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Jason Sobel's Live Masters Blog

4/9/2009 - Golf

7:30 p.m. ET: Time to wrap things up after "only" 11½ hours.

I'll leave by answering this question, asked by only, oh, a few dozen e-mailers in the past couple of hours: How far off the lead is too far to get back into contention after Round 1?

Let me begin answering this question by using my favorite Thursday night major championship line: Leading after the opening round of a golf tournament is akin to leading after the first quarter of an NBA game. Sure, it's better to be winning than losing, but there's hardly a score that leaves a player/team out of the mix with 54 holes/36 minutes remaining in the tournament/game.

Of course, that doesn't mean a few big-name players won't be a little nervous when their heads hit the pillow Thursday night. With overnight leader Chad Campbell at 7-under 65, let's look at the status of some players heading into Round 2 …

• Tiger Woods: 2-under 70. His round could have been much, much better, but Woods should feel comfortable only five strokes off the lead. As much as he enjoys telling the media that he prefers major championships in which the winning score is in the single digits under par, he tends to fare better in situations in which there are plenty of red numbers.

• Trevor Immelman: 1-under 71. He was co-leader after last year's opening round, then went wire-to-wire to claim the green jacket. So we know Immelman can succeed as a front-runner, but can he do so while chasing the lead? We'll find out.

• Vijay Singh: 1-under 71. After two full months of poor play and disappointing results, Singh has to be ecstatic with anything in the red. This should give him something he hasn't received much in competition lately: confidence.

• Phil Mickelson: 1-over 73. That's a pretty un-Phil-like scorecard, with two birdies, three bogeys and a whole lotta pars. At 8 back, he's not out of it, but if the conditions remain benign Friday, he could fire a 68 or 69 to get back into the mix.

• Fred Couples: 1-over 73. Ideally, Couples would rather be higher on the leaderboard, of course, but he has never been much of a front-runner. Freddie would rather wait in the weeds and make his move when no one is looking. Plenty of time for that.

• Ernie Els: 3-over 75. Uh-oh. Now we're sort of moving into sweat-stain territory. The Big Easy took an opening-round-worst 34 putts Thursday. He'll likely need something under par to make the cut, and something sub-70 just to get into some semblance of contention.

• Retief Goosen: 3-over 75. See Els, Ernie.

As I wrote, there's plenty of time for most players to get back into the mix. But that will change in Round 2 when the contenders are separated from the pretenders.

Thanks for all the e-mails during Round 1 -- 1,050 and counting so far. I'll be back at 8 a.m. ET on Friday. Until then, hit 'em straight …


7:22 p.m. ET: Tiger Woods just spoke to Mike Tirico after his round:

"I let a couple of shots slip away at the end. … A score could have been had out there. … You can definitely go get it. … I just kind of hung in there, knew the back nine could be had. … I was in position to shoot 4- or 5-under-par."

As for his return to the Masters, Tiger claimed, "Just kind of felt the same, just plodding along."

Plodding. That's a good way to describe that round.


7:18 p.m. ET: Despite giving those shots away on the last three holes, Woods ties his best-ever opening-round score at Augusta with a 70.

Might want to keep in mind this interesting little nugget: On each of the three previous occasions in which he opened with 70, Woods won the Masters.

I'm just sayin'.


7:14 p.m. ET: Yikes.

After blowing his approach over the green, Tiger shows little touch on the birdie chip, scooting it well past the hole and down into the ridge in the middle of the green.

He'll have about a 50-footer for par … and lags it up nicely to a foot. But that's a bogey, and he'll end at 2-under 70.

Sounds OK, but Woods was just throwing strokes away on these last few holes. Really, he could have holed birdie putts on 16 and 17, and gotten up and down with a chip on 18. And, uh, 5-under 67 would have sounded a little better than 70.

You'd better believe TW would like these last 45 minutes of his life back.


7:09 p.m. ET: After Stewart Cink hits a nice approach that bounces below the hole and rolls to the back of the green, Tiger Woods -- like so many others today -- airmails the green and hits one into the gallery.

They'll move some patrons and the ropes, so it won't be an awful chip from there, but it still looked like about a two-club mistake on that one.


7:05 p.m. ET: Only two groups left on the course. After Woods/Cink/Singh is a trio of first-timers, Anthony Kim, Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa.

Those players are a combined 59 years old. That's younger than three players in the field (Gary Player, Fuzzy Zoeller and Ray Floyd) and the same age as one other (Tom Watson).


6:58 p.m. ET: I said 6 feet earlier, but really it's closer to about 3 for Tiger Woods' birdie attempt to move to 4-under on 17 …

And he missed it.

Wow.

He never misses from that close. OK, almost never.

The hidden story of Woods' round is that he's going to wind up shooting somewhere between 68 and 70 without really putting all that well.

He has now taken 30 putts through 17 holes.


6:52 p.m. ET: Not going anywhere for a while?

If it feels like this opening round is taking forever, well, you're not too far off.

The second-to-last group of Woods/Cink/Singh teed off exactly five hours ago … and is just now getting up to the 17th green.

Gonna be a 5:20 round or so. That's looooong. Especially when there are only 96 players in the field and there's no wind.


6:50 p.m. ET: Great note from the TV folks: After 12 holes, Tiger Woods was nine strokes off the lead. About an hour later, after the 16th, he was only four back.

And now he's just dialed in: Great approach on 17 after a bomb off the tee. He'll have about a 6-footer for birdie to move to 4-under.


6:43 p.m. ET: I've said it before and I'll say it again: The two most exciting players in golf -- just talking about how they play, not who they are or what their résumés contain -- are Camilo Villegas and Andres Romero.

For each player, eagle is always as much a possibility as double-bogey. And pars are frowned upon.

Let's look at the scorecards today:

• Villegas (1-over 73): Six birdies, five pars, seven bogeys
• Romero (3-under 69): One eagle, six birdies, seven pars, three bogeys, one double-bogey

Between the two of 'em, that's one eagle, 12 birdies, 12 pars, 10 bogeys and one double.

Like I said: exciting.


6:41 p.m. ET: Woods hits a solid tee shot on 16 -- stupid "Get in the hole!" patron notwithstanding -- to about 12 feet above the hole, but he misses the downhill breaking putt.

Tiger remains at 3-under with two holes to play.


6:34 p.m. ET: Interesting stat: The top 13 players on the current leaderboard (everyone at 4-under or better) collectively own a combined five career major victories -- and no one has more than one.

Those with a major include Jim Furyk, Angel Cabrera, Mike Weir, Larry Mize and Todd Hamilton.


6:27 p.m. ET: E-mail from Gareth in Houston:

Lest we forget Casey Wittenberg in 2004! He finished in 13th place that year, the lowest amateur finish in 41 years.

Wow. OK, let's just sort of forget that I even posted about the amateurs before. Hey, 4-for-8 -- that's a good average, right?

This may also prove that it takes only 10 hours and 27 minutes of live blogging before a brain turns to absolute mush.


6:23 p.m. ET: Tiger misses on the low side at 15, but he'll have a tap-in to clean up from there for a third straight birdie.

Here's guessing that if you told TW two hours ago that he could post a 69, he would have taken it and ran.

Of course, it's still not a done deal. With three holes to play, anything can happen.


6:19 p.m. ET: Don't forget those prop bets from earlier in the day.

Daisuke Matsuzaka walked three batters for the Red Sox today. Tiger Woods now has three birdies … and a very good opportunity for a fourth -- or maybe an eagle -- here on 15.

Just above the hole in two, he'll have about a 15-footer for eagle. It would move him to 4-under and within three strokes of the lead.


6:17 p.m. ET: E-mail from Andre in San Diego:

I'm pretty sure Ricky Barnes was an amateur when he made the cut and finished 21st at the Masters in 2003.

What a stupid I am.

Sorry, missed that whole year, as Barnes, Ryan Moore and, yes, Hunter Mahan all made the cut as ams. So that's seven this decade, not four.


6:12 p.m. ET: Much like Chad Campbell before him, Hunter Mahan bogeyed the final hole, barely missing his par attempt.

Mahan finishes at 6-under 66, one shot behind Campbell.

Meanwhile, Kenny Perry is sitting at 5-under with three to play. I still maintain that last year Perry may have had the best season ever for a player who competed in only one major championship round. Remember: He didn't qualify for the Masters, didn't try to qualify for the U.S. Open, qualified but chose not to play in the British Open, and played in one round at the PGA Championship before withdrawing because of an eye injury.


6:06 p.m. ET: Chad Campbell, speaking with Mike Tirico after his round, was asked if 63 entered his mind during play:

"It did, absolutely. It's hard not to. … Little upset with the way I finished, but hopefully [I'll] go out there tomorow and keep it going."


6:03 p.m. ET: Well, so much for Tiger Woods' struggles, huh?

After a birdie on 13, TW drains a 25-footer on 14 to move to 2-under. If he can come in with a score of 1-under for his last four holes, that'll be his best Masters opening round ever.

How quickly things can turn.

And for those wondering how far back too far back is for Woods entering Round 2, it's not even a concern now. I'll put it this way: He's close enough.


5:56 p.m. ET: E-mail from "Michigan State":

As many of us Michigan State students have been blowing off class to watch the Masters today, we're all probably wondering about the same thing: Our very own Jack Newman finished up his round with an even-par 72. Any thoughts about Newman maybe sticking in there, and at the very least has he shown he might be better than your estimate of him finishing 88th? We're all pulling for him, however unlikely it may be!

Well, he did finish up really well, playing the final five holes in 4-under. That said, we've gotta look at recent history and pay attention to this fact:

No amateur has made the Masters cut since 2005.

In fact, only four have made the cut this decade: Ryan Moore (2005), Luke List (2005), Brandt Snedeker (2004) and David Gossett (2000).


5:46 p.m. ET: Blog Jinx!

Wasn't it just a few minutes ago that we were discussing the potential for the first-ever 62 in a major from Chad Campbell?

Well, after a bogey on 17, he just made another on 18, missing a 5-footer for par.

He'll sleep on a 65 tonight -- but with a bit of a bad taste in his mouth after a bogey-bogey finish.


5:42 p.m. ET: Larry Mize. Shingo Katayama. John Merrick.

Lots of surprises high on the leaderboard, but only one name rivals Mize as a shocker:

Todd Hamilton.

In five previous Masters starts, the 2004 British Open champ has made the cut on three occasions, but he has never finished better than T-36 and never posted a round in the 60s.

In nine starts on the PGA Tour this season, he has made the cut only twice: a T-39 at the Honda and a T-59 at Bay Hill.

Today? Hamilton posted a 4-under 68. Shocker.


5:32 p.m. ET: Like Chad Campbell, Hunter Mahan has posted nine birdies today.

He did make double-bogey on the 11th, but other than that he has enjoyed a terrific round.

Mahan is now at 7-under and just one back of Campbell. There's a decent chance we'll have co-leaders -- or even Mahan as solo leader -- by the end of the afternoon.


5:29 p.m. ET: Blog Jinx!

I'd hate to take any credit -- or blame -- but after talking so much about Chad Campbell and tempting the fates … he just carded his first bogey of the day on No. 17.

Making matters even worse, Campbell has driven his ball into a fairway bunker on 18. It'll be a tough par from there. If he can somehow get up-and-down, though, it's a 63.

Don't bet on it.


5:25 p.m. ET: Speaking of Tiger, he just stroked a birdie putt on No. 12 that appeared to be dead-center … and it somehow missed.

Time to play everyone's favorite parlor game: "What Will Tiger Say After the Round?"

A few possible candidates …

• "I hit the ball beautifully. I just couldn't get anything in the hole."

• "It's frustrating. You prepare and you work so hard. To miss by this little on every hole is just frustrating."

• "Well, I know I can putt the way I want. I feel good over the ball, so hopefully they just start dropping."

• "No, definitely not too far back. I've won here before after shooting a similar score, so definitely still in it."


5:15 p.m. ET: E-mail from Ryan in Santa Clara, Calif.:

It seems like TW has not been dominating the par-5s this year as he has in years past (even par on them today so far). Is there any analysis available as to how he's fared in comparison to earlier in his career?

I don't have his par-5 scoring average, but I do have birdie-or-better percentage on these holes, listed with PGA Tour rank in parenthesis (rank only dates back to 2006):

• 2009: 50.0 percent (14th)
• 2008: 50.0 percent (5th)
• 2007: 51.7 percent (2nd)
• 2006: 57.1 percent (1st)
• 2005: 53.4 percent
• 2004: 54.6 percent
• 2003: 59.6 percent
• 2002: 55.2 percent
• 2001: 55.9 percent
• 2000: 55.5 percent
• 1999: 54.8 percent
• 1998: 48.5 percent
• 1997: 51.7 percent
• 1996: 51.5 percent

A lot of factors can play into the decline in par-5 birdie percentage for Woods. He plays fewer events now -- and fewer of the so-called birdie-fests on tour -- so that kills a few opportunities. Plus, he'll willingly offer that he doesn't hit the ball as far as he did when he was younger.

Tiger has two more par-5s to go. Let's keep an eye on how he fares.


5:08 p.m. ET: After pushing his 25-foot birdie putt about 4 feet past the hole on 16, Campbell makes a nervy comebacker to stay at 9-under.

He currently leads by three strokes. Unless someone (Hunter Mahan?) can make a run on the final few holes, it looks like he'll remain in second place at 6-under and Campbell will lead by … well, however many better than 6-under he ends up.


5:05 p.m. ET: Great stat from Krag in Parts Unknown:

Woods has as many putts as Campbell and they are five holes apart!!

Wow. FYI: Woods is on the 11th hole right now, currently at even par.


5:02 p.m. ET: Which will win out: Chad Campbell or the Blog Jinx?

According to the e-mailers, it's the Blog Jinx.

From David in Parts Unknown:

Are you trying to keep Chad from the record? You might as well pick him to win while you're at it to destroy his chances.

From Matthew in Onalaska, Wisc.:

You just jinxed Campbell something fierce.

From Thomas in Parts Unknown:

I think you just jinxed the heck out of Campbell.

Hopefully not. I'd feel terrible. After all, no bogeys, nine birdies in his first 15 holes -- he couldn't fall victim to the Blog Jinx, could he?

We will see …


4:59 p.m. ET: In case you were wondering, here's the entire list of players who have shot 63 in major championship rounds:

Masters
• Nick Price, 1986, third round (9-under)

• Greg Norman, 1996, first round (9-under)

U.S. Open
• Johnny Miller, 1973 (Oakmont), final round (8-under)

• Jack Nicklaus, 1980 (Baltusrol), first round (7-under)
• Tom Weiskopf, 1980 (Baltusrol), first round (7-under)
• Vijay Singh, 2003 (Olympia Fields), second round (7-under)

British Open
• Mark Hayes, 1977 (Turnberry), second round (7-under)
• Isao Aoki, 1980 (Muirfield), third round (8-under)

• Greg Norman, 1986 (Turnberry), second round (7-under)

• Paul Broadhurst, 1990 (St. Andrews), third round (9-under)
• Jodie Mudd, 1991 (Birkdale), final round (7-under)

• Nick Faldo, 1993 (St. George's), final round (7-under)
• Payne Stewart, 1993 (St. George's), final round (7-under)

PGA Championship
• Bruce Crampton, 1975 (Firestone), second round (7-under)
• Raymond Floyd, 1982 (Southern Hills), first round (7-under)
• Gary Player, 1984 (Shoal Creek), second round (9-under)
• Vijay Singh, 1993 (Inverness), second round (8-under)
• Michael Bradley, 1995 (Riviera), first round (8-under)

• Brad Faxon, 1995 (Riviera), final round (8-under)
• Jose Maria Olazabal, 2000 (Valhalla), third round (9-under)
• Mark O'Meara, 2001 (Atlanta AC), second round (7-under)
• Thomas Bjorn, 2005 (Baltusrol), third round (7-under)
• Tiger Woods, 2007 (Southern Hills), second round (7-under)


4:54 p.m. ET: Chad Campbell is just off the green in two on the par-5 15th. Great chip, spins it to within inches and there's no way I can jinx him by saying it's a birdie from there.

Campbell will move to 9-under with three holes to play.

Just for the record, there have been 23 previous rounds of 63 in major championship history, the latest of which was Tiger Woods' second round in the 2007 PGA Championship.

I'm also willing to bet that no player has ever had two stretches of four birdies or more in the same round at the Masters. Campbell birdied the first five and has birdied the last four. I'll see whether I can find out for sure.


4:49 p.m. ET: E-mail from "G" in Parts Unknown:

What kind of odds would you have gotten for the following bet yesterday: In Round 1 of the Masters, Greg Norman will beat nine out of the top 10 ranked players in the world, but still trail Larry Mize by 3 shots and be at least 4 shots out of the lead going into Round 2? A couple of players in the top 10 still on the course (including Mr. Woods, of course), but it may well happen.

Great point. It should be noted that while the players on the leaderboard are all very solid guys, I'd say only Jim Furyk is an upper-echelon elite-type player. And even he has slipped to No. 15 in the OWGR from being top-five a year or two ago.


4:44 p.m. ET: Let's just put that last post in perspective.

There have been 406 major championships. No one has ever shot a 62 in any of them. Chad Campbell is a nice player, owns four career PGA Tour victories, but he's a bit of an underachiever, especially here at Augusta.

These are his scores in his five previous appearances (he didn't qualify last year):

• 2003: 77-77 (MC)

• 2004: 76-77 (MC)

• 2005: 73-73-67-75 (T-17)

• 2006: 71-67-75-71 (T-3)

• 2007: 77-77 (MC)

What has been going so right for Campbell today? Uh, might wanna check those putting stats. Through 14 holes, he has needed just 16 total putts. Yes, 16. That's 1.14 putts per hole.


4:38 p.m. ET: Which one of these doesn't belong: Nick Price … Greg Norman … Chad Campbell?

Well, maybe none of 'em.

Campbell just birdied the par-4 14th hole to move to 8-under for the day. With the par-5 coming up, he could very well be knocking on the door of becoming the third player ever to shoot 63 at Augusta National.

Wanna take it one step further? If Campbell finishes with two birdies and two pars -- or an eagle and three pars -- he'll shoot 62. And guess what? While more than two dozen players have posted a 63 in major championship play, no one has ever shot 62.

Chad Campbell could be the first.


4:27 p.m. ET: Back in a few. Going on ESPN Radio with Freddie Coleman right now …


4:25 p.m. ET: Birdie for Chad Campbell on No. 13, and he's now 7-under with five holes to play.

Since you're bound to ask …

The low round here at Augusta National is 63, posted by Nick Price in the third round in 1986 and Greg Norman in the first round in 1996.

Campbell needs to come in with two more birdies and three pars to match it.


4:22 p.m. ET: Looked like trouble for Larry Mize on 18. Over the green, though, he gets up and down, holing about an 18-foot putt for par to close with a 67.

For those who bet on a 48-and-over player shooting under par, count your cash.


4:17 p.m. ET: In his first comments in the interview room after coming off the course with a 2-under 70, this is what Greg Norman had to say:

"Well, my whole objective today, like I've been saying, is to come in here and play solid and keep your expectations low. The golf course obviously was totally different than what we had from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and the whole idea for any player is really [to] get yourself off to a good, solid start. I did that today. I had a lot of opportunities, really could have shot a nice, mid-60s score today. I didn't. I'm not complaining."

Norman actually had some pretty funny comments about his son Gregory, 23, who caddied for him:

Question: Gregory said after the round that he could feel a lot of love for you on every hole. Why, in your mind, do you think that is?

Greg Norman: Hey, everybody loves me. Nothing wrong with that, is there? Are you jealous?

Q: How many holes did he overrule you on?

GN: Overrule me? No, he agreed with everything I did today.

Norman was asked about Larry Mize, as well.

Q: Larry Mize is high on the leaderboard.

GN: I haven't even noticed the leaderboard to tell you the truth.

Q: He's 5-under.

GN: Good for Larry. Well, that's great. It's great to see that.

Hmmm … don't you get the feeling that Norman's insides started churning with those comments, knowing he'll have to deal with Mize again if he's on the leaderboard this weekend?

I wonder whether Australian golf fans refer to Mize the same way Boston Red Sox fans refer to Bucky Dent. You know -- "Larry Bleeping Mize!"


4:07 p.m. ET: Back to the SportsNation chat for a few minutes … see you there.


4:05 p.m. ET: Who would have thought that someone could shoot 66 today … and still not lead this tourney at the end of the day?

Well, that could happen.

Chad Campbell just birdied No. 12 to move to 6-under with six holes left to play, including both par-5s on the back nine.


3:57 p.m. ET: Shingo Katayama met with the media a little while ago, and well, I came away confused at this opening exchange …

Question: You were 2-under through Amen Corner, and I believe that even Bobby Jones might be surprised to see that happening. Could you give us an impression; how do you feel about that?

Shingo Katayama: I don't know about Bobby Jones. I was just playing my golf, so I can't tell how he feels.

I don't think I'm gonna touch that one. Moving on …

Q: Is there any specific reason today that you shot really well and you putted really well?

SK: I think that I was able to just come to this tournament, and when I was just doing really well, and I think that is one of the reasons why I think I did really well today.

Ummm ... sort of sounds like Boo Weekley, doesn't he?

Q: How you felt before and how you felt today, do you feel any difference? Can you tell us any difference between the other experiences at the Masters and today's experience at the Masters?

SK: Well, it used to be that I was so happy just to be standing at the tee, but last year I was not able to make the cut, and that was a really bitter experience for me. This year, I really wanted to do better than that. I started training from the winter, thinking how can I win this tournament, how can I be a contender in this tournament, and that is the difference.

There you go. He thought about it, and it happened. Perfect.


3:55 p.m. ET: Not to jinx Jim Furyk, but the last time he held an opening-round lead at a tourney was three weeks ago.

He shot 65 at the Transitions Championship, then followed with a 78 the next day to make the cut on the number and finished in a share of 52nd place.


3:53 p.m. ET: Jim Furyk closed out with par on the last hole to shoot 66.

That's not only his personal best at Augusta National, but it's the lowest score here since Jose Maria Olazabal shot a final-round 66 in 2006. No one has fared better since Tiger Woods and Trevor Immelman both shot 7-under 65 in Round 3 of the 2005 edition.


3:47 p.m. ET: I can't type fast enough to keep up with all of these leaderboard changes.

Hunter Mahan is now at 5-under through 10, while Mike Weir finished with a 4-under 68.


3:41 p.m. ET: I knew this one was coming. Just knew it. From Ed in Dallas:

With nearly 40 golfers under par, one has to ask: Is this the old or new Augusta course? The bite is gone.

What a fickle bunch we are. The past two years, this course was too difficult, there were no roars and everyone complained. Now, it's too easy, everyone is making birdies … and we're gonna complain some more?

What's really ironic is the fact that the course has barely changed from last year to this year -- just a couple of very, very subtle tweaks that shouldn't be a major factor in scoring.

The difference is Mother Nature. The past two years were cool and windy; today is absolutely perfect, so players are posting great scores.

Just an FYI: This is how the British Open venues are set up every year. The Royal & Ancient sets 'em up the way they want, then allows the weather to determine scoring.

This is how Augusta National officials have gone about things, too. And I think it's great.


3:36 p.m. ET: Take me to your leader: Jim Furyk.

Fourth straight birdie on No. 17 puts Furyk at 6-under for the day heading to the final hole. If he pars the last, that will be a 6-under 66.

Furyk's previous best score at the Masters is a 67, posted in the third round in 1998 and second round in '05.


3:33 p.m. ET: E-mail from John in Parts Unknown:

Tiger had better stop sparring with the course and flicking out jabs (to continue your boxing analogy). Leaderboard says even par is tied for 36th. Cut is top 44 and ties (and those within 10 of the lead). Do I really think Tiger is going to be close to missing the cut? No, of course not, but how about a good left hook to the body and an overhand right to the jaw.

He would love to … but it's just not happening right now.

Woods pulls his drive on No. 7 well left into the tall pines. Not looking like himself right now.


3:30 p.m. ET: Just a little food for thought: Had Chad Campbell and Tiger Woods been playing match play today, Campbell would be 6-up through six holes.


3:27 p.m. ET: Still even through five, Tiger Woods is in the front greenside bunker on No. 6. Leaves it about 10 feet below the hole and … misses the right-to-left breaker on the low side.

That's a bogey for TW. He falls to 1-over for the first time today.


3:23 p.m. ET: Safe to say we've gotten the roars back on the back nine here at Augusta National.

With birdies on 14, 15 and 16, Jim Furyk is now among those at 5-under as well, tied with Shingo Katayama (in the clubhouse), Larry Mize (through 14) and Chad Campbell (through 10).

Speaking of Campbell, after five straight birdies to start his round -- which at least tied a Masters record, if not broke it, for birdies to begin a round -- he now has posted five straight pars.


3:16 p.m. ET: C'mon, people. I said I was sorry. And yet, you can't forgive me for that little slip-up on Norman's final putt …

From Mike in Parts Unknown:

As if Greg Norman doesn't have enough cosmic energy working against him at Augusta, you just had to unleash the Blog Jinx on him, too? Shame on you.

From Ryan in Indianapolis:

Seriously. I asked you not to screw with Norman. You write he is about to go 3-under with a birdie on 18 and apparently he missed it. Leave him alone, please.

From Chris in Parts Unknown:

You're officially banned from mentioning him in the blog the rest of the tournament.

As if to taunt Norman only more, Larry Mize just birdied the 14th hole to move into a share of the lead at 5-under.

Really? Larry Mize? Did I just type that?

Is this the 1987 edition of the Live Blog that I'm typing on a Commodore 64 or something?

Just for some perspective, Mize is now 50 years old, has made the cut at the Masters only once (T-42 in '06) in the past eight years and hasn't finished better than T-33 in five Champions Tour appearances -- yes, the senior tour -- so far this season.


3:11 p.m. ET: Speaking of look-alikes, I'd be remiss if I didn't pimp my own article from last month on Tiger Woods impersonators.

Woods is now even through four holes. He has hit two of three fairways and three of four greens in reg but hasn't made a noteworthy putt yet.


3:05 p.m. ET: Getting this type of e-mail from a lot of you, but I'll post this from Keith in Toronto:

Norman is going to lose to Larry Mize by a stroke … again.

It's true, so far. Augusta native and 1987 champ Mize is currently 4-under through 14 while Norman is 3-und- …

Oh, no.

I did it, didn't I?

I'm sorry, but …

Blog jinx!

After basically saying the Shark had a gimme putt on 18, he somehow missed from some 3-4 feet. Wow, that one hurts, for both of us.

Sorry, dude. Really.

Norman shoots 70. Probably doesn't make him feel any better to know he's two shots behind Mize instead of just one, huh?


2:58 p.m. ET: I did say leaders -- plural -- in the last post, because Chad Campbell is still on the course at 5-under. But Shingo Katayama is now in the clubhouse with a 67. His round included six birdies, 11 pars and just a lone bogey on No. 17.

But that doesn't tell the entire story.

How good was Shingo today? Let's check out the stats …

• Fairways: 13-for-14 (93 percent)

• Greens in regulation: 16-for-18 (89 percent)

• Sand saves: 0-for-0 (no bunkers)

• Total putts: 30

If his putting had just been a little bit better, Katayama could have put up an unreal number. As it is, that's a fantastic ball-striking day on any course, let alone Augusta National.


2:55 p.m. ET: Wow, Greg Norman is about to shoot a 69 here at Augusta National. Unbelievable.

The Shark just knocked an approach shot on 18 to within 3 feet. He'll be able to knock in that putt for a score of 3-under that will leave him two shots behind the leaders and in a share of sixth place.

Remember what I wrote earlier about Norman being a bigger story than anyone else if he's in contention on Sunday? Maybe it could really happen. As dramatic and entertaining as his rally at last year's British Open was, this would be 10 times more special.


2:53 p.m. ET: OK, sorry for the long delay. Been sifting through Willem Dafoe photos on Google Images. Here's a sampling of the look-alikes you sent in …

From Luke in Milwaukee:

Briny Baird and Willem Dafoe.

From Mike in New Jersey:

Kevin Sutherland and Jon Cryer.

From Steve in Peoria, Ariz.:

Geoff Ogilvy and Jake Gyllenhaal.

My take? Eh. Pretty underwhelming. Glad I just spent about 15 minutes of my life on this. Maybe we'll do more later, but please -- please -- include the pics in the e-mail. I'm not searching for 'em anymore.


2:40 p.m. ET: Even though Tim Clark played the par-3 holes in 2-over a day after winning the Par 3 Contest, we should write that off as too much irony. After all, Clark used a great wedge game to help birdie all of the par-5 holes, leading to this quote after the round:

"That's just my game really, if you've watched me. I just wish we would play a few PGA Tour events on par-3 courses, because I would have a chance."


2:36 p.m. ET: Boo Weekley is currently 1-over through seven holes, which isn't all that notable, but mentioning it gives me a chance to post one of my all-time favorite quotes.

This is from Boo, before he made his Masters debut a year ago:

"I'm looking forward to it, of course. I've heard so many things, like, 'Man, the place is unreal. I'd give my right arm to play it.' Well, how you gonna play it if you give your right arm?"

Deep thinker, that Weekley.


2:32 p.m. ET: Spy report from the course:

Tiger was in trouble off the tee on No. 2. May be making too much of it, but he does not look comfortable starting.

He did make par, which beats Andres Romero's bogey, but consider this: Of the 10 players currently on the leaderboard at 3-under or better, everyone but Henrik Stenson and Shingo Katayama made birdie on the par-5 second hole. A par there is almost like a bogey today.


2:30 p.m. ET: With birdies on 12, 13 and 14, Henrik "Two-Tone" Stenson has now moved to 3-under for the day.

Why Two-Tone? How quickly you forget.


2:21 p.m. ET: Well, the floodgates opened with the Rory McIlroy thing, so we might as well keep going …

From Matt in Denver:

Chad Campbell looks a lot like Rod Farva!

Here's Campbell … and here's Farva.

OK, let's have 'em, people. Another homework assignment. And the first to send the obligatory Zach Johnson/Joaquin Phoenix comparison is eliminated from Live Blog e-mailing capabilities for the rest of the week.


2:15 p.m. ET: E-mail from Drew in Chalfont, Pa.:

Have players with the same last name ever been leading and in last place at the same time? I saw Michael Campbell out there the other day at the practice round and his caddie was only carrying four clubs. Looks like he's still playing with only four clubs today.

Great question. If someone wants to get on that, go for it. Might take a while.


2:03 p.m. ET: Chat time. Fire away with your questions here in SportsNation.


2:01 p.m. ET: E-mail from Javier in Chicago:

Will a hot start for Padraig Harrington get the media to follow his story line? I mean, three majors in a row is a BIG DEAL regardless if Tiger was absent for the last two.

You know, I've been saying the same thing for a while … but this week, I think every single writer here at Augusta has written a "Padraig gets no respect -- he can actually win three in a row!" feature.

It's gone from nobody following his story line to everybody following his story line and chastising everyone else for not following his story line earlier. At least I can say I was one of the first.

Besides, three majors? Big deal is right. But according to Padraig, that's nothing compared with having to write about the sport.


1:58 p.m. ET: Chad Campbell. Unconscious.

Five holes. Five birdies.

Uh, I was actually just kidding about that whole 72-under thing.

With three par-5s left to play, he's got a great chance to post a really good number.


1:52 p.m. ET: Here comes Tiger Woods.

Many of you have mentioned to me through e-mails that TW must be licking his chops with so many red numbers on the board.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Remember, Tiger is almost like a boxer, just feeling his way around for the first round, getting to know his opponent, not trying to throw a knockout punch in the first few minutes. Need evidence? He's never shot better than 70 in any of a dozen Masters opening rounds since turning pro.

As for what it's like playing with Woods, well, Stewart Cink doesn't mind it. They played together during last year's final round, and Cink had this to say on his Twitter feed the other day (grammar left intact):

I'm looking forward to pairing with JSongh and Tiger. We go WAY back to the junior golf days and many rounds here at Augusta too.

It's true. Back in the day -- somewhere around 1991-93 -- they competed on opposing teams in the American Junior Golf Association's Canon Cup.

Speaking of the AJGA, which is located about two hours from here in Braselton, Ga., of the 96-player field at the 2009 Masters Tournament, 36 are AJGA alumni.

Those 36 individuals account for:

• More than 350 entries into AJGA events

• 25 entries into the Rolex Tournament of Champions

• Four entries into the FootJoy Invitational

• Eight entries into the Thunderbird International Junior

• 31 college golf scholarships

Among these 36 players:

• Three have amateur status

• Seven are former Masters champions

• Eight are playing in their first Masters

• Six foreign countries are represented


1:42 p.m. ET: E-mail from Mike in Columbus, Ohio:

I have Chad Campbell in my Masters pool. He is 4-under through four. Should I go ahead and start looking at spending my winnings? I think winning this would give me cover for a new 60-inch LCD flat screen? Wife probably wants something practical like food for the baby. What does she know?

Split the difference. A 30-inch flat screen, and just lunch and a snack for the baby.

But yeah, book it -- Campbell needs just 68 more birdies to make golfing history.


1:37 p.m. ET: Remember earlier when I said that if there was one guy who wouldn't make many pars out here it was Camilo Villegas? Well, the other guy I'd choose is Andres Romero -- and that's very much the case so far.

Romero has started birdie-bogey-eagle-birdie today.

That's not a typo. He bogeyed the par-5 second hole … and then eagled the par-4 third hole. Dude runs hot and cold -- never lukewarm.


1:33 p.m. ET: Tim Clark was just on The Golf Channel following his round of 4-under 68.

"I certainly was a lot more cautious today," he said of his strategy. "My wedge game just felt so good. I felt that if I got myself within 100 yards, I'd have a chance at birdies."

A noted short hitter, Clark employed the Zach Attack, laying up on the par-5s, and made birdie on all four of 'em.

The South African, who was runner-up here three years ago, said the course isn't playing too long right now and the greens are soft. He intimated that these conditions suit his game; if the greens get fast and firm on the weekend, he might struggle.


1:25 p.m. ET: Chad Campbell currently is on pace to go 72-under for the week.

He started birdie-birdie-birdie and currently is on No. 4. Ever since he came so close at the 2003 PGA Championship, we've been waiting for this guy to break through at a big one. Maybe this is finally the week.


1:22 p.m. ET: Bingo, bango, bongo, Shingo!

With a 10-foot eagle putt on 13 for the lead … ohhhh, Shingo Katayama barely misses. Taps in and moves to 4-under, tied at the top with Tim Clark, who's in the clubhouse already with a 68.


1:17 p.m. ET: OK, let's clear this up once and for all …

This is Danny Noonan.

This is Spaulding Smails.

And this is Rory McIlroy, who sort of looks like some sort of Noonan/Smails love child.

There. Stop the e-mails. Let's move on.


1:10 p.m. ET: Major story of the day so far is pretty obvious: On a course where supposedly the roars had all but disappeared over the past two years, red numbers are bountiful so far in the opening round.

There currently are 28 players under par for the day. In last year's opening round, there were only 18 who finished at 71 or better.

All that proves that when Mother Nature cooperates, eagles and birdies are available on this course.


1:06 p.m. ET: Yes, yes, yes, I know … that was Danny Noonan, not Smails. Obviously.

But thanks for those 600 e-mails about it.

Hey, you blog for five straight hours and try to see straight.

I'll blame the editors back in Bristol, who apparently are letting anything through today.

And yes, that's pretty much the worst mistake ever. NOONAN!!!

Moral of the story: Never trust Pete in Cincinnati.


12:55 p.m. ET: E-mail from Pete in Cincinnati:

Has anyone commented on the alarming resemblance between Rory McIlroy and Spaulding Smails?

Readers are stepping up today. Great call.

In case you need the comparison, here's Rory and here's Spaulding.

Dead ringer.


12:40 p.m. ET: When discussing the exploits of the Fish and the Duck before, I can't believe I forgot a few other water animals who are playing well right now …

From Brent in Illinois:

Does Tim Clark still not have the penguin headcover motif working for him?? Can't forget about the penguins!!

There's a reason he has the head cover. That's his nickname -- and it's appropriate. He kind of looks like one when walking down the fairway.

From Justin in Missoula, Mont.:

Don't want to jinx it, but there is also a "Shark" lurking not far back as he makes the turn.

Of course. What a stupid I am. Greg Norman is inexplicably 2-under through nine holes.

I said it during yesterday's blog and I'll say it again: If Norman can get onto the leaderboard and in serious contention on Sunday afternoon, you can have Tiger and Phil and Freddie and Padraig and anyone else … "The Shark" will absolutely be the biggest story here at Augusta come Sunday. Now I'm not saying it will happen, but if it does … wow.


12:38 p.m. ET: E-mail from Miles in Texas:

I walked into my 8 a.m. class this morning and didn't pay attention to the fact that I had spilled salsa from my breakfast tacos on my jeans. Needless to say, I walked in and was greeted with laughter and taunts of "He peed his pants!" from my classmates (If I had only had one of those pimento cheese sandwiches this wouldn't have happened). How's that for embarrassing?

Um, unless you're in third grade, I think it's actually more embarrassing to your classmates than you.

But … fine. I'll show you the pants. Here they are -- and keep the name-calling to a minimum, please. 'Preciate it.


12:35 p.m. ET: Camilo Villegas is currently even through six holes. Pretty boring, huh?

Not exactly.

Villegas has started bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey-bogey-birdie. Not a single par as of yet.

Quite frankly, if you had told me there was a player who was even but hadn't made a par one-third of the way through his round, I would have said Camilo in the first two or three guesses. Definitely an all-or-nothing type of player.


12:32 p.m. ET: Spy report from Lanier, who for some reason has decided to e-mail from the course for a second straight year at the risk of being kicked off the grounds …

I almost got my PDA taken away by the Pinkertons! Making my first trip to the restroom after a couple of beers. Norman just birdied in front of us and has a big following!

Love it. Dude comes to the Masters to sneak us spy reports, even though he could get tossed from the grounds at any time. That's diligence. Or stupidity. One of those.


12:28 p.m. ET: Tim Clark is trying to reverse The Curse, but Angel Cabrera is attempting to "duck" the Blog Jinx.

(Ha. Get it? Duck? I kill me.)

In the chat a little while ago, I had the following exchange:

Conor (Kansas City): OK, who of the early leaders so far is going to post the low number, and then promptly fall of the wagon and miss the cut, or sink on the weekend?

Jason Sobel: Well, Angel Cabrera is 3-under through seven, and though he kills the ball off the tee, he's always been iffy around the greens. I could see him falling back to the pack in a hurry.

Maybe there's a Blog Jinx, but a Chat Boost? Cabrera followed that comment with another birdie on the par-5 eighth hole. He's now tied for second place at 4-under, one stroke behind Ross Fisher.


12:24 p.m. ET: Everyone wants to ride shotgun on the Dustin Johnson express …

From Aaron in Toledo:

Dustin Johnson just put one in the drink on 11. Let's make that a double.

From Joseph in Parts Unknown:

Welcome back to earth, Dustin Johnson. Hope you enjoyed the drive.

Ouch. Harsh.


12:20 p.m. ET: So that's a Fish and a Duck (Angel Cabrera) on the leaderboard, but The Goose is 2-over at the turn.

I'm still waiting for The Dolphin, Prom Meesawat, to make a splash.

Kid looks like Thailand's answer to Peter Griffin.


12:17 p.m. ET: Back from the chat. Leaderboard check shows Ross Fisher still at 4-under, now joined in the lead by Tim Clark, who is trying to break The Curse.

One shot further back is Angel Cabrera, followed by Nick Watney, Shingo Katayama and Bernhard Langer at 2-under.


12:03 p.m. ET: E-mail from James in Connecticut:

Can we laugh a little about Tim Clark bogeying the first two par-3's after yesterday's performance? He would be far ahead if he could just par those holes he dominated yesterday.

Great call.

Clark actually bogeyed Nos. 4 and 6 on the front side before making par on the 12th. At 3-under, if he could have just posted par on those two front-side par-3s, he'd be in the lead at 5-under right now.

One player who doesn't want to see Clark head-to-head on Sunday? Tiger Woods. Remember: Clark was the man who knocked out TW in the second round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship six weeks ago.


11:56 a.m. ET: A few reader prop bets starting to come in …

From Ben in Connecticut:

Age prop bet is always good: Will any player over 60 (or 50 or 55) shoot under par?

Actually, I'm gonna set the age number at 48, which means Fred Couples and Kenny Perry can be included with the Champions Tour-eligible folks.

I'll say no.

From Jared in Boston:

Who will have more: Tiger Woods eagles and birdies in Round 1 or Dice K walks vs. Tampa at Fenway this afternoon?

I'm having deja vu. I think Jared offered up this exact bet a year ago today.

Matsuzaka looked great during the World Baseball Classic. I'll take Tiger.

From Kevin in Parts Unknown:

Over/under for people to make fun of your outfit: 18 … one per hole!!

Hey, that's not cool.

But I'll take the over. Might have cashed that one already.


11:52 a.m. ET: Among the big names struggling early, each at 2-over so far, are Luke Donald (through eight), Retief Goosen (through seven) and Ernie Els (through five).

If there's one guy who knows you're never out of it at Augusta, though, it's Goosen. Two years ago, he made the cut on the number, then shot 70-69 on the weekend to finish in a share of second place.


11:49 a.m. ET: With his ball trapped in some shrubbery alongside the 12th hole, reigning British Amateur champ Reinier Saxton had no shot, no way of getting a stance and hitting it out. Unless …

He stood beneath the bush, found his ball and chopped at it with just one hand on the club. The ball popped out, and he wasn't forced to take an unplayable. Nice ingenuity by the rookie.


11:39 a.m. ET: E-mail from Bart in East Tennessee:

I can't believe it hasn't been asked yet: What's the over/under for the number of players to shoot 85 or above? I'd put the line at three, based on scores we're seeing so far today. What do you think?

Wow, can't believe we've forgotten all about the prop bets. Need to get these going.

I think if we keep the number at 85, we've got to lower the over/under to about 0.5. Instead, let's keep the over/under at three and move the score to 81.5. Shoot single-digits over par and you're OK; shoot double-digits over par and you're over.

I'll take the over, but it's close. And Billy Mayfair isn't a lock either way; he's currently 8-over with five holes to play.

OK, need some more of these. Hit me with the prop bets.


11:35 a.m. ET: E-mail from Brit in Oviedo, Fla.:

I see that Gary Player is only 1-over through seven, while Luke Donald is 3-over in the same group. If the 73 year-old Player beats you in your group, you should automatically WD. Which player in the field would you feel worst about losing to?

Well, I already feel pretty badly, considering Luke was No. 4 on my pre-tournament rankings. But anyway ...

To answer your question, if I were a pro, I'd have a tougher time losing to Ryo Ishikawa than Gary Player. At least Player has been there, done that, and you know he can't keep it up for 36 or even 72 holes. But if you're a pro who sees the future in some 17-year-old kid and you know you can't beat him, things can get pretty pessimistic in a hurry.


11:29 a.m. ET: Sort of seems like the Golf Gods are grading on a curve so far. Ross Fisher remains at 4-under after barely missing a birdie attempt on No. 12. But of the 50 other players on the course, 46 are grouped in the 5-shot differential between 2-under and 3-over. Granted, it's still early, but so far there are a lot of pars to be made out here.


11:24 a.m. ET: E-mail from Tim in Parts Unknown:

I see Billy Mayfair is eight over through 11 holes, which begs to ask: What the hell happened to Billy Mayfair?

What happened is that he came to Augusta National.

Mayfair finished T-12 here in 1991 and T-14 in '06, but for the most part, he hasn't enjoyed much success on this course. And his play today is fairly consistent with his inconsistent play this season. In nine starts, he's made the cut only three times, finishing T-38, T-70 and T-77 in the only times he's reached the weekend. That's not so good.


11:18 a.m. ET: First spy report from the course … well, from near the course:

A little while ago, Fred Couples was sitting up on the second floor veranda of the clubhouse all alone. When his instructor, Butch Harmon, saw him, he yelled up to Couples, "You tellin' stories up there?"

Without missing a beat, Couples gestured to the empty chairs and proclaimed, "All my friends!" before starting to give a pretend speech to nobody.

Hate to see a guy so stressed out just an hour or so prior to his tee time. Hopefully he can relax a little.


11:15 a.m. ET: This past Sunday is annually my favorite non-tournament day of the golf season. Augusta National is closed to spectators and it's the last day that members can tee it up, but there also are plenty of pros on site and media members are allowed to be on the grounds.

When I was standing by the first tee four days ago, Phil Mickelson teed off and absolutely bombed one. Long, high, straight down the middle.

Didn't see what he did off the tee today, but the final result wasn't good. Mickelson starts with a bogey on the first hole.


11:09 a.m. ET:: E-mail from Unknown Michigan State student:

I am almost more excited to watch the young guns tee off at 2:03 p.m. rather than Tiger and and Stewey. Who do you like coming out on top from the trio of Rory, Ryo and Kim?

Tough call, but I think Ryo Ishikawa is a bit out of his league here. Don't get me wrong -- I think he's got a ton of talent, but at 17 and with some pretty mediocre results so far this season in the U.S., he's not exactly a leading contender coming in. And I've said my piece about Anthony Kim already. So that leaves Rory McIlroy. I've spoken with a bunch of players about him, and everyone seems to say the same thing: "He hits it a long way and straight, his iron play is really strong, he's got a terrific short game and his mental approach to the game is great." Well, that's pretty much a recipe for success, isn't it?

In case you haven't seen it, here is my feature on Rory, Ryo and Danny Lee -- the first three teenagers to play in the same Masters field.


10:57 a.m. ET:: E-mail from Brian in Rutherford, N.J.:

Vijay 1-under through 1 … right after you posted he might not make the cut. Still think he won't be around for the weekend?

No, of course not. That birdie on the first hole has completely changed my mind.

It's a marathon, not a sprint, Brian.

Here's what I wrote about Singh in my ranking of the entire field:

Blame Tiger, but when Vijay underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on Jan. 14, it was only the second-most talked about knee reparation in golf over the past year. He returned just three weeks later, but his game has been slow to heal.

In six events since the surgery, Singh lost in the second round of the Match Play, finished T-53 at Doral and T-59 at Bay Hill, and missed the cut three times. It's tough to imagine a scenario in which he breaks out of the slump and seriously contends for the title this week.

I'm sticking with that analysis.


10:52 a.m. ET: We're exactly three hours away from Tiger Woods teeing off, which isn't very noteworthy, other than the fact that it allows me to talk about one of his playing partners -- and no, not Jeev Milkha Singh.

Some of the best golf content on the Internet right now -- present company excluded … or so I hope -- is coming from Stewart Cink's personal Twitter account. Last week, he played a few practice rounds and Tweeted his way through Augusta National, informing us of weather conditions and any changes to the course. The past few days, he's done everything from take photos while driving down Magnolia Lane to giving reports on how his game is shaping up.

In fact, he just Tweeted a moment ago …

stewartcink Decided not to add any new clubs this year. In the past I've put in a more lofted fairway wood for Par 5s but decided against it this time.

I hope other players don't catch on. If they can just Tweet about themselves all the time, what's the point in reporters like myself ever asking any questions? Cink is sort of cutting out the middle man, which is good for you, bad for me. (Actually, I think it's pretty cool.)

Oh, and yes, I'm on Twitter, too. Obviously not updating it as much as the blog today, but you can check me out at username JasonSobel. And yes, I get originality points for that one.


10:45 a.m. ET: These guys are teeing off right this instant, so I might be too late, but here's an e-mail from Dean in Dallas:

Who should I pick in the Streak for the Cash game to have a lower front-nine score -- Phil Mickelson or Camilo Villegas? Either of these guys known to be a slow starter, particularly at Augusta? Spidey's never even made the cut, so I'm thinking Mick.

Tough call. Villegas can go very low … but he's never done so here at Augusta, so I'd stick with the known commodity and go with the two-time Masters champ.


10:42 a.m. ET: E-mail from John in Parts Unknown:

One of my favorite guys to watch is moving up the leaderboard -- the Japanese cowboy aka Shingo Katayama. He even walks like a cowboy!

He's certainly one of the coolest, oddest dudes out here. Always wears a cowboy hat. And sometimes sequins, too. And you thought I dressed funny …

That said, it's all working for Shingo so far, as he's birdied two of his first three holes, now tied with Bernhard Langer at 2-under, one behind Ross Fisher, who just made his first bogey of the day on No. 9.


10:34 a.m. ET: Padraig Harrington is about to tee off in search of his third straight major victory. Of course, playing professional golf isn't that difficult. Just ask him. After all, there are much tougher jobs in the golf industry.

From a Golfweek article on Harrington written by Jim McCabe:

[Mental coach Bob] Rotella caught a further glimpse into the Harrington persona just two nights before last summer's British Open. Harrington called Rotella to say that golf journalists had the toughest job in the game.

"He feels a tremendous responsibility to help them do their job," Rotella said, chuckling. "He told me, 'Sometimes, I'm on the golf course and I experience something and I so badly want to remember it and talk to the media about it after the round, that sometimes I get distracted by it.' "

No player had ever entertained such a topic to Rotella, "but it's vintage Padraig," he said.

Love it.

I say Padraig and I switch jobs one day and really find out which is more difficult. Not sure if he's ever tried blogging, but his writing has got to be better than my golf game.


10:26 a.m. ET: Ross Fisher is on fire.

The guy with "FISH" on the back of his cap now has four birdies and four pars through eight holes. On pace for a 36-under-par week, which probably would mean Augusta National officials would need to "Fishproof" the course for future tourneys.


10:22 a.m. ET: Great threesome about to tee it up, as Vijay Singh, Geoff Ogilvy and Ernie Els currently are readying themselves on the first tee.

I'll say this much: One of these guys will be near the top of the leaderboard come tomorrow evening … and one will be trunk-slamming and heading home down Magnolia Lane.

My guess? Ogilvy near the top, Vijay heading home. Based on recent results, I don't think Singh will fare too well this week.


10:14 a.m. ET: Wow, getting an absolute blitz of e-mails to the inbox for the Jim Nantz call homework assignment. Great job. Here are some of the best so far:

From Anthony on Fifth Avenue:

Hunter Mahan: Hunter downs the prey, Mahan is Masters champ!

From Michael in Lubbock, Texas:

Dudley Hart: Dudley did right here on Sunday!

From Jay in Pennsylvania:

Jack Newman: Helllooooooooooo Newman!!!!

From Matt in Parts Unknown:

Fred Couples: Make that a 'Couples' of green jackets for Freddie!

From Mac in Memphis:

Sean O'Hair: Sorry tortoise, this time the O'Hair wins!

From Jamin in Wichita, Kan.:

Angel Cabrera: This tournament was touched by an Angel!

From Scott in Parts Unknown:

Paul Casey: There IS joy in Mudville: Mighty Casey has won the Masters!

Keep 'em coming …


10:10 a.m. ET: Dustin Johnson is driving himself up the leaderboard. He's very driven. Drives it great, too.

What, too soon?


10:02 a.m. ET: OK, heading into the SportsNation chat for a few. See you in there …


9:59 a.m. ET: I've been getting a ton of questions asking why the television coverage doesn't start until 4 p.m. the first two days.

This isn't an official answer or anything, but there always has been a "less is more" philosophy here at Augusta National. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that you couldn't see the first nine holes unless you purchased a badge and were on site. There are more ways to watch online than ever before, however, which should help alleviate any problems for those who wish to watch earlier.


9:57 a.m. ET:: Ross Fisher just birdied the sixth hole -- his third birdie of the day -- and he's already at 3-under, up by a single stroke.

Currently in sole possession of second place is Stephen Ames, who just made an eagle on No. 2.

Oops. Sorry about your luck, Stephen. Guys who make eagles do not win green jackets, remember?


9:55 a.m. ET: Another new feature of the Live Blog. I'll be doing a bunch of quick SportsNation chats during the day. Just 5-10 minutes, answering a few questions. First one will start in a few minutes. You can click here to join.


9:49 a.m. ET: Dustin in Texas clearly has too much time on his hands:

Here's one man's preview in anagram narrative form (each line of the narrative is an anagram of itself) …

A SOUTHEASTERN AMUSING

OH-NINE AUGUSTA MASTERS:

GUARANTEES MAIN SHOUTS,

ERNIE'S SAGA: MAN SHUTOUT,

AMATEUR ANGUISHES TONS,

SINGH NAUSEA TAMES TOUR,

ROSE-MANIA, STATUES HUNG,

MAHAN TO USE SIGNATURES,

O'HAIR EMANATES SUN. GUTS.

Wow.

Guessing Vijay's nausea is left over from Trevor Immelman's champions dinner. If he hurls, I'm outta here.


9:43 a.m. ET: E-mail from David in Rockford, Mich.:

Tell me about these pimento cheese sandwiches. When I see these online, they look like garbage. What is the aura of pimento cheese and the Masters?

Oh, dude … it's all about tradition … and rituals … and simplicity … and …

And they taste like butt.

Seriously. As part of the Live Blog a few years ago, I ate about six of these in one day. My insides still haven't recovered. Nor have my taste buds.

Basically, this stuff is like you took two slices of bread, sprayed Cheez Whiz on them, waited for it to congeal, tossed in some unknown spices, then smashed the slices together, paid $1.50 and chomped it down. Yes, they're cheap. Doesn't make 'em good.

Me? I'll stick with the chicken fillet or maybe the egg salad sandwiches. Same price. Much, much tastier.


9:39 a.m. ET: First eagle of the week. Nick Watney -- whom everybody seems to like as a dark horse, but as the PGA Tour's most consistent player so far this season shouldn't own such status anymore -- made a 3 on the par-5 second hole.

Which is totally bad news for Watney.

How come? Because of this stat, courtesy of the ESPN research department: "No Masters winner has had an eagle here since Vijay Singh eagled the 13th hole in the first round back in 2000."

Watney? Cursed. Clark? Cursed. Becoming clear that the least superstitious golfer will win the title this week.


9:36 a.m. ET: E-mail from Mike the math teacher:

Haha … I test my kids today on the quadratic formula so that I can read your blog.

Touche.

In what I'm sure is totally unrelated news but at least involves numbers, Ross Fisher is still in the lead at 2-under, Tim Clark is 1-under … and none of the other 22 players who have completed at least one hole are currently under par.


9:32 a.m. ET: Got an e-mail from my buddy Bob Smiley this morning. (He wrote this book on Tiger Woods. For every 100,000 copies sold, Bob will pay me a penny. So please buy it. In bulk.)

Anyway, Smiley has a new post on his Fore Right blog in which he lists possible Jim Nantz winning calls for several players. After all, with the NCAA title game finishing up late Monday night, the CBS announcer needs all the help he can get, right? A few of my favorites:

Briny Baird: The Baird has come out of hibernation!

Soren Kjeldsen: A Kjacket for Kjeldsen!

Bernhard Langer: Get Langer … another hanger!

I've got some of my own, too:

Jeev Milkha Singh: Who's the Masters champ? Ask Jeev!

Steve Flesch: Pleasures of the Flesch!

Justin Rose: A Rose blooms among the azaleas!

Retief Goosen: You can't duck, duck, duck from the Goose!

Richard Sterne: A Sterne test of golf, indeed!

Stephen Ames: Ames was true at Augusta!

Ken Duke: The Masters started with a King and ends with a Duke!

And my personal favorite …

Mathew Goggin: They'll be bloggin' about Goggin!

OK, homework time. Here is the field. Come up with the best potential Nantz calls, and I'll post 'em. Let's keep it clean, folks …


9:25 a.m. ET: Dustin Johnson just teed off No. 1 a few minutes ago. Rough times for the Pebble Beach champ, who was arrested and charged with DUI in his home state of South Carolina last week.

Making things even worse is that a quick check of the player/caddie list shows Johnson's looper this week is … Bobby Brown.

Hopefully Whitney isn't on the course, too.


9:22 a.m. ET: Just checking out the Facebook pages of some players currently on the course. Here are some status updates:

Ross Fisher is OMG! OMG! OMG! I'm leading the Masters! OMG!

Tim Clark is so mad I didn't hit that last tee shot into the water yesterday. What was I thinking??

Louis Oosthuizen is My ears are not that big! Why does everyone keep saying that?


9:15 a.m. ET: Best backhanded compliment I've gotten in a while, from R.J. in Math Class:

I'd just like to say thank you. Without you, school would be so boring. I'd much rather hear about the morning threesomes than quadratic formula. Your blog comments are much more interesting than my math teachers.

If you like this Live Blog, you'll love my Live Blog from the Quadratic Formula Mathletes Competition!

Seriously, though … more interesting than your math teachers? That's like telling a PGA Tour pro, "Hey, at least you're a better putter than Sergio Garcia!"

Just kidding … Garcia's great on the greens. Never takes him more than three, four strokes to get it in the hole.


9:12 a.m. ET: Tied at the top of the leaderboard are Tim Clark and Ross Fisher. Clark is trying to break that 50-year curse from winning the …

WHOA!

As I began typing that, his score flipped from 2-under to 1-under with a bogey on No. 4. Can only mean one thing …

Blog jinx!

Uh-oh. If I can't even post this stuff before it happens, things are gonna get ugly out here.


9:10 a.m. ET: Best line I've heard all week comes from Bill Elliott of The Observer, sitting in the seat next to me: "I either need to start drinking more or start drinking less."

I really need to start hanging out with the European reporters more often.


9:04 a.m. ET: Just walked past PGA Tour fashion guru Marty Hackel who looked at my mint green sweater and orange plaid slacks and said, "Stylish!" Was feeling good about myself for about a half-second … until he yelled back, "Good luck!"

Ummm … good luck? Is that like, good luck not getting teased and ridiculed? Or, good luck trying to pull that off? Wow, embarrassing.

Speaking of that, there's this e-mail of embarrassments from Andrew in Parts Unknown:

I've gone five days in a row without showering (not because I didn't have the means, just because I didn't feel like it). I'm a 30-year-old man who has Britney Spears and Phantom of the Opera on his iPod. I suffer from the shanks at least once a season. Now cough up the photo.

Eh, not enough. Not yet. Keep the embarrassing notes about yourselves coming …


8:57 a.m. ET: E-mail from Bart in East Tennessee:

You said yesterday that you felt like you should make a joke anytime you mentioned Chez Reavie. Two mentions so far today, no jokes. So how about just letting us know how it's pronounced?

Ahh, Chez Reavie … the nicest French joint in Augusta. Try the escargot.

OK, OK. It's pronounced phonetically. Or you could pronounce it like this: Co-leader.

Reavie is currently tied with Briny Baird, Tim Clark, Kevin Sutherland, Ross Fisher and Prayad Marksaeng at 1-under.

I could be wrong, but it looks like this one is still anybody's ballgame.


8:51 a.m. ET: Saddest e-mail ever disguised as a happy e-mail that I've ever received, courtesy of Alex in Parts Unknown:

On behalf of all us working stiffs … thank you, Jason! Feels like I'm there with you. My wife and son will join you shortly. Where should they say hi?

Wait, wait, wait. So you're going to read the blog all day … and your wife and son will be here at the course?

Wow. Somebody got royally screwed.

I can't believe your wife and son will have to wait until tonight to read the blog. Suckers!


8:47 a.m. ET: E-mail from Matthew in Parts Unknown:

According to your given weather report, "the first half of Friday will be dry, but the shower and thunderstorm chances increase after 3 p.m." Is it any consequence that Tiger's tee time is slated for earlier on Friday? Because I'm sure when they make the tee times they have some semblance of the forthcoming weather conditions.

Are you really asking if the same club which added the word "Tigerproofing" to the golfing lexicon is giving preferential treatment to the man? Uh, not likely.

In fact -- and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to share this info, but I will anyway -- the TV network with coverage of the first two rounds has a lot of say about who tees off with whom and when. I only know this because I was consulted by someone on the TV side with ESPN who asked for my opinions on a few key subjects. Some of what I told him in terms of possible tee times:

• On an early/late wave for Woods: "Having TW late-morning Thursday and afternoon Friday makes perfect sense. I'm guessing you'd counterbalance that with Phil Mickelson and a few other top players in the opposite wave, correct?" (Turns out, they went the opposite way -- but still the same effect.)

• On an early/late wave for Greg Norman: "The entire story for him is whether he'll make the cut and reach the weekend, so having a late-Friday tee time is absolutely the best call. And to a slightly lesser extent, I would put Fred Couples in the same boat; his lengthy cut streak at Augusta was finally snapped last year, but will remain an intriguing subplot on Friday. (This happened for Norman, not for Couples.)

• On setting up things from an ESPN Deportes perspective: "I believe Andres Romero has sort of supplanted [Angel] Cabrera as the next great player from Argentina. He's one of the most exciting players in the world -- makes lots of eagles and birdies, lots of bogeys and doubles -- and has the resolve to win a Masters someday. And worldwide, I've been told that, by far, the second-most popular player isn't Phil Mickelson but Sergio Garcia. I would think that if you can put, say, Villegas and Romero in an early/late draw, then Garcia and Cabrera in a late/early draw, it would work well for the international audience." (Turns out, Romero is in one wave, with Cabrera, Villegas and Garcia in the other.)

But as to your question, no, I don't believe that Woods was helped out at all by having an early-morning Friday tee time. Fact is, most guys don't mind playing in a little rain, if it's not coming down in buckets and simply softens up the greens.


8:36 a.m. ET: You're in luck, Kevin.

With birdies on No. 2, Briny Baird and Chez Reavie have taken the lead at 1-under, while Ian Woosnam makes par to remain even.

Also at level-par, through one hole, is Tim Clark, who won yesterday's Par 3 Contest. As we all know by now, no winner of the Par-3 has ever claimed a green jacket four days later -- call it The Curse -- so he may as well give up right now, right? Maybe not …

"To win this is something I will have forever," Clark said yesterday after winning with an ace on the final hole. "Like I say, I'm not one who believes in superstition. I believe it's merely coincidence that the winner has not gone on to win. Obviously, it's extremely tough to win on Augusta National. I've got my work cut out. It's a great way to start the week certainly and I come here to have fun and this is certainly a fun event."

Coincidence … suuuure it is.


8:31 a.m. ET: New feature for the Live Blog. I'll be doing several video blogs throughout the day. I think I was supposed to post this one about a half-hour ago. Oh well.

(Full disclosure: This was shot yesterday afternoon. So if you see me wearing different clothes in the next one, no, I'm not changing things up before each video blog.)

(More full disclosure: I decided to wear a mint green sweater with orange plaid slacks today. It looks even worse than it sounds.)

(Even more full disclosure: The clothes are from the latest line of the Ian Poulter Design collection. No, that's not a joke. I picked 'em up in the pro shop at Doral last month. And if Poulter comes out wearing the same thing today, well, one of us is going to have to change.)

(Last full disclosure: As of yet, there are no photos of me in aforementioned sweater and slacks. If I decide to embarrass myself later, then we'll see. But you'll have to do something embarrassing, too.)


8:28 a.m. ET: Speaking of that opening threesome, here's an e-mail from Kevin in Parts Unknown:

I somehow ended up with Chez Reavie AND Briny Baird in my Masters pool. Any chance I will be able to claim I'm in the lead, even briefly? Or is Woosie just too darn good?

Love your chances. As many of my colleagues have noted this week, Woosie looks like he's gained a few pounds … and lost about 6 inches. This isn't a guy who had much height to give up in the first place, but now he looks, well, even shorter. And rounder. I'm not being mean, just calling it like I see it.

I have no idea what effect that will have on his game, but it can't be a good one. I think, come 12:45 p.m. or so, you'll be safely in the lead with either Reavie or Baird.


8:26 a.m. ET: If the Masters ended right now …

We'd have a three-way playoff! Ian Woosnam, Chez Reavie and Briny Baird have each posted a par on the first hole -- not an easy task.

And no, I won't be giving hole-by-hole scoring updates for every player in the field. Sorry.


8:23 a.m. ET: First e-mail of the day from Kent in Indianapolis:

Love seeing Palmer play from the first as an Honorary Starter, but can't watch that ceremony without thinking back to Snead, Nelson, and Sarazen. Odds of having Player join Arnie on the tee box next year?

Ask Player, who will make his 52nd and final Masters appearance this week, and he's all for the idea. From his Tuesday news conference:

Question: Are you hopeful that Billy Payne would ask you to be an honorary starter starting next year with Arnold?

Gary Player: You know, I never expect anything. Anything that happens is fine. But I can't sit here now and say, well, you know -- I've got so much respect for this tournament. I'm not going to say, well, he should ask me. That's for him to decide.

Q: But if he did?

Player: Would I? Of course I would. I'll even exercise harder to make sure I outdrive Arnold.

There have been rumors that ever since Player criticized Augusta National a few years back for not having any female members, the relationship has been a bit icy. Perhaps that would be a reason for the guys in green jackets to refrain from offering him this role.

Let's hope that isn't the case, though. And let's hope that, after watching the three of them once again play the Par 3 Contest together, Jack Nicklaus joins Palmer and Player on the first tee every Masters Thursday at 7:50 a.m.

One final note on the Black Knight. I know I mentioned this in yesterday's blog, but it's worth writing again: Player will compete in his 52nd and final Masters this week. That's 52 weeks of his life at Augusta National. Yes, an entire year of playing the Masters.


8:11 a.m. ET: So … I went to dinner with Jack Nicklaus, Padraig Harrington, Juli Inkster and Jay Haas last night …

Well, OK, me and a few hundred other people. It was at the Golf Writers Association of America's annual dinner and each one received an award, punctuating it with a brilliant speech.

(Quick aside: I won't get into the gory details, but I had to make a small acceptance speech near the end of the evening, around 9:30 or so. Decided to start with a joke. "I'll make this very short since I need to start live-blogging Round 1 of the Masters in a few minutes." And … crickets. I forgot no one reads this thing.)

Anyway, the point is … well, not sure what the point is. I think I just wanted to brag about eating dinner about 30 feet away from Jack Nicklaus. So there.


8:06 a.m. ET: Official weather report for today, courtesy of the sheet I picked up here at the course a little while ago:

"Mostly sunny skies will prevail today, with only a few passing clouds. High pressure will drift eastward into the Atlantic today, shifting our winds to the southwest. Much warmer temperatures will be felt by this afternoon, with a high in the upper 70s expected. A cold front will approach the golf course Friday, and cross the region late Friday night. Warm, moist air out ahead of this boundary will set the stage for scattered showers and thunderstorms to develop tomorrow afternoon and evening. At this time, it appears that the first half of Friday will be dry, but the shower and thunderstorm chances increase after 3 p.m. A few morning clouds are expected Saturday, with increasing sunshine in the afternoon. Slightly cooler air will be felt by Sunday, but overall we are expecting a very nice weekend."

While everyone seems to want to blame the golf course setup for a lack of excitement and low scores during last year's Masters weekend, I think Mother Nature had plenty to do with it, too. It was unseasonably cold during Trevor Immelman's victory march -- and I have proof.

William Schmitz, a service climatologist/meteorologist with the UNC-Chapel Hill Geography Department, has charted the weather at every single edition of the Masters. Might need to zoom in to read the data, but the greatest conclusion is that the past two years have been an aberration and we'll have some more "normal" second week of April weather here in Augusta this time around.


8 a.m. ET: Over the past few weeks, many e-mailers have informed me that the opening round of the Masters Tournament is like Christmas morning and a birthday all rolled into one.

Well, guess what? I got you something -- this Live Blog.

(Don't worry -- you can totally take it back. I kept the gift receipt.)

Though the first official threesome of Ian Woosnam, Chez Reavie and Briny Baird is just about to tee off, the tourney has already begun.

Ten minutes ago, honorary starter Arnold Palmer banged one 330 right down the center on the first hole, then proclaimed himself back in the field and stalked after it down the fairway!

OK, maybe not … but he should have, right?

The fact is, Arnie took his usual Palmer-like lash at the ball to the roaring approval of several hundred spectators lined against the ropes surrounding the first tee.

And with that, let's get this thing started. As I wrote yesterday during the Par 3 Contest Live Blog, hit me at the above e-mail address and I'll post the best questions, comments, suggestions, threats, haikus, limericks, anagrams, rap lyrics and any other nonsense you can come up with. I'll be your eyes and ears from Augusta for the next, oh, 10-12 hours or so. Play well …