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DiMarco atop leaderboard after wild, long, day

4/8/2005

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- What started as a wet Masters Tournament soon turned
into a wacky one.

Tiger Woods hit a shot into Rae's Creek -- with his putter.

Billy Casper hit five shots into the water on one hole and took
a 14, the highest score on any hole.

David Toms was standing over a putt on the 14th hole when a gust
blew it back into the fairway.

Ernie Els spent more time in the trees than in the fairway.

About the only thing that restored some semblance of order
Thursday at Augusta National was the rain -- and having Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen on the leaderboard.

The long day began with a 5½-hour rain delay. When it ended in
darkness with 68 players still on the course, the clubhouse leader
was Mark Hensby of Australia, who had a 3-under 69 in his Masters
debut.

"It's hard to have expectations on such a demanding golf
course," Hensby said.

Indeed opening day at The Masters was full of surprises. This
was the fourth straight week, and ninth time out of 15 tournaments
this year, that bad weather delayed a round.

Chris DiMarco birdied three straight holes and was at 4 under
par with four holes still to play, and that wasn't terribly
alarming. He played with Mickelson last year, and even gave Lefty
the right line on the winning putt.

When told about Woods' misfortunes -- an eagle putt that went off
the green and into the water, an approach that hit the pin and went
into the bunker, DiMarco shrugged.

"He's got a few good breaks over his career," DiMarco said.
"So you know what? Darn. It's golf."

Hensby was one of only 24 players who finished the first round,
and his hard-earned 69 showed that Augusta National doesn't have to
be firm and fast to be punishing.

"You can play good shots and get rewarded, and then you can hit
good shots and not get rewarded," he said.

Luke Donald of England was another shot behind with four holes
left in his first round, while the group at 2 under included
Mickelson, Singh, Ryan Palmer, Goosen and Stuart Appleby.

Players were to return at 9:45 a.m. Friday to complete the first
round, and barring any more weather delays, the tournament should
be back to normal -- if there is such a thing at Augusta -- by the
weekend.

Trying to hold down his No. 1 ranking, Singh was a model of
consistency in a first round that was out of whack before players
even arrived at Augusta National. Along with picking up three
birdies on the front nine, Singh twice saved par with 10-foot
putts. His only bogey came on the 11th hole, a three-putt from
about 100 feet, missing a 5-footer for par.

"I played pretty well today," Singh said. "I hit my driver
beautifully and had some good saves. It was just disappointing how
I finished. Maybe I should have waited … on the second putt from
5 feet. But who knows? I may have missed it tomorrow."

Mickelson was all smiles when he stepped to the first tee,
looking very much the way he did when he left the Masters last year
wearing a green jacket. He opened with a bogey, but kept himself
out of trouble most of the day and gave himself ample birdie
chances.

He chipped in for birdie on No. 2, stuck a wedge inside 4 feet
on the third and twice made pars with beautiful lag putts to within
3 feet, including his final hole at No. 11.

Goosen, the forgotten figure in all the hype over the "Big
Four," made a rare birdie on the par-3 12th, then recovered from a
tee shot into the azaleas on the par-5 13th to escape with par.

It wasn't the fast, fiery course most players wanted, conditions
that have not been around for The Masters since the course was
super-sized three years ago.

Based on the scoring, they might be thankful for the rain.

Even with the greens soft and holding approach shots, only 10 of
the 92 players were under par, and already there were five scores
at 80 or higher among those who finished.

Woods hasn't broken par in the first round of the Masters since
he won in 2002, and that's where he was headed this year -- some of
that because of bad shots and bad judgment, some from sheer bad
luck.

He reached the par-5 13th in two with a risky shot out of the
pines, leaving him a 70-foot eagle putt. But he misjudged the speed
so badly that the ball raced by the hole, tumbled down the bank and
went into Rae's Creek. Woods left the ball there, replayed the putt
and fared much better, two-putting for a bogey.

He looked as though he might get that shot back when his
approach into No. 1 descended on the flag, but Woods turned away in
shock when it hit the bottom of pin and spun off to the side into a
bunker, turning birdie into bogey.

He wasn't alone in his misery.

Paul Casey, who tied for sixth last year in his Masters debut,
took a 10 on the 13th hole and shot 79. Toms shot 41 on his outward
nine, a tough start for someone who was expected to contend this
week.

Still, nothing quite compared with Casper.

A 51-time winner on the PGA Tour who got overlooked in the Big
Three era of the 1960s, the 73-year-old got plenty of attention in
his return to Augusta National.

His five balls into the water came on the par-3 16th and added
to a 14, the highest score on any hole in The Masters. By the time
he finished 12 holes, he already shot his age. His score of 106
would have gone into the record books, except Casper declined to
turn in his card.

"That's going in the scrapbook," he said.