Masters live blog, Round 1

Updated: April 8, 2007, 12:54 PM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

Throughout this week, ESPN.com golf editor Jason Sobel will be live-blogging from the Masters, bringing you inside information and analysis from Augusta National Golf Club. Refresh this page often to keep track of all the entries during each round.

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6 p.m.: OK, folks. Ten hours and 9,007 words is enough for me for today. (Don't worry; with no computer issues, I should be able to shoot for an even 10,000 on Friday.) Thanks for all the e-mails, and I'll be right back here tomorrow keeping you up with the latest from Augusta. Now, it's time to go see whether Oberholser knows a good chiropractor ...

5:56 p.m.: I never updated the race for last place. I know you're on pins and needles, so here it is: With a gritty, gutty final-hole bogey, Seve Ballesteros finished with a 14-over 86 to avoid sharing last with amateur Casey Watabu. There's going to be a cellar-dweller battle in Round 2!

5:49 p.m.: Among the things Brett Wetterich probably didn't think he'd be doing when he woke up this morning: Joining Bill Macatee for an interview in Butler Cabin. This guy's gone from Q-school to PGA Tour champ to Ryder Cup to Butler Cabin in just under 18 months. That is what you'd call a meteoric rise, folks.

5:45 p.m.: Another guy I haven't mentioned yet today: Vijay Singh. He's 2-over through 12, but just short-sided himself in the green-side bunker with his second shot on the par-5 13th.

5:42 p.m.: David Toms has birdied two of his last three holes, making it an even 10 players currently under par.

5:35 p.m.: After his opening round of 3-over 75 today, 2005 runner-up Chris DiMarco responded to a question about his beloved Florida Gators by saying he had nothing to do with their recent success in basketball and football. I believe he attended the NCAA championship game Monday night, just a few hours away in Atlanta, which begs the question: Why weren't Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer and the guys out here cheering for him today? Or maybe they were and I just never heard about it.

Speaking of that, lots of famous folks walk through these galleries each year, but they're generally harassed much less than at any other type of event. Something about this place just turns people respectful.

5:34 p.m.: Spoke too soon. Tiger makes birdie on 13 to move to even-par. He may be dressed like Paula Creamer, but he's playing like himself.

5:31 p.m.: And meanwhile, Tiger keeps plodding along ... now 1-over through 12 holes. Made six pars to start, bogeyed 7, has followed with five more pars. If this were the Bob Hope Classic, he'd be looking at an MC. The way things are going here, even-par could be a very good score come Sunday.

5:24 p.m.: Another e-mail, this one from John in Phoenix:

    Zach Johnson had a nice round of golf today. Does this surprise you, or do you think he will just fade away tomorrow?

I like Zach a lot. Good player. Knows how to grind out a score. I wouldn't think his game is too tailored to this course, however. He's a low-ball hitter who doesn't knock it a ton off the tee, but then again, so are Jose Maria Olazabal and Tim Clark -- and both of them have fared pretty well here lately.

I'll say this about Johnson: He's not scared of being on the leaderboard. Some guys will get up there, see their name and start quivering, but he's a pretty calm, consistent dude.

5:21 p.m.: Good e-mail from James in Cambridge, who caught on to Justin Rose's ridiculous Day 1 stats:

    Rose shot 69 with hitting 5 greens and 20 putts? Are you kidding me? If that's true, I'd expect him to fall off the high-wire soon enough.

That is true. And we can look at it one of two ways. Either he's going to fall back to earth with a thud once his wedge starts failing him a little, or he's going to keep up the great putting, start striking the ball better and keep himself in this for the next few days.

5:15 p.m.: Whoa! David Howell almost makes the rare double-eagle on 15, instead "settling" for eagle to move from even-par to 2-under. He's played well here -- with two top-20 finishes in two starts -- so keep an eye on him.

5:14 p.m.: Sorry, folks. More computer issues. But the good news is I took the time to do some research for you, the golf fan. And I can now confirm this breaking news: The barbecue sandwich at Augusta National is very tasty.

4:49 p.m.: Now that the final group on the course is about to make the turn, it's time to discuss a point my buddy Casey brought up to me a little while ago: With what score today should we consider a player out of contention? Well, as much as some of you might want to dismiss Chris DiMarco, Geoff Ogilvy, Mike Weir and Charles Howell III at 3-over 75, or Colin Montgomerie, Fred Couples, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson at 4-over 76, they're still very much in this tournament. Now, Ernie Els at 6-over 78? Eh, getting a little closer to being out of it, but I'm not writing him -- or anyone else who shot that score -- off just yet. There's a lot of golf left to be played and with conditions this tough, a guy like Els can shoot 68, 69 tomorrow and find himself right back in the thick of things.

4:46 p.m.: By the way, Woods' group, which also consists of Aaron Baddeley and Paul Casey, has yet to make one birdie today. That's some pretty heavy hitters without a red number.

4:45 p.m.: Tiger Woods just made a tough left-to-right slider to save par on 10. That's nine pars and a bogey to stay at 1-over. Just hanging in there. Better believe he knows par is a great score today.

4:40 p.m.: Love this quote from Dean Wilson earlier today (he shot 75):

    Q: What's it like out there?
    A: Survivor.

I smell a goofy Golf Central piece for tonight. "Survivor: Augusta"

4:36 p.m.: Somehow I've gone almost nine full hours without once mentioning Fred Couples' name. He's 22-for-22 in making the cut here, but there's a lot of adversity against him this time around, considering he's played just two rounds this year because of injury. Freddie shot 4-over 76, which really isn't too bad today, all things considered, but the bogey on 16 and double on 18 aren't gonna sit too well tonight.

4:29 p.m.: Spy report: From the same spy who gave us the news that Olazabal actually used a wedge on the second green comes this report:

    "About two hours later, Vijay Singh was on the second green and noticed an imperfection. He tapped it down with his foot and Olazabal's entire divot came up, stuck to his shoe"

Augusta National officials can not be happy about that. Can they revoke playing privileges for a two-time champ? (Kidding, kidding!)

4:24 p.m.: Casey Watabu's got his fingers crossed. Actually, he probably doesn't care ... but the race for the highest score is tight right now. Watabu shot 87, but Seve Ballesteros is hot on his heels, now 13-over with two holes to play.

4:12 p.m.: And the answer:

When the United States Ryder Cup team headed to Ireland with four rookies on its roster, it was widely thought that the team would get pummeled. When the team did get pummeled, it was widely thought that the lack of experienced players contributed to the loss.

But it also contributed to making those players much, much better.

Case in point: The four players -- Brett Wetterich, Zach Johnson, Vaughn Taylor and J.J. Henry -- are all currently on the leaderboard and under par.

It's pretty cool, if you think about it. These guys were good players before, but hardly great major guys; only Johnson had made the cut here before. Wetterich and Henry had never even played this event.

As Wetterich moves to 3-under through 13 holes, I really think this is a noteworthy theme for Day 1.

4:07 p.m.: OK, time for the trivia question of the day: Who can spot the most interesting theme to emerge in Round 1 of the Masters? (In my opinion, at least.)

A few hints:

• It has nothing to do with Tiger or Phil.

• It has nothing to do with wind or cold.

• It has nothing to do with current leader Justin Rose.

• It has nothing to do with the ultrafast greens.

• It has nothing to do with high scores.

You're on the clock. Answer in five minutes ...

3:59 p.m.: An addition to the O'Hern comment on not being able to read some greens. This comes from Scott Verplank, who knows a thing or two about putting, too:

    "It is the fastest I've seen the greens since I've played them here. And this is my 12th Masters."

3:58 p.m.: Tiger follows his wayward tee shot on 7 by making bogey on the hole. It's playing as one of the toughest -- if not the toughest -- hole on the course, so when you block your drive, you can't expect to save par.

3:56 p.m.: Another entry for the Way Too Early Hall of Fame, as James from New York offers the following:

    Interesting you'd mention Stadler. He's got the highest first score ever (75) for an eventual winner (1982). Looks like something like that is going to happen this year, too.

Good, valid point. (And keeps me from having to look it up later, which I appreciate.) But there are plenty of guys at 74 or below -- and many more still on the course -- so I'm not too sure I'm ready to give you that one just yet.

3:50 p.m.: I was chastised Wednesday by one reader who took exception to my comment that Nick O'Hern is one of the world's top putters. He did have some stats to back it up, but I've spoken with Nick's peers the past few years and they all know how deadly he is with that broomstick.

So it says a lot when a guy like O'Hern admits this after his round:

    "A few of the holes, I couldn't read the greens."

O'Hern, aka Tiger-killer, shot 76 and said he had three putts that hung on the lip but didn't fall.

3:42 p.m.: Great birdie by Mickelson on the par-3 16th. That's two in a row. Back to 4-over. Don't count him out, folks.

3:38 p.m.: And an update on the Tiger birdies vs. Dice-K strikeouts bet:

• Tiger: No birdies through six holes.
• Dice-K: Five strikeouts through five innings.

3:34 p.m.: Tiger just hit his tee shot waaaaaaayyyyyy right on No. 7. One of those that was so bad he dropped the club right after impact. Sent patrons scurrying for cover, then running to stand next to his ball.

3:32 p.m.: Speaking of the old folks, how has no one mentioned to me yet that Fuzzy freakin' Zoeller is 1-under through seven holes!? To me, that's a bigger surprise than Stadler or even Floyd. Think we'd have anything to talk about if Tiger and Fuzzy played in the final pairing Sunday?

3:29 p.m.: Flip-flops are against the dress code here at Augusta National (well, for members and in the clubhouse, at least), but we have a flip-flop atop the leaderboard, as Justin Rose and Jeev Milkha Singh have switched positions, putting Rose in first place at 3-under through 14.

3:20 p.m.: OK, time to give some love to the old dudes. Craig Stadler, who won here 25 years ago (if that makes you feel old, raise your hand), is making the turn at 1-under 35. And Raymond Floyd is now 1-over through 10, following his opening-hole bogey with nine straight pars and prompting this e-mail from Steve in Bermuda:

    Sure his six-pack is of the conventional variety, rather than Player's, and his bag probably smells like an ashtray, but heck, the old man's right in there with players who, literally, weren't born when Raymond was winning on the big tour!

3:16 p.m.: Brett Wetterich has found his way onto the leaderboard. Coming off that gutty solo second finish at Doral -- where he beat Tiger, 71-73, in the final pairing -- the Masters rookie made birdies on 7, 9 and 10 and is 2-under.

I'm not getting too excited yet. He has a tendency to go really low and really high. Expect Wetterich to make a big number before too long; it's just a matter of whether he can make a bunch of birdies to counteract it.

3:11 p.m.: Considering how many three-putts Phil Mickelson has taken today -- I don't have the exact number in front of me, but it's more than a few -- and noting the "SportsCenter" clip that showed his two daughters combining for an easy two-putt par at yesterday's Par-3 Tournament, Tom in Pittsburgh makes a good point:

    I think Phil's daughters putted better than him on the par-3 yesterday.

Are you suggesting that Sophia and Amanda should take the flatstick out of Dad's hands today? It's not that bad. Yet.

3:08 p.m.: Let's hear from Tim Clark, one of the clubhouse leaders at 1-under 71 and a player who has figured out a thing or two about this place:

    "I tried not to make any mistakes. I was putting cautiously. I had chances, but I made a lot of good two-putt pars. I realized you don't have to go out and attack the golf course, especially on the first day."

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly why Clark plays his best when par is a good score. He has never won on the PGA Tour, but he just might win a major someday.

3:04 p.m.: One more spy report: On the second hole, with his ball on the far right side of the green and the pin on the far left, Jose Maria Olazabal decided to use a wedge, taking a huge chunk out of the green. Can't imagine the members were too pleased about that, but JMO likely was -- he made birdie on the hole.

3:03 p.m.: Spy report: Tiger Woods hit driver on the fairly short (350 yards) par-4 third hole. He settled for par and is even-par through three.

2:56 p.m.: So, wanna know what it's like to play Augusta National for the first time in competition? How 'bout this from rookie Troy Matteson, who barely broke 80 today:

    "Wasn't nervous. Hit a lot of bad shots. You do this on this golf course, it's pretty painful. I hit a lot of bad shots. It's a bitter golf course. It's going to make for a tough week. When you miss a shot, you get severely penalized. It does reward some good shots."

2:46 p.m.: Lucas Glover has joined the group at 2-under, and he'd be a terrific story if he can play well this week.

Not sure how many non-diehard golf fans know the story, but Glover's longtime coach, Dick Harmon (son of great pro Claude, brother of Butch, Bill and Craig), passed away suddenly last year. Glover has remained close with the other Harmon brothers and joined them at last night's Golf Writers Association of America dinner in which they received the William D. Richardson Award, given annually "to recognize individuals who have consistently made an outstanding contribution to golf."

Like I said, good story to root for.

2:42 p.m.: Josh in Raleigh e-mails:

    Looks like your prediction of high score totaling 85 is going down quicker than Ohio State against Florida ... TWICE!

This one hurts double, as I have to report that Casey Watabu -- the pride of Hawaii and my pick to be low am -- has finished the day with a 15-over 87.

Josh in Raleigh also would like to point out that he's the first e-mailer to make this blog twice today. We're all very proud of you.

2:31 p.m.: I've been told current co-leader Jeev Milkha Singh looks like a magician. See for yourself. Maybe it's the jacket; not sure I'm buying it. Then again, I don't know many magicians, either.

Whatever the case, he's looking like a magician today, with two birdies in his first seven holes.

Some other interesting Singh facts:

• He's no relation to Vijay Singh, nor to Asian Tour regular Digvijay Singh.

• He has played competitively on every continent except Antarctica. And he's been a member of just about every major tour other than the PGA Tour.

• His father, Milka Singh, was an Olympic sprinter.

• He's the first native of India to play in the Masters.

2:25 p.m.: Not exactly laugh-out-loud stuff, but Eric in Battle Creek, Mich., sends this e-mail in response to my comment about the wheels coming off for Mickelson.

    Lefty needs to call in a NASCAR pit crew to put those wheels back on.

I know, I know. But it was the funniest thing I'd gotten in the last four minutes, so I went with it.

2:22 p.m.: You've got to be happy for Vaughn Taylor right now. OK, you don't have to be happy for him, but I'm happy. Good guy, Augusta native, this tournament means so much to him.

This might be a little too insider, but what the heck. A few weeks ago, I contacted Taylor's agent to speak with him for a pre-Masters piece I was writing on the Augusta natives in the field. Five minutes later, Taylor called me. Doesn't always happen like that, but when a guy does that, well, you tend to root for him a bit harder the next time you see him.

2:19 p.m.: Oh, man. My pick to win the Silver Cup as top amateur is getting absolutely Watabu'd right now. Hawaiian Casey Watabu is 14-over through 16 holes.

Cue Larry Beil, please: "And aloha means goodbye!"

2:17 p.m.: And the March to History begins!! Here comes Tiger Woods, folks! He steps right up to the first hole and, unbelievably ...

... makes par. Even through one.

(Sorry for the big buildup. I just had to do it.)

2:14 p.m.: Leaderboard update: Rich Beem, Justin Rose and Jeev Milkha Singh all tied for first at 2-under. Yep, this thing is pretty much playing out as scripted, huh?

2:10 p.m.: Stat of the day so far: If Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els were playing a best-ball match together on the front side, they would have been even-par at the turn. Mickelson shot 40; Els shot 42.

Remember, when Tiger won by 12 shots in 1997, he shot a front-nine 40 on Thursday, too.

I'm not sayin'. I'm just sayin' ...

2:04 p.m.: A golden rule for the e-mailers: If you make me spit tuna from laughing, you get in the blog (as long as it's clean). From one reader, on Sergio Garcia:

    What is with that gawd awful beard? He looks like a homeless man's Steve Bedrosian.

C'mon, man. That's not funny. OK, it's funny. But it's not nice.

2:02 p.m. Much like Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, I have run into some troubles at Augusta National today, too. Due to some computer issues, the last hour or so was dictated to folks back in Bristol (well, one folk), but I'm going to try to recover and finish my round strong.

Sorry for any delay. Don't blame me; blame technology.

2 p.m.: There's a Singh near the top of the leaderboard, but it's not Vijay. Jeev Milkha Singh is 1 under through five holes. Vijay Singh isn't on the course yet.

1:58 p.m. Love, by the way, bogeyed 18 and finished even.

1:56 p.m.: Mickelson finished the front nine at 4 over. His day started badly when he hit a spectator off the first tee. And two birdies saved the front nine from being even worse. Through 10 holes, he's hit just three fairways and four greens in regulation.

1:45 p.m.: Through four and a half hours of play today, the first, seventh and ninth holes had yet to yield a birdie. That changed when Henrik Stenson got to the ninth hole and made birdie. He has since dropped to 1 under with a bogey on 11.

1:40 p.m.: 2002 PGA champ Rich Beem making a surprising showing a top the leaderboard. He eagled the par-5 13th.

1:29 p.m.: Tim Clark is your new clubhouse leader. His 1 under round of 71 featured two birdies and a bogey. The final birdie came at 18. A solid round by a guy who's figured out how to play this course.

1:27 p.m.: A pair of Europeans -- Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose -- lead a 2 under, but four Americans -- Davis Love III, Vaughn Taylor, Zach Johnson and Ben Curtis -- are all in a group at 1 under. Mickelson is 4 over through eight. Is this the year the Europeans finally break through?

1:05 p.m.: Another bogey for Phil on 7. The wheels are officially off.

From what I've heard, he's wearing a hat rather than his usual visor today. That's about as much analysis as I can give so far, but maybe it's just on a little too tight.

1:01 p.m.: Henrik Stenson is now tied for the lead with Justin Rose, so it seems as good a time as any to share the thoughts of e-mailer Amber:

    I was glad to see you admit that you've been too hard on Henrik Stenson, mainly because I think your "seven majors" logic is flawed. Ten years ago, the eventual Masters champion had only played five majors in his career. Now, I'm not saying Stenson is the next Tiger Woods, but the point is, Stenson has played really well over the last year-plus. The Official World Golf Ranking was biased against then-13th-ranked Tiger (who had less than a year's worth of tournaments), but would you have seriously argued on April 6, 1997 that Woods was not among the best five players in the world simply because he had not played many majors? Like Woods with his U.S. Amateurs, Stenson has demonstrated he can handle the pressure in big-time events, so I see no reason to hold his record from 2-10 years ago against him.

My response: Yeah, I know I've been tough on him. It's not that I don't like him as a player -- I really do -- it's just that it's too much, too soon for him to be ranked so high. But we'll see. I seem to be in the minority on this one.

12:55 p.m.: Another e-mail from one of my buddies:

    Nobody told me they're holding the U.S. Open in April at Augusta. I guess they'll do the Masters at Oakmont.

Ah, not so fast, my friend. If you think this course is playing tough, just wait.

I heard this week that a top-10 player recently checked out Oakmont, and though it's still two months from being set up for Open-like conditions, he shot 75-74 and said 10-over is going to win the tournament.

Granted, I got this story thirdhand, but it came from a writer who talked to a player who quoted another player. Pretty solid source. And pretty unbelievable.

12:51 p.m.: Time for a Dredge Report (and yes, I'll keep beating that pun into submission every time I mention Bradley Dredge): One thing we've seen from players so far today is that once they make a big number or two on a certain hole, it's tough to come back. All, that is, except for Dredge, who bogeyed 5, 6 and 7, but has since recovered with three birdies and stands at even-par through 16. He's probably kicking himself for those early mistakes.

12:47 p.m.: Since I made you sit through 14 blog-less minutes while I did a radio hit earlier, I might as well share what I said. Here is the link. (Neglect the leaderboard talk, which is already obsolete.)

12:43 p.m. OK, just received about 10 e-mails at once asking me to explain what happened to Mickelson, and all I can tell you is what I see on the scorecard right now. After bogeying the first (front bunker, chip, missed 8-footer), Lefty made par on the second and birdie on the third to get to even-par. The wheels have been falling off since, though. Bogey on 4, double on 5, bogey on 6 and he's 4-over through six holes. When I get some details, I'll let you know.

12:42 p.m.: The first two players are off the course, and your clubhouse leaders are Ian Poulter (75) and Billy Mayfair (76). Here's guessing that won't hold up.

12:37 p.m.: Justin Rose is partying like it's 1998. The guy who finished fourth as an amateur at Royal Birkdale that year is now in the lead at 2-under through five holes.

A fellow writer told me Wednesday that he wants to write a feature on why Rose has yet to win on the PGA Tour. I told him he'd better write it soon because it's not going to take him much longer. Of course, I didn't think it would happen this week, either ...

12:32 p.m.: Two-time champ Bernhard Langer is 3-over through nine holes so far. My buddy Casey sent along an interesting quote from Langer earlier this week:

    "I'd like to think I have a chance, but I think it's getting less and less," Langer said before his practice round on Tuesday. "The course has been changed so much the last few years. It's so long now that the guys hit it 30-50 yards past me."

Blah, blah. Same ol', same ol'. Former champ bemoaning his chances at the lengthened course, it seems. But Casey read into the quote a bit more and responded with this:

    Wait, the guys hit it 50 yards by you because the course is long or because you can't get the club back anymore?

Great point. I think this happens more than we realize, with short hitters, old players, etc., blaming the course -- or course conditions -- for their own ineptitude. Sure, the course may be longer, but if the young guys are hitting it 30-50 yards past Langer, well, how exactly is that Augusta National's fault?

12:26 p.m.: Ernie Els is 4-over through six. Sounds pretty bad, but really he's only 5 shots off the lead with 66 holes to play. Let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

12:19 p.m.: Back to the e-mailers:

    I'm up here on the North Shore of Boston where we got snow last night. I'm heading down to Augusta tonight. Based on your earlier post of the frost prediction, and your current locale, what's your suggestion for "appropriate dress" on the course?

OK, let's go from bottom to top: First off, sneakers are a must. It's a hilly course, and sandals or dress shoes just won't cut it. That said, if you wear your golf spikes, I'll personally hurl a mess of pimento cheese your way. Even caddies don't wear spikes, and they have to walk the whole course. Leave 'em in the golf bag.

Next: Pants. Any khakis will do, though cargos might get some interesting stares from the greencoats. Might be too cold for shorts. And you can save the denim for the Lone Star Steakhouse down the street.

Get some layers up top. Maybe a golf shirt and a decent windbreaker. Depends how much walking you'll do, but unless you just sit in one spot, you don't want to be too bundled up and get all sweaty walking around. You'll look like Tim Herron.

And lastly, don't bring a hat. They have the nicest souvenir hats in sports right here. Simple green with the Masters logo. Doesn't get any better than that.

12:13 p.m.: I've been overly critical of Henrik Stenson lately, not necessarily for anything he's done but for what he has achieved based on what he hasn't done. OK, let me make some sense of that. Stenson has risen to sixth in the current World Ranking (he was fifth at one point) despite playing in only seven career majors and never finishing better than T-14. He's won a few big events lately, taking the Dubai Desert Classic (against a strong field) and the Match Play, but really, he's played in only seven majors!

Last year at Augusta, Stenson missed the cut, but he was still a bandwagon sleeper pick by a lot of fans entering this week. Well, he's now tied for the lead at 1-under after making par on his first five holes and birdie on No. 6.

11:58 a.m.: I innocently asked you earlier to count how many players with two first names are in this week's field. I didn't, uh, expect anyone to actually, like, do it.

But let's hear it for Ken in Chicago (last names withheld to protect those shirking their employment duties). He actually went through with it, even looking at the honorary players who aren't technically in the field:

    I count 25 in the field with two first names and another six if you're not too picky about spelling.

    Tommy Aaron
    Thomas Bjorn
    Bart Bryant
    Jack Burke
    Chad Campbell
    Michael Campbell
    Paul Casey
    Billy Casper
    Tim Clark
    Ben Curtis
    Luke Donald
    Ray Floyd
    Doug Ford
    Lucas Glover
    Todd Hamilton
    J.J. Henry
    Jerry Kelly
    John Kelly
    Sandy Lyle
    Arnold Palmer
    Justin Rose
    Adam Scott
    Vaughn Taylor
    Tom Watson
    Dean Wilson

    And if you're not picky about spelling, here's six more:

    Darren Clarke
    Davis Love III
    Shaun Micheel
    Colin Montgomerie
    Jack Nicklaus
    Richie Ramsay

Although I'm not sure I'd ever name my kid Casper or Glover, I like his persistence. Good work, Ken in Chicago. You obviously have way too much time on your hands.

11:54 a.m.: Random way-too-early thought of the day: With about two-thirds of the field having teed off already on what is going to be the warmest, least-windy day of the week and only four players under par (Oberholser, Johnson, Henry, Olazabal), if someone matches Mickelson's score of 7-under 281 from last year, they're going to walk away with this thing by a few strokes.

Like I said, maybe it's too early to make such a declaration, but it sure seems to be heading that way.

11:50 a.m.: And there's the jinx. Love bogeys the 11th to fall to even-par. Sorry, Davis; that one's my fault.

11:49 a.m.: OK, just once. I told you so.

11:48 a.m.: I know this is only going to jinx him, but my widely panned sleeper pick of Davis Love III (I have him fourth in my rankings) is now tied for the lead at 1-under. Not like I'm going to say I told you so or anything ...

11:39 a.m.: Yes, you read that right: Ernie Els is 3-over already (through three holes). But he's hardly the only big name in a bad place already.

Geoff Ogilvy tripled the second -- that would be the par-5 second; he usually kills par-5s -- and stands at 3-over.

Chris DiMarco's card looked like a Lite-Brite screen, with all sorts of colors. He's 3-over through 10.

Stuart Appleby, who somehow has only two top-10 major results in so many years of being a world-class player, has made three bogeys and is 3-over through six.

And short game maven Steve Stricker hasn't made a birdie. He's 3-over through 10.

11:35 a.m.: Spy report: This comes from someone who's spent the past three-plus hours just off the first green. "If you miss left, you're dead."

My spy says that Ernie Els missed left and made bogey (he later doubled the second); Mickelson dumped one in the front bunker, chipped on and missed about an 8-foot putt; and Charles Howell III three-putted (III-putted?) from about 18 feet for a bogey, as well.

11:21 a.m.: If you're listening to ESPN Radio 950 in Richmond, bad news: I'm coming on the show in a minute. Everyone else sit tight for 10 minutes ... and ponder just how many guys in this week's field have two first names. It's amazing, really.

11:17 a.m.: If you scroll down far enough, you'll see the entry about Joe Durant making triple-bogey on the first hole. Things haven't gotten any better. He bogeyed 5, 6, 7 and 9, then doubled 11 to move to 9-over through 12 holes.

We've talked about what the lowest score today is going to be (I think 68 or 69 should do it), but what will be the highest? I'm going to say no one breaks the 85 plateau. Let's go with 84 -- and it won't be Durant.

11:12 a.m.: Interesting question from Josh in Raleigh:

    What do you think about lefties having an advantage on this course? They've won three of the last four (Weir in '03; Mickelson in '04 and '06).

Well, this course has always set up well for right-handed players who can hit a fade. Obviously, turn that around and lefties need to hit plenty of draws. Not sure if that's an advantage, though, especially for a guy like Mickelson, who loves to hit that left-to-right cut off the tee.

So I'd say it's more coincidence than anything.

11:07 a.m.: Quick leaderboard update: Oberholser, Watson, Angel Cabrera and J.J. Henry are tied for the lead at 1-under. Henry's in my Top Five Nice Guys on Tour. Oberholser's pretty close, too.

11:01 a.m.: Defending champ Phil Mickelson is now on the course, having teed off in the 10:56 group with Adam Scott and U.S. Amateur champ Richie Ramsay. Interesting note on Mickelson: He has taken up a much talked-about workout regimen this year to get himself into better shape. Part of that includes kung fu, and just because this is Masters week, it doesn't mean he's shirking the self-imposed responsibilities. Supposedly, after finishing yesterday's Par-3 Tournament, Phil hopped into his car and went to a local kung fu joint (parlor? club?) to continue his workout.

10:48 a.m.: Question from reader Eric in Cincinnati:

    I was there Monday for the practice round, and saw former champion Ian Woosnam on 16. I have been to many pro tournaments, but I have never seen a player have absolutely nothing on his bag -- just jet black, every inch. I mean, it looked like he was playing with rentals from the pro shop. The bag was small and even looked plastic. How can he show up as a former champ with such embarrassing gear?

Good question. Not sure about Woosie's bag; I haven't seen him out there this week. Can't believe he doesn't have a deal from some champagne company, after spitting it out his nose during the Ryder Cup celebration.

10:43 a.m.: Spoke too soon. Clark bogeys No. 9, goes out in even-par 36.

10:42 a.m.: Arron Oberholser and Kenneth Ferrie have joined Tim Clark atop the leaderboard, all at 1-under. So you have a guy with a bad back (Oberholser) and one with a bad neck (Clark) leading the Masters. Might want to cancel that chiropractor appointment, folks.

10:35 a.m.: Just received this e-mail from a reader:

    You alluded to the course conditions. Is the course playing tough due to the colder weather and do you think that means the players teeing off in the afternoon might have a chance at better scoring?

    Also, let's hear your prediction for the low score posted for today's round? Does someone shoot a 66 (or lower)?

OK, first question: Yeah, with a course this long -- and they've supposedly watered the fairways to keep them from being too fast and firm -- anytime it's cold, it will play even longer, which obviously has a negative effect on scores. But the field also is backloaded today, with Phil Mickelson just about to tee off and guys like Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk et al all playing later this afternoon, so I'd expect better scores from them anyway.

No one goes that low today. Jose Maria Olazabal shot a 66 in the final round last year, which was the best score of the tournament. On Day 1 here, when it's still a sort of feeling-out process, I think 68 or 69 leads at the end of the day.

10:29 a.m.: Speaking of Masters food, here's the biggest secret behind the front gates of this club: The pimento cheese sandwich, the one everyone always talks about with such reverence ... just isn't very good.

I couldn't wait to get to Augusta and have my first pimento cheese a few years ago. I've avoided it ever since. If you come here, try the tuna.

10:26 a.m.: Just grabbed breakfast in the media center. Here's how they do it here at Augusta National: There are full trays of the famed sandwiches in the green wrapping sitting there, first-come, first-served. Among them are the usuals -- ham and cheese, tuna salad (very underrated), egg salad, turkey ... and then there's the chicken fillet, which is the Loch Ness Monster of Masters sandwiches. You only hear about its existence, but never actually see one.

Well, until now. I just got one. It's like hitting an old Slazenger into the rough and finding three brand new Pro-V1s.

10:19 a.m.: Look, I don't know much and my predictions are sure to flop, but you've gotta believe me when I tell you how much experience matters around here. Case in point: Joining Clark and Crenshaw in first place right now is another two-time champ, Tom Watson. Dude is 57 and finished T-20 at Pebble earlier this year. Ridiculous.

10:14 a.m.: Another e-mail, this one from a buddy in Boston (shocker -- or should I say shocka):

    Who will have more today: Tiger birdies/eagles or Dice-K strikeouts against the Royals?

Gotta go with the Dice Man. (Can we call him that?) The way this course is playing, even if Tiger plays well, he'll have five or six birdies, tops. Against the young Royals lineup, Matsuzaka could equal that in the first three innings alone.

10:12 a.m.: Mixed in with today's groupings are a couple of "OPEN" tee times on the sheet. (And no, you can not get on as a single.) This is to ensure pace of play. It's a luxury the Masters can afford that other tournaments can't -- because of its limited field.

But the officials did screw up a little. Right after the open tee time at 10:12 a.m. is a group featuring Mike Weir, K.J. Choi and Henrik Stenson. the last two are among the slower players on tour, meaning it would have made more sense to put them before the open time rather than after.

And just in case you're wondering, yes, Ben Crane is playing in the last group before the open tee time later this afternoon. So, take your time, Ben. Take ... your ... time ...

10:04 a.m.: Some guys just like this course. Tim Clark hasn't done a thing all season. He suffered a neck injury late last year and had played only about 2-3 rounds of golf in a few months before competing in the Match Play, where he lost to Tiger in the second round last month. Since then, he's finished T-63 at Doral and T-62 in Houston -- not exactly the type of form you like to see entering the year's first major.

Yet there's last year's runner-up, atop the leaderboard (with Crenshaw) at 1-under after starting with five straight pars and a birdie on No. 6. I guess we shouldn't be surprised to see him up there, but considering his recent results and the injury, I'll be shocked if it lasts all weekend.

9:57 a.m.: Scott Verplank doesn't like trains, but he's taking the Bogey Train all the way off the leaderboard with three straight after those two early birdies.

9:53 a.m.: Just received this e-mail from a buddy:

    Gary Player over/unders:

    • Score: 89

    • Number of times skipping off tee box after pounding one out about 218: 14

    • Number of times he laughs at his own legend: 89

    • Number of times he requests to be punched in his old washboard stomach by his playing partners: 17

Mr. Player, that wasn't me talking. Really. I don't want to have to fear the wrath of the Black Knight.

For the record, Player is even through two holes. And I'm taking the under. Way under. He beats some regular tour players this week. You heard it here first.

9:48 a.m.: First report from one my "spies" today. This one comes from someone who was at the first tee when Palmer hit the honorary tee shot this morning:

    "He teed the ball up, stepped back, looked down the fairway and said 'Sure looks pretty.' That's why Arnold's just meant to be on the golf course. Then he killed his shot. Hit it about 230, a nice little draw."

9:36 a.m.: That's not a lie. Well, not really. I did have dinner with Woods ... and 400 other people at the Golf Writers Association of America's annual dinner. And just because I was sitting a 6-iron away when he was at the podium accepting his two awards (PGA Tour Player of the Year and the Charlie Bartlett Award) doesn't mean he wasn't looking directly at me when he was talking.

I just wonder whether his steak was cooked better than mine ...

9:35 a.m.: Tiger Woods doesn't tee off until 1:52 p.m. today, but I haven't mentioned him yet, so this seemed like as good a time as any to bring him up.

I happened to have dinner with Tiger last night. He talked about how proud he is of his new learning center, told a few lighthearted jokes and thanked me for everything. Nice guy.

9:28 a.m.: Nick O'Hern makes bogey as well. And exactly 1 hour and 28 minutes into the 2007 Masters, the only player under par and your solo leader is ... Mr. Ben Crenshaw.

I know a few folks in Texas who are sobbing tears of joy over their toast and OJ right now.

9:26 a.m.: Yet another bogey for Verplank. If you're scoring at home, that's par-birdie-birdie-bogey-bogey. Funny, he doesn't list "roller coasters" under his interests in the PGA Tour media guide.

9:23 a.m.: Gentle Ben makes birdie on No. 2. The guy can't win on the Champions Tour, but he gets back here and it's as if he's 35 years old again. Wonder whether he can rekindle that magic that had him only 5 strokes off the lead at the midway point last year. Or will he play more like the guy who shot 78-79 over the weekend to finish dead last among those who made the cut?

9:18 a.m.: So I just received this e-mail from my boss back in Bristol regarding the note on Verplank:

    Now, let's see if he has to hit a driver on No. 4 ...

Not sure what Verplank hit into the 240-yard par-3 ... but it wasn't good. Just as I opened that e-mail, he was credited with a bogey, sliding back to 1-under. So much for the short guys having a chance ...

9:11 a.m.: There's no other media center in golf like the one I'm sitting in right now. It's basically an amphitheater, with a few hundred of us hacks serving as the audience and the leaderboard, two big screens (showing TV coverage) and nine smaller screens (showing a camera from each hole on the back nine; currently up and running even though no one has gotten there yet) serving as the stage. Once you get assigned a seat, you're often there for years. My seat is near the top in right-center field (coincidentally enough, also my softball position; I feel so comfortable), right at eye level with the TV screens. Not a bad spot ...

9:03 a.m.: Gritty, gutty Scott Verplank has added a second birdie and now leads the tournament at 2-under through three holes. Won't get too carried away or read too much into it just yet, but if a relative short-hitter like Verplank can fire a number out here, it means a lot more guys could contend this week.

8:55 a.m.: I've done a bunch of radio interviews this week and invariably every time hosts are getting ready to introduce me, they'll have the Masters theme music playing in the background as they talk about how much they enjoy it. I agree; it's like spring's beckoning call (sorry to get all sappy).

But did you know the Dave Loggins tune has words, too? Here's the original version:

    "Well, it's springtime in the valley on Magnolia Lane;

    It's the Augusta National and the master

    of the game.

    Who'll wear that green coat on Sunday

    afternoon?

    Who'll walk that 18th fairway singing

    this tune?

    Augusta, your dogwoods and pines,

    they play on my mind like a song.

    Augusta, it's you that I love,

    it's you that I miss when I'm gone

    Well, it's Watson, Byron Nelson,

    and Demaret, and Player and Snead,

    And it's Amen Corner,

    and it's Hogan's perfect swing;

    It's Sarazen's double-eagle

    at the 15th in '35,

    And the spirit of Clifford Roberts

    that keeps it alive.

    Augusta, your dogwoods and pines,

    they play on my mind like a song.

    Augusta, it's you that I love, it's you that I miss when I'm gone.

    It's the legions of Arnie's Army and the Golden Bear's

    throng, Wooden-shafted legend, Bobby Jones."

Like I said, that's the original version. It has since been updated, with the line "And the spirit of Clifford Roberts that keeps it alive." replaced by this in 2001:

    And the spirit of a Tiger that keeps it alive.

Man, a fella serves as chairman from 1931 until 1976, then all of a sudden some guy named Tiger comes along and wins a few green jackets ... and he gets cut out of the Augusta song?! Just doesn't seem right. C'mon, Loggins, let's get ol' Cliff back in the song somewhere.

8:46 a.m.: Red numbers!! Playing in the second group together, Scott Verplank and Nick O'Hern have each carded a birdie at the par-5 second hole, moving them to 1-under for the tournament.

8:44 a.m.: Teeing off in the 8:44 grouping, along with two-time champion Ben Crenshaw and amateur John Kelly, is Davis Love III. He's my surprise sleeper pick for this week; I listed him fourth in my overall rankings this week and have been lambasted soundly by readers ever since. (Honestly, I thought I'd catch more flak for making Paul Casey No. 3.) But here's the thing about the Masters: Course knowledge means everything. Sure, a first-timer can get lucky and fare well here once in a while, but having played Augusta National year after year is so valuable. Davis has had some solid results here, and though he hasn't played great golf the past few years, he's just the type of guy -- like Fred Couples last year -- who can make a run up the leaderboard this week.

8:35 a.m.: You'll win money in a bar with this one someday:

Who was the first player to record a birdie and a bogey at the 2007 Masters? The answer is Billy Mayfair, who is even-par through two.

8:33 a.m.: If I were Palmer, I wouldn't be messing with Player. Heck, if I were anyone, I wouldn't be messing with Player. The dude is jacked and, truth be told, maybe just a little crazy, too. From a news conference earlier this week:

    Q. A minute ago when you said you exercise like a Trojan, I wonder if you could give us an example. Not now, but what your regime is like.

    GARY PLAYER: I go into the gym and I do 1,000 crunches and I put an 80-pound weight (indicating on chest, sit-ups) and I do some with an 80-pound weight.

    I have to watch that my enthusiasm doesn't run away with me, but at 71 I want you to see that -- (standing up and slapping stomach loudly).

    I do those -- I don't like to get into this too much. (Laughter) I push well over 300 pounds' leg press, I do all the curls. I do every exercise, from the top down, I do every single exercise with weights.

Yep, he stood up in an interview at Augusta National and slapped himself in the stomach a bunch of times. Moral of the story: Don't mess with Gary Player.

8:31 a.m.: Back to Arnie for a second. He's gotten a lot of face time as the honorary starter this week, though he's made some other headlines, too. How about this exchange from Tuesday, in which he might be auditioning for the old Walter Matthau role in "Grumpy Old Men":

    Q. Gary Player is going to tie your record this week for most Masters played. He's talking about breaking it next year. What are your thoughts just about that?

    ARNOLD PALMER: Well, if he isn't embarrassed, I won't be embarrassed for him. (Laughter)

    Q. Just your thoughts about the rivalry.

    ARNOLD PALMER: No, we're good friends. He just wants to do one better, and that's fine. I'm for him. But he can't touch my record. He hasn't even come close to it. And you don't know why, though, do you? He missed a year. So that's the end of that. (Laughter)

    Q. He's in pretty good shape.

    ARNOLD PALMER: What does that mean? Are you saying I'm not in pretty good shape?

    Q. Maybe he has like 30 more years left or so.

    ARNOLD PALMER: Who gives a s---? (Laughter) If you can't win, it doesn't matter. That's s-*-*-*. (Laughter).

    Hey, he's my friend and I love him. I can also have fun with him, too.

8:27 a.m.: If you pulled Joe Durant's name out of the office pool hat, great news: You don't have to worry about winning any cash. Durant just tripled the first. Yikes.

8:21 a.m.: When I got to the course a little more than an hour ago, it was pretty chilly for April in Augusta. Looks as though there will be a high of 66 today, with 10- to 15-mph winds from the northwest. Here's the forecast for today, via a Masters weather report that was issued in the media center:

    Cold Canadian high pressure has pushed cold, dry air into the Augusta area this morning, dropping temperatures into the middle-40s. Expect plenty of sunshine today with temperatures reaching into the mid-60s. There will be some scattered frost early Friday morning in low spots as temperatures dip into the low to mid-30s around sunrise. A widespread frost is expected both Saturday and Sunday morning as temperatures drop below freezing.

That's right, folks. Frost. Expect some of the warm-weather guys to be bundled up like it was a British Open this weekend (albeit a warm British Open).

8:15 a.m.: Bad news, Mayfair fans. We have the first bogey of the week. On the bright side, with two players having finished the first hole, Ian Poulter is now your leader at even-par. I say he can't hold the lead for 71 more holes, but hey, there's a first for everything ...

8:09 a.m.: Billy Mayfair and Ian Poulter have kicked off the competitive portion of the festivities today. I haven't seen what Poulter is wearing yet, but if we're having a pool, I'll take lime green polyester. He was spotted in a red bucket hat/red shirt combo earlier this week that was, uh, not good.

8:03 a.m.: As the honorary starter, Arnold Palmer kicked things off here about 20 minutes ago, hitting a tee shot that may or may not have stayed in the fairway (tough to see) but that one observer said "sounded good." He then proceeded to talk about it for a while:

    "On the practice tee this morning, I was hitting it over the fence. I didn't want to top it. I hit it pretty good. I always said, if I was hitting a shot and it went left, it was OK. If it went right, I was in trouble."

7:59 a.m.: I just typed that entry really fast. Fingers hurting already, four minutes in. Bad sign.

7:58 a.m.: OK, since you and I are going to be spending a decent amount of time together today (or so I hope), there are a few things I should tell you. First, I'm going to be updating this puppy early and often. Like every 3-4 minutes often (and yes, I've been told I'm crazy by every other person in this here media center). Secondly, this ain't your usual live blog, with some guy or gal sitting on the couch making fun of the play-by-play announcer and bemoaning commercials. (Considering the TV coverage doesn't begin until later this afternoon, that wouldn't work too well right now anyway.) I'm here at the course, and though I'll be permanently attached to my laptop and won't be walking the grounds too much, I've got spies in all sorts of locations feeding me info and access to every word uttered by a player into a microphone. In other words, this thing's legit.

7:55 a.m.: Is this the greatest day of the year or what? It's spring, it's Augusta, it's the Masters ... and just in case you couldn't tell, I'm pretty fired up. Coming to you live from Seat H38 in the Augusta National media center, I'll be on hand all day and all week to provide instant analysis, information, observations, inferences and maybe even a joke or two (extra points if you catch all the "Caddyshack" references). So, without further ado, on with the first-ever ESPN.com Masters live blog ...

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.