—Tiger-like, really. Can't imagine what the scene will be like if he's in the mix on Sunday.


2:15 p.m. Thanks, Connell. Impressive blogging—six hours with no TV coverage. Great stuff. I have the privilege of being in Augusta, though not at Augusta. The club won't let us live blog from within the gates, so I'm parked on a maroon recliner in a house 10 minutes from the National. I do have an enormous plasma screen at my disposal, so I'll do my best to keep you all plugged in. 


Connell Barrett, editor-at-large for GOLF Magazine, covered the early action from the first round.


2:05PM Well, this blog has been a tradition unlike any other. I now pass the baton to Golf Magazine Senior Editor Alan Bastable. You've all been fantastic, Greg Norman haters included. Enjoy the rest of the action. Take it, Alan...

 

2:03PM Phil's 18-footer for birdie on 12 trickled left of the hole. He remains at even par heading toward 13.

 

1:59PM A reader asked about the weather. The forecast called for very little wind today, with breezes actually dying down late in the day. Right now, some flags are waving more than this morning. Still, scoring conditions are good, as Campbell is proving.

 

1:56PM Stan wonders if someone spiked his Cheerios. "Am I hallucinating or is Chad Campbell 4 under thru 4?" Actually, Campbell has birdied the first five holes now and is the sole leader. Phil just stuck an iron to 10 feet on 12. He has a nice uphill look at birdie.

 

1:53PM Phil missed a slick 6-footer on 11 to drop back to even for the day. Villegas also made bogey on 11.

 

1:48PM Mickelson's third shot on the par-4 11th leaves him about 6 feet for a par save. Two minutes to Tiger!

 

1:45PM Mickelson is about to reach Amen Corner. And Chad Campbell has swapped the milk carton he's been gracing for the Masters leaderboard. He has a share of the lead, at 4-under, along with Clark and Katayama.

 

1:41PM Ogilvy (tops this year on Tour in putting) made his short birdie putt on 12, to go to 1-under. I wouldn't bet a penny of my dwindling 401-K that Ogilvy won't be there come Sunday.

 

1:40PM Actually, the Shark's chip on 13 was worse than I thought. He had about 35 feet left. Two-putt for par.

 

1:32PM Texas Jim posts, "Connell, for at least a week, you have the best job in the world." Jim, if I don't stop pinching myself, I'll have to sue me for sexual harassment. In other news, Norman's lengthy eagle chip on 13 came up about 18 feet short. And pre-tourney favorite Ogilvy knocked his tee shot on 12 close.

 

1:30PM Norman hit his second shot on the par-5 13th over the green. Also: T (as in Tiger) minus 20 minutes until You Know Who.

 

1:26PM A poster pleads, "Can you please give us some Philly Mick updates? Norman is a nice story, but let's get a little discussion about somebody who's actually going to contend." We hear you. Phil finished the front 9 at 1-under and is heading toward Amen Corner. Stand by for more on the thrill that is Phil.

 

1:22PM The Golf.com curse lives! Cabrera made bogey on the 11th to drop down to 2-under. Me and my big mouth...

 

1:20PM Rejoice, Shark lovers. Norman got up and down on 12, to stay at 1-under.

 

1:17PM Former U.S. Open champ Angel Cabrera can put some distance between himself and the rest of the leaderboard. He posted a front-nine 32 to share the lead with Tim Clark (for now). If he survives Amen Corner, he'll have the two back-nine par-fives to attack. He has the talent and experience to go low.

 

1:12PM The Shark found the beach on 12, hitting is 8-iron into the front bunker. He'll have to work to avoid a second-straight Amen Corner bogey.

 

1:07PM Norman bogeys the par-4 11th, to drop to 1-under. He's about to tee off on 12 which, at 148 yards with little wind, has been inviting players to attack the flag.

 

1:03PM Curse? What curse? Tim Clark, who won the Par-3 Tournament yesterday, has posted an opening round 68, to take sole possession of the lead at 4-under.

 

12:56PM Jim from Texas is so onto you, Lords of Augusta! "Does anyone else think it is interesting that Norman had a morning tee time and Tiger has a late tee time? Those Masters folks know how to keep people interested all day long." I'm interested to see how Norman handles Amen Corner. With 13 and 15 reachable today, the Shark has a shot at a low back nine.

 

12:49PM What's wrong with Michael Campbell? The U.S. Open champion trails the pack, at 7-over. Where's Jim Nantz when you need a pithy comment? ("Campbell is mmmm-mmmm bad.")

 

12:41PM Norman has moved it to 2-under through 9, making his way toward Amen Corner. He's 2 off the lead.

 

12:36PM Rock-steady Nick Watney just birdied 13 to go to 3-under, 1 behind the leaders. On 11, Gary Player drained a 30-footer to save par. He's at a solid 3-over, playing in his last Masters. Player is a national treasure -- full of stories, jokes, enthusiasm, and love for the game. He's golf's answer to Grandpa Simpson, once he gets talking. I love the guy. He's the international Arnie.

 

12:29PM With birdies on 13 and 15, Tim Clark has jumped into a tie for the lead with Fisher, at 4-under.

 

12:26PM I think the experienced Norman has a big advantage on the greens: He knows that all putts break toward Stadler.

 

12:24PM To which Big Dan replies: "Norman will probably play fine ... until Faldo shows up in the TV tower."

 

12:23PM Texas Jim will have none of the Norman love-fest. "Norman will be the media darling the first couple of days and then the leaders will take over the headlines on the weekend. There is a reason why no other 54 year olds have won or been close."

 

12:18PM Hey, Phil Phanatics. Lefty is being Lefty, with a bogey and two birdies through five holes. Speaking of U.S. Amateur champions, look for rookie Danny Lee, from New Zealand, to finish as the top amateur. I think he'll notch a top 10, actually. He knows from spine-tingling greens (he won the Amateur on Pinehurst No. 2), and he's among the best iron players in the entire field.

 

12:12PM I'm not saying I don't enjoy Ray Floyd and the Walrus, but... just 5,987 seconds until Tiger tees off. Just saying... In other news, while Norman is 1-under, Larry Mize is at 2-under. Wouldn't the Shark love that Sunday pairing? Maybe Bob Tway could caddie for Mize.

 

12:05PM He's cruising at 1-under right now. Let's talk about Norman's chances this week. He's as fit as a marathon runner. And, as mental-game teacher Dr.Joe Parent -- who has worked with Vijay Singh and David Toms -- told me recently: "Norman showed at last year's British that he still has the length to win a major." And who in the field knows the course better than the Shark? Can he do it?

 

11:58AM The Masters video feed didn't show the action on the 13 green, but Fisher, who had an eagle putt from about 20 feet, apparently 3-putted. He stands at 4-under through 13. A big opportunity lost.  

 

11:51AM Who says Augusta's gotten too tough? Of the players in action, 34 of them are at par or better.

 

11:49AM Still waiting for Fisher's eagle putt on the 13th green. Meanwhile, Greg Norman birdied the par-3 6th to go 1-under. Hmmmm...

 

11:43AM If we're going to rip Augusta National for its 37 total minutes (give or take) of Thursday TV coverage, we should praise them for their superb HD video action. The picture is crisp and clear. And it's user-friendly. Poster HB agrees: "This HD video on the Masters website is gorgeous! And all the little features like picture-in-picture so you can watch multiple holes at once is soooo cool."

 

11:38AM With 194 yards to the flag, leader Ross Fisher pulls a long iron on the par-5 13th and knocks it about 20 feet past the hole. He has an eagle putt to go to 6-under.

 

11:34AM See below. In the posts, "Mike C" has a story about a literal run-in with Greg Norman. (In fairness, the Shark cannot currently be reached for comment. He's a bit busy.)

 

11:29AM Fisher lashed a perfect drive on the par-5 13th, completing his tour or Amen Corner. Will he go for the green in two? On the opposite end of the spectrum, Billy Mayfair is 8-over. I have notified the Humane Society.

 

11:24AM Leader Fisher's 15-foot birdie putt on 12 burned the hole's left edge. He tapped in for par. He looks relaxed and confident, like he expects to make birdies.

 

11:22AM I give Norman credit for candor. Last week he flatly said that he "probably" couldn't win this week. He's now cruising along at even-par through 4 holes.

 

11:17AM Greg Norman is not getting a lot of love on our boards. "A jerk," says one poster. Another writes: "Greg Norman's career seems to not just be remembered as one collapse, but many runner up finishes." There were many, but for pure brutality, nothing surpasses the '96 Masters. It was like something Mel Gibson could have directed in Aramaic.

 

11:12AM The leader Ross Fisher drops a 4-foot birdie putt on the brutal 11th hole, to go to -4.

 

11:09AM They're taking dead-aim on the par-3 12th. So far, there's not a hint of wind. The course can be had today.

 

11:04AM Texas Jim asks, "Connell, what is your prediction of the winner's final score?" I think 280 -- that's 8-under -- is the over-under this year. I have a gut feeling that scores will be lower than some have guessed. The Augusta higher-ups want to go back to the future and see some weekend fireworks. That's why they moved up to the tee, if only eight yards, on no. 15. They don't want to see the Masters become a U.S. Open slog. Immelman won it at 8-under last year. I like 10-under this week, with good weather.

 

10:54AM Bradley makes an interesting point: "Am I the only one who finds it funny/odd Palmer had a caddie and full staff bag of 14 clubs to hit 1 drive?" Actually, that's very much in Arnie's M.O. When he plays at Latrobe CC in Pa., Palmer plays with two bags on his cart -- he's a club junkie, always switching out driver heads and retaping his clubs during a round.

 

10:50AM Finally, live web coverage is beginning! But first, a shout out to our winner of the Golf Nerd Award (I mean that in a good way). Gregory writes: "Does waking up at 5 AM Friday morning local time in Okinawa, Japan to watch live Masters coverage make me a Masters junky? If so, I am guilty as charged."  

 

10:41AM A poster just stiff-armed me for suggesting that if Tiger's driving is off today, he's in trouble. "Tiger was also missing the fairways right at Torrey about 9 1/2 months ago on Thursday too." Good point. And even if he slices his opening tee shot into John Daly's trailer, Steve Williams (name-drop) told me that Tiger is the one player he's ever seen who can correct his swing mid-round. "He couldn't do that before he started working with Hank Haney. It's incredible. He's so in-tune with his swing."

 

10:34AM The Great White Shark begins his Return to Augusta (he last played here in 2002) with a par on the first hole. Question, golf fans. Does anyone think Norman's career won'tbe defined by his 1996 Masters collapse, when he lost a six-stroke Sunday lead to Nick Faldo? Discuss.

 

10:29AM I can see someone like Fisher leading this thing by day's end. But Thursday is a Bubba Watson drive away from Sunday. David Feherty once told me, "On Sunday, for the leader the green jacket feels heavier than a suit of armor."

 

10:24AM Ross Fisher: The legend grows. The Brit leads at 4-under through 8. So says a Texan named Jim, who posts: "I bet if you ask Ross Fisher if he would take -3 as his final score for the tourney, he would pick his ball up right now and pack it in."

 

10:20AM Hey, Arnie lovers (isn't that all of us?). The King's ceremonial tee shot was warmed by sunlight in the first fairway, maxing out at about 180-200 yards. So, he's still got Mike Weir by a few yards. (I kid Weirsy!)

 

10:15AM I know you all have Briny Baird Fever (penicillin can cure that), but some bold-faced names are about to spice things up, including Greg Norman (9:50 tee time) and the power trio of Phil Mickelson, Camilo Villegas and Jim Furyk (10:45 tee time).

 

10:08AM According to what Golf Magazine Senior Writer Cameron Morfit saw in Tiger's practice round with Bubba Watson, Woods may be fighting the rights this week off the tee.  

 

10:02AM Leader Ross Fisher is now 3-under through 6. Historically, the next three holes -- 7, 8 and 9 --present birdie chances before Amen Corner. We'll see if Fisher can pad his lead. Not that Bob is impressed. He posts: "It's early, the greens are softer. When things firm up at Augusta lately you see less birdies... You seem to always see someone like Fisher do well for a couple of days, then fold on the weekend."

 

9:54AM I feel like I'm MC-ing a Comedy Central roast. Writes Ritty, "I have one of those caddy suits -- not real comfortable. Great Halloween costume though, complete with 'Woods' on the back. I yelled at everyone who tried to take a picture anywhere near me."

 

9:47AM A post from Bob: "Did you get a chance to follow Tiger for any of his practice? Last year I followed him during his practice rounds and he was missing all the fairways right." I didn't see Tiger practice this week, but Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Rick Grayson says to keep an eye on Tiger's driving from the get-go today. "When Tiger's off his game, he gets late with the club and he misses right, like he did at the Match-Play," Grayson says. "If he comes out Thursday and starts splitting fairways, look out. That means he's locked in and this thing could be over long before the back nine on Sunday."

 

 

9:40AM Blog poster Steve O'Neill is en fuego this morning. First, he wondered why there's so little Masters TV coverage. "Here is the real question," he added. "Why are all the caddies dressed like my garbage man?"

 

9:34AM Tickets? Who needs tickets? If you have a few bucks saved (and if you're still employed), this is your year for deep discounts from scalpers. According to today's New York Times, a two-day weekend badge is going for about $1400, down from $2100 last year. Hey, Obama! Where's the stimulus package for ticket brokers?

 

9:29AM Young Brit Ross Fisher is 2-under through 4. Based on very early action, looks like there are birdies to be had today.

 

9:23AM Steve just made me do a double-latte spit-take when he posted: "What's the date for this year's Women's Masters?" Umm, that would be Nevertember 14-17.

 

9:17AM So says another reader: "Does anyone know why the TV coverage is so limited? After all, this is the Masters, and people would love to see it all day long!" Augusta National is all about tradition, for better and for worse. Fans are "patrons." There is no "rough." And once upon a time, they refused to let CBS even show what the front nine looked like. They've always limited TV coverage. They do things their own way.

 

9:08AM I agree, and so does another golf fan. Writes Bob, "I would love to see them let the Golf Channel carry all-day coverage, or at least follow the marquee group with an online stream."

 

9:05AM A reader named Rich is wondering why the heck we have to wait so long for television coverage to kick off on ESPN. "The TV coverage for this event for Thursday & Friday is terrible. Coverage starting at 4 pm will only let us watch live golf of the last few groups."

 

8:59AM Who will win? Who knows. But some seriously savvy Sports Illustrated golf experts make their best guess. Check them out and chime in yourself.

 

8:53AM Correction. Chez Reavie is also at the top of the leaderboard, at 1-under.

 

8:50AM Tim Clark, the winner of the Par-3 event, and Briny Baird are both at 1-under for the (very young) tournament. Or, as they say it in Georgia, "toona-mint."

 

8:45AM Phil Phactoid: Mickelson is 108th on Tour this year in putts of 5 feet or less, according to Shotlink. (I TOLD him not to hire Scott Hoch as a short game instructor.)

 

8:42AM Hey, Phil phanatics.Lefty goes off at 10:45. Brandel Chamblee made an astute point on Golf Channel last night about Mickelson, who can approach a round as a natural or as a NASA technician, depending on the day. "Is he an artist or a scientist? I think he wants to be both."

 

8:36AMI'm interested to see if course conditions, pin placements and the weather will let longer hitters gun for the greens in two on the back-nine par-5s, no.s 13 and 15. No offense to the last two champions, Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman, but who wants to see a wedge-a-thon at Augusta? Give us the drama.   

 

8:32AM Today's forecast in Augusta is for mostly sun, mid-70s, and moderate breezes dying down by the early afternoon. Perhaps scoring conditions will be ideal for Tiger Woods, who tees off at 1:52PM.

 

8:26AMSomeone once wrote, “The golf season never ends, but it does begin. On Thursday at Augusta." Can I get an "Amen"? (Amen!) Welcome to Golf.com’s Masters blog. I’ll be here with you until 2pm today. Comments? Questions? Your can't-miss dark-horse picks? (My money’s on Ray Floyd). Post away. And let the golf season truly begin.

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