Commentary

Masters Live Blog: Round 1

Updated: April 11, 2008, 8:12 AM 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.

Have a question or comment for Sobel? E-mail him at mastersblog@gmail.com.

Par 3 blog

7:00 p.m.: Here it is, folks. Last e-mail of the day, from Jeff in Denver:

    Isn't it about time you wrap up this blog and head over to the writer's pub to throw a few down?

Reading my mind, Jeff. That's my limit, folks -- 11 hours is all I can do before I start banging my head on the keyboard.

Thanks for all the participation today. So far I've received 947 e-mails and counting, so if I didn't get to post yours or didn't respond, keep firing away tomorrow and we'll see if we can hit quadruple-digits. See you at 8 a.m. on Friday.

6:55 p.m.: There's a decided European Ryder Cup-feel to the leaderboard right now, with Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Robert Karlsson and Paul Casey all at 2-under or better. Somewhere around here, Nick Faldo must be smiling.

6:51 p.m.: E-mail from Jeff in Salt Lake City:

    What do you think the odds are that we see Tiger and Phil hitting ceremonial shots and shooting in the 80's in 30-40 years? Gotta be a better chance for Phil right?

I would say that as long as Augusta National still has that tradition, Tiger and Phil would want to uphold it once their playing days are over.

6:47 p.m.: Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Sorry, folks. If anyone is still reading, I just had a few back-to-back-to-back radio interviews to take care of.

Oh, and my eyeballs are popping out of my head from staring at this screen all day. That too.

6:22 p.m.: E-mail from Blake in Parts Unknown:

    In his post round interview, Tiger said the only roar he heard all day was "Poulty's eagle." Pet name peace offering?

That's a Tiger thing. Adds "y" to the end of everyone's name. Then again, he's never called me "Jasony."

6:14 p.m.: Tiger Woods met with the media after his round. Nothing groundbreaking, though I did think this was interesting:

    Q: Are you ever nervous with it being the first round and all the expectations?
    A: Oh, you're always nervous every time you tee it up. If you're not nervous, that means you don't care, so why play? I care about what I shoot and how I play. I take great pride in what I do. So yeah, you're going to be a little nervous, and that's a good thing.

So, there you go. Next time you're standing over the ball on the first tee with butterflies in your stomach, remember that Tiger feels the exact same way.

5:53 p.m.: All week the talk of Augusta has been how long the course is playing. Well, let's take a look at this season's PGA Tour driving distance averages for the top nine players (everyone 2-under or better):

• Justin Rose: 278.7 yards. (Rank: 125)
• Trevor Immelman: 290.1 yards. (Rank: 38)
• Brandt Snedeker: 274.0 yards. (Rank: 168)
• Brian Bateman: 282.1 yards. (Rank: 89)
• Ian Poulter: 281.4 yards. (Rank: 94)
• Robert Karlsson: 289.8 yards. (Rank: 41)
• Zach Johnson: 268.4 yards. (Rank: 192)
• Stephen Ames: 273.1 yards. (Rank: 171)
• Jim Furyk: 273.4 yards. (Rank: 169)

No real big bangers on the list. There are a few things we can infer from this:

1. The course isn't playing nearly as long as we've been led to believe.
2. A difference of 20 yards or so (maybe a two-club swing) just doesn't matter much to players who are so proficient with their longer irons.
3. Accuracy is more important than distance at Augusta National.

5:43 p.m.: If you had the over in Amount of Times Brian Bateman Will be Interviewed in Butler Cabin This Week (listed at 0.5), you're a winner!

5:40 p.m.: Ernie Els is currently at 1-over through nine holes. Earlier this year, he wrote on his Web site that he really wanted to win the Masters and PGA Championship to bookend titles at the U.S. and British Opens. Well, he may already have a fourth major win, too, courtesy of the sublime Bob Smiley and his Fore Right blog.

5:32 p.m.: Interesting stuff from Arron Oberholser, who shot a 1-under 71 today despite playing injured:

    Q: Are you completely healed from all your problems?
    A: No. This is my last tournament. I'm going to take two months off. And I've got a medical for next year. I don't know what I'm going to do, but it's no fun playing golf like this.

    Q: What is it now?
    A: The hand isn't healed up completely, the shoulder isn't right, and my neck is bothering me. Other than that, I'm great.

    Q: Can you do anything surgically?
    A: No, this is -- surgery is always a last resort. This is something where I just need some rest. The doctor who did my surgery gave me some bad advice, told me that -- he didn't understand what a golfer has to do with his left hand to hold a club, and that's where the surgery was. It was right in the palm of my left hand where I hold the golf club. I came back too early, because I thought I could, and I'm just -- I can play one round of golf, I might even be able to play two decent rounds of golf, but to play three, four consecutive and then to play two, three weeks in a row for six days a week, I can't do it.

First of all, kudos to Oberholser for sucking it up and trying to play in the Masters rather than throwing in the towel beforehand. Second of all, even more kudos to him for going out and shooting a score in the red despite playing hurt.

I really thought this was going to be a breakout season for Oberholser -- a few wins, a high finish in a major, Ryder Cup berth -- but it looks like all of that will have to wait until next year.

5:26 p.m.: Well, we've had haikus, limericks ... might as well add this to ensure this is a complete nerd-fest ...

From Dustin in Houston:

    Here's the Anagram of the Day for Round 1:

    When you rearrange the letters of the phrase "IAN POULTER ON NUDE PHOTO" you get the phrase "PUTT? NO, A PROUD HOLE-IN-ONE."

Lest you worry about what may become of tomorrow's live blog, Dustin promises the following:

    Be back tomorrow for the Anagram of the Day for Round 2.

Sweet. I'll bring my pocket protector.

5:15 p.m.: So, think Trevor Immelman might sample some of the local fare for dinner tonight? Think again. This is from last year:

    The world's 12th-ranked player broke out with a pair of runner-up finishes between the Masters and U.S. Open last year, eventually leading to a win at the Western Open and the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year award. But the 27-year-old Immelman has been spending this post-Masters season battling a viral parasite he contacted either through water or a meal while in Augusta. ... At one point last week, Immelman was hooked up to an intravenous tube, then had to fast for two days before being put on a diet of toast, according to swing instructor David Leadbetter.

That's right. Parasite. And you wonder why I'm not throwing down the pimento cheese sandwiches every five minutes?

5:06 p.m.: Tiger Woods taps in for par on 18 to close out his round of even-par 72. Other than the bogey-bogey-eagle swing on 13-14-15, that was a pretty uninspired, unexciting performance from Woods, but not unlike what he's done in the past when he's won here.

Meanwhile, Trevor Immelman has tied Justin Rose at 4-under after making birdie on the 15th. More on him in a minute ...

5:02 p.m.: From my buddy Greg, who notes that I've been slacking off today:

    Here's a stat for you: In last year's Round 1 blog, you had 102 posts by 4:49, and 114 posts total. This year, by 4:49, you only have 87 posts -- including the posts that say (to paraphrase), "Back in a few, doing interviews."

    Several theories:

    • The morning fog got you off to a slow start;
    • The quality of the posts is better this year (doubtful -- there were some gems last year, and -- although research is ongoing -- I believe fewer haikus);
    • Skipping breakfast has made you sneak out for snacks more often this year;
    • Less fan participation (also doubtful, there's been good input this year, so one assumes a greater universe to select emails from);
    • Seasoned blog veterans exercise more patience than blog rookies;
    • You're getting a little too cocky for the blog's good.

    The more posts the better A word count is next -- I'm going to hold you to task.

I see one of three things happening:

• The blog gradually devolves to where I only post one note about an egg salad sandwich during the 2017 Masters;
• I start copying and pasting entire news conference interviews, just to hit my word limit;
• I type faster and more frantically, causing the ligaments in my fingers to spontaneously burst.

4:54 p.m.: E-mail from my buddy the Fish on ESPN Radio 1380 in Seattle:

    We all know the old expression, "You can't win the Masters on Thursday, but you can lose it. So, did Fred Couples, Stuart Appleby, perhaps Geoff Ogilvy lose it today? How about Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Rory Sabbatini?

I would say 3-over is still very much in it and 4-over isn't as awful as it seems, either. Remember, last year Retief Goosen shot a pair of 76s to make the cut on the number (10 behind the leaders) and then shot 70-69 to finish T-2. Plenty of golf left to be played.

I haven't given my usual first-round analogy yet, so now is as good a time as any: Leading after the opening-round of a major championship is like leading after the first quarter of an NBA game. Better than losing, sure, but it's hardly a determining factor of the eventual champion. Keep that in mind while watching the rest of the round unfold.

4:46 p.m.: E-mail from David in Charlottesville, Va.:

    Reading about Tiger's eagle got me thinking: How much crystal has Augusta National given Tiger over the years?

Not as much as you would think. Today's eagle was only his sixth in the Masters (if my quick research is correct), meaning he owns a total of 12 crystal goblets. He also owns a whole bunch of crystal vases (for the day's lowest score) and a sterling silver salver (for a runner-up finish). Oh, and four green jackets, which come with a gold medal and sterling silver replica Masters trophy.

4:34 p.m.: E-mail from Dave the former golf researcher:

    It's amazing that Justin Rose has only played in four Masters and could be leading after 18 holes for the third time. Here are the only guys to lead after 18 at least three times:

    • Jack Nicklaus (4)
    • Arnold Palmer (3)
    • Gary Player (3)
    • Lloyd Mangrum (3)

4:30 p.m.: Boo Weekley just made eagle at No. 13 to close out his turn around Amen Corner. Not that he had any idea. Weekley had this to say in his Augusta Chronicle blog on Tuesday:

    I couldn't tell you what three holes were Amen Corner, to tell you the truth.

If you just cringed, congratulations. You're a golf purist.

4:27 p.m.: E-mail from Dee in Lubbock, Texas:

    Jason, why no birdies on 18? Send out a spy and let us know.

I don't need a spy. I can tell you it's playing very long. I did a podcast with Jerry Kelly the other day and he told me, "I hit 3-wood into 18 -- that was fun." Not making a whole lot of birdies when you're hitting 3-wood into a par-4.

4:22 p.m.: Holy #$%&! Sandy Lyle just made another birdie to move to 3-under through 12. This is the same Sandy Lyle who has finished T-54, T-40 and T-25 in his first three starts on the Champions Tour since turning 50.

Can't say it enough: Every five years of experience is worth a stroke here at Augusta National. (I guess that means Gary Player would have shot a 93 if this was his debut performance.)

4:18 p.m.: Not sure if it counts as a blog jinx since it's been three holes since I mentioned Phil Mickelson, but he just three-putted from about 12 feet, lipping out the par putt from about 3 feet. Falls to 1-under.

4:11 p.m.: So much for that par streak. After bogeys on 13 (a duffed chip and two-putt) and 14, Tiger Woods chips in for eagle on No. 15 to get right back to even-par. Maybe he's still in Golf Purgatory, but at least the ride is becoming more exciting.

4:03 p.m.: Justin Rose is on an absolute roll. After starting 2-over through five holes, he's now birdied Nos. 6, 7, 8, 9, 12 and 13 to move into sole possession of the lead at 4-under.

Here's some of what he had to say on Tuesday, prior to the tournament:

    I think the experiences I've had here at Augusta have been powerful experiences, I've had good experiences and bad experiences and you learn from both, and that's the key. Last year I felt very comfortable in the hunt all week, really, from day one, I was on the leaderboard, and I felt comfortable with that situation and position and, enjoyed it. Certainly I think the biggest thing about winning a major is believing you can, and last year was key for me in terms of making that step up, really.

Do I think Rose is ready to win a major championship? Absolutely.

4:01 p.m.: E-mail from Dan in Virginia:

    You'd be hung out to dry on that limb if Tiger finishes at even-par. The last champion to finish at even-par or higher, before Zach Johnson last year, was Jack Nicholson in 1966.

Huh? Nicholson didn't win Best Actor until 1976. Must be a typo ...

And I'm sticking by my claim. Even-par wins it.

3:54 p.m.: More from Ian Poulter's post-round news conference:

    Q: When did the giving away the bogey ball start, and why did it start?
    A: Well, it doesn't work properly, does it, so it has to go.
    Q: When did that start?

    A: Long ago. As soon as I got on tour. As soon as they were free. As soon as they were free, I could sack it and get a new one.

There you go. If you ever want a free souvenir from a golf tournament, just follow Poulter along a tough stretch of holes, then put your hand out as he walks by. For the record, he only handed out one ball today -- though judging from the photo I linked earlier, I could have sworn it was two.

3:46 p.m.: BLOG JINX!!!

From Jim in Charlotte, N.C.:

    Tiger bogeyed 13 shortly after the post about his streak of pars. This jinx is getting too SI cover-ish for me.

Nobody is immune!

3:42 p.m.: E-mail from Brian in Parts Unknown:

    Although first-round leaders may not win very often, I see a guy who birdied his first two holes, who is most certainly capable of going wire-to-wire. In fact, it's his year to win anyway.

I assume "his year to win" refers to the fact that Phil Mickelson may never again lose a Masters Tournament in an even-numbered year, huh? It could happen. Mickelson is the most under-the-radar two-time champ and No. 2-ranked player I've ever seen. Let's remember that he's won more green jackets than Tiger Woods over the past half-decade.

3:38 p.m.: With Tiger Woods even-par through 12 holes, I'm going out on a limb right now and saying that if he makes 60 more pars this week, he'll have his fifth green jacket on Sunday.

3:34 p.m.: Spy report from our friend Lanier in the porta-potty again:

    I cannot imagine a more perfect day! Glad I closed shop and came down for the day. If only I could stay out of the restrooms! Seen three people escorted out for having cell phones. How STUPID!

Pot, kettle.

3:26 p.m.: Be very careful what you send me in an e-mail. For example, Huan showed me this, which is his actual wedding cake -- and now all of you can see it, too. Oh, and then there's this, too.

All of which leaves us with these questions: Coolest wife ever? Or biggest golf geek ever? Or both?

3:15 p.m.: E-mail from my buddy Dave, a former ESPN golf researcher, who clearly can't let go of his old job:

    There have been 100 players in the lead or tied for the lead after the first round of the Masters and their average score in those first rounds was was 67.49. Those same 100 players averaged a score of 73.16 in the second round.

    The last first-round leader to follow up with a lower score in the second round was Scott McCarron in 1999. Before McCarron, it was Arnold Palmer in 1964!!!! Before Palmer? Herman Keiser in 1946 and Harry Cooper in 1936!!! (Those are the only four first-round leaders to shoot lower in the second round than they did in the first round!!!)

He really likes exclamation points. They make the research look more authentic.

    The last first-round leader to win was Ben Crenshaw in 1984. In fact, since 1976 -- when Ray Floyd became the last player to go wire-to-wire -- Seve Ballesteros is the only other first-round leader to go on to win.

I think what he's saying is Ian Poulter -- and now Zach Johnson, who leads at 3-under -- shouldn't be sizing up a green jacket (or in Zach's case, another green jacket) just yet.

3:11 p.m.: Just for the hell of it, since we're on the subject and this takes place on a golf course, it's fair game.

3:10 p.m.: Looks like the Par 3 Curse will live on for another year. After winning yesterday's competition, Rory Sabbatini is 3-over through 13 holes today.

Not sure what's wrong with his game, but usually nothing can distract Rory. Nothing at all. Well, maybe one thing.

3:08 p.m.: E-mail from Paul in Boston:

    Your updates come slower than it takes Stuart Appleby to putt.

Jim Furyk says thank you.

3:06 p.m.: From my buddy Casey in Crenshawville, er, Austin, Texas:

    Shout out to Ben Crenshaw, please -- 2-over through 16.

Holla.

3:01 p.m.: From Robert Karlsson's bio in the official Masters player guide:

    In 2003, he decided to make a fresh start after years of feeling frustrated with both his game and life situation. Since then has worked hard with his attitudes towards the game, family, friends and life in general, which has changed his approach to the game, and to life as a whole, as he has become more relaxed and content both on and off the course.

In other words: Karlsson is good enough, he's smart enough, and doggone it, people like him.

2:58 p.m.: Leaderboard check: Ian Poulter is in the clubhouse at 2-under, joined in the lead by Robert Karlsson, Zach Johnson, Justin Rose, Stephen Ames, Sandy Lyle and Soren Hansen -- all of whom are still on the course.

2:52 p.m.: Ian Poulter was asked (of course) about his recent comments about his placement among the world's best golfers when he came into the interview room:

    Q: There was talk about the, what you classified about the misconception about beating Tiger, what you said. That attention that was paid to you, has that motivated you in any way?
    A: Not really, because nothing was said which was untoward. The comments were the comments. Which they were hard to take at the time, but I think that the article was fine. I think what I said was fine. And I think that if people read the whole piece then they can understand exactly what I was trying to say. From No. 2 to 1,000 in the world is the same as where Tiger is between one and two. So I was just saying that he's one in a million. It's a great time to be playing golf and how hard it is to achieve No. 2 in the world if you play well. I don't think any pressure has been put on me. I obviously want to play golf well all the time and there's no better stage to play golf than the Masters.

It's interesting that in two months Poulter has gone from, "I was misquoted," to "I think what I said was fine." As a journalist, there's nothing worse than quoting a person correctly and having them deny it. Looks like he's backed off that claim.

2:46 p.m.: E-mail from Andre in San Diego:

    Justin Rose has birdied four in a row to get to 2-under. What's the record for most consecutive birdies in the Masters?
I know that one. Steve Pate set the record with seven straight during the third round in 1999, from the seventh hole through the 13th, then Tiger Woods matched that figure in the same round, same holes, six years later.

For the record, it's tough to believe Woods has ever played better than his 15-stroke U.S. Open win at Pebble Beach in 2000, but that early Sunday morning rally in '05 was the best I've ever seen him play for one stretch of a round.

2:38 p.m.: Time for the annual posting of the lyrics to "Augusta," by Dave Loggins:

    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 the 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
    And it's you that I'll miss when I'm gone.
    It's Watson, Byron Nelson, Demaret, Player and Snead
    It's Amen Corner and it's Hogan's perfect swing
    It's Sarazen's double eagle at the 15 in '35
    And the spirit of a Tiger that keeps it alive
    Augusta, your dogwoods and pines
    They play on my mind like a song
    Augusta, it's you that I love
    And it's you that I miss when I'm gone
    It's the legions of Arnie's Army and the Golden Bear's throngs
    And the wooden-shafted legend of Bobby Jones

That leads to this e-mail from Adam in Knoxville, Tenn.:

    By the way, what is up with "Augusta" referring to the "green coat?" For as long as I can remember it's been called the green jacket. The question is: Was Dave Loggins that bad of a lyricist, or was he purely anal retentive when it came to detail?

Actually, he didn't pay that much attention to detail. It took an editor at Augusta National to realize he didn't originally write "throngs."

2:30 p.m.: E-mail from J.B. in North Carolina:

    Who in the name of Ben Hogan dusted off Sandy Lyle and plopped him on a 2-under run? Do I smell haggis a burnin'?

Apparently, it's a special anniversary celebration of Masters champions. Mark O'Meara, who won in 1998, looked like his buddy Tiger in shooting 71; Sandy Lyle, who won in 1988, is tied atop the leaderboard at 2-under through six holes; and Gary Player, who won in 1978, just finished up his round of 83 -- staying two shots below the Ocho Cinco line.

Somewhere Bob Goalby, who won in 1968, is kicking himself for not competing this year.

2:21 p.m.: Remember what I said earlier about Tiger Woods being like a boxer and just feeling out the course over the first round? Well, he's never broken 70 in Round 1 at the Masters and it looks like he may not today, either. Woods has made pars on each of his first eight holes. Reminds of something I saw on TV the other day:

    Lois Griffin: So, Peter, where shall we go for your week off?
    Peter Griffin: Well, I ... I was thinking we could all go to Purgatory like we did last year!
    [Scene switches to the Griffins floating in front of a plain white background]
    Lois Griffin: This isn't bad ... it's not that good, but y'know ... it's not that bad.
    Brian Griffin: It's so-so.
    Peter Griffin: Yeah ... more or less ...

2:13 p.m.: ESPNEWS interview. Back in a few.

2:07 p.m.: I've been told this may break the Internet, but The Big Lead is live-blogging my live-blog, which makes about as much sense as me linking back to it.

1:59 p.m.: I know I asked for it, but I really didn't see a poetry blog breaking out today. Whatever. Here are some limericks ...

From Brandon in Parts Unknown:

    Tiger has his hands on his face

    Disbelief not because he's in 10th place

    He was shocked to learn
    Something he couldn't discern

    Ian Poulter had just hit an ace.

From Sarah in Oregon:

    The goal of round one at the Masters

    Is to avoid water and other disasters

    There's Tiger at par

    The lead's not too far

    Not yet confounding all the forecasters.

One more from Jay in Pennsylvania and then you can start sending the hate mail:

    There once was a golfer named Ian
    Who said his best golf, we'd be seein'
    First two rouds were slick
    Now he's paired with Eldrick
    And in his pink pants he's a peein'

I call a moratorium on limericks for at least 15 minutes. And for those trying to rhyme "noble," "so bull" and "Sobel," you are soooo far from getting on the blog, it's not even funny.

1:52 p.m.: ESPN The Magazine's Wright Thompson checks in with a haiku:

    Is it pink? Coral?
    Hogan is rolling over
    Where does Poulter shop?

That was 14,172 words shorter than anything else Wright has previously had published.

1:49 p.m.: All this Ian Poulter talk led to the inevitable ...

BLOG JINX!!!

Poulter bogeys No. 17, falls into a four-way tie for the lead with Zach Johnson, Mark O'Meara and Luke Donald.

1:45 p.m.: E-mail from Andre in San Diego:

    I'm not sure what's worse while blogging at work: To have your boss walk by and see you're watching the NCAA Tournament on your computer or a naked Ian Poulter holding only a pink golf bag? Just sayin' ...

You're welcome.

1:41 p.m.: E-mail from Dan in Natick, Mass.:

    What do you think are the biggest suprises early in Round 1? How about Freddie making five bogeys on the front and making the turn at 4-over? Can he keep his cute streak alive?

Yes, Fred Couples may miss the cut for the first time in two dozen years. But "cute" is in the eye of the beholder, Dan. If you like what you see, then yes, the streak can remain alive for another year.

1:37 p.m.: A hole-in-one haiku from Rick in Parts Unknown:

    Poulter makes an ace
    Ian said, "Take that, Tiger!"
    Now the game is on?

Sniff, sniff ... I smell a trend for the live blog over the next few days. Love the haikus, but if someone could write a solid limerick, I'd be really excited.

1:31 p.m.: With Poulter now in the lead, it seems like as good a time as any to revisit his comments that appeared in GolfWorld U.K.:

    "The trouble is I don't rate anyone else. ... Don't get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven't played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger."

Perhaps more interesting, considering current events is this other segment of the article that appeared in the mag:

    The Englishman, asked by the magazine to predict the winner of the first major of the season at the Masters in April, replied: "Put Tiger down for that one."

    For the year's second major at the U.S. Open, he said: "You can put me down for that one."

For his part, Poulter said he was misquoted. Maybe he said he'd win the Masters, too?

And in case you're wondering, here is a photo that ran with the Poulter story, which is, uh, sorta NSFW, I suppose.

1:23 p.m.: The 19th hole-in-one in Masters history was just posted by ... Ian Poulter!

Poulter moves from 1-under to 3-under, taking solo possession of first place with the ace. It's the 11th hole-in-one all-time at the 16th hole. The most recent was made by Trevor Immelman three years ago. the first? From amateur Ross Somerville in 1934, who used a mashie-niblick from 145 yards. Bet you didn't know that.

1:13 p.m.: ESPNEWS interview. Back in a few minutes.

1:08 p.m.: Great observation from Chris in Greenville, S.C.:

    Mark O'Meara went perfect for Amen Corner with birdies at 11, 12, and 13. Can't imagine many guys will do that this week.

If Tiger Woods is Superman, shouldn't O'Meara be on this list somewhere?

12:59 p.m.: I'm going to tell the following story not to embarrass my peers, but just to show how far off the radar a certain player is ...

During the Tour Championship last September, I was sitting at a lunch table with five or six other golf writers. Somehow, the subject came up: "Who won the Buick Open this year?" Mind you, the tournament had taken place just two months earlier, but we sat and wracked our brains, while a few dismissive answers of, "Tiger?" and "No idea" and "Umm ...." were thrown out there. Took us a few minutes, but we finally remembered it was Brian Bateman, a career journeyman who received a Masters invitation based on that victory.

Well, he hasn't done much since then -- no finishes better than 23rd in 18 starts -- but with birdies on Nos. 2 and 3, he's now one off the lead of Luke Donald, who's 3-under through six.

12:55 p.m.: E-mail from Matthew in St. Louis:

    Too early to start saying, "I'm Johnny Cash" every time Zach Johnson makes a putt?

Never.

For the record, I've been informed that Steve Flesch also birdied the first hole. Starting to creep closer and closer to that over/under for live blog mistakes this week.

12:49 p.m.: E-mail from Josh in Raleigh, N.C.:

    Couldn't resist this one after seeing the Gary Player haiku:

    When Tiger Woods wins,
    He will break 67.
    Crown him on Sunday.

Never saw the live blog going in this direction, but what the heck, I'll try one, too:

    Heath Slocum in first?
    Hey, it's the Bob Hope Classic!
    Can't be the Masters.

Take that, Robert Frost.

12:45 p.m.: Is it too late to copyright the phrase, "Back-to-Back Zach Attacks"? Seriously, can I do a Pat Riley "Three-peat" deal and make a few bucks every time someone uses it?

Might need to, as Zach Johnson is now tied for the lead (with Heath Slocum) at 2-under. He's the only player so far to have birdied No. 1 and added another on No. 5, too. I've been saying for a year that he was no fluky champ, and it's good to see him proving it so far.

12:38 p.m.: E-mail from Brad in Harrisburg, Pa.:

    Enough about all the competitive major golf going on. What about the competitive blogging? Who is your competition down there? Are you favored to win this weeks blog due to your past major experience?

Well, Brad, I know we have a great field this week and I know there are a lot of talented bloggers out there, but I'm just taking this thing one entry at a time. I hope my game can hold up over four rounds and we'll see what the leaderboard says on Sunday evening.

12:34 p.m.: Leaderboard check: Of the 12 players currently under par, only two have completed more than five holes, with Heath Slocum (through 14) and Ian Poulter (through 12) both at 1-under. What does that mean? Maybe nothing. Or maybe the course is really starting to bite on No. 7, a hole which everyone was dreading coming into today.

12:29 p.m.: Pat in New Jersey has a suggestion for Augusta National chairman Billy Payne and the Masters' new Golf Goes Worldwide initiative:

    I think Augusta National should have a contest where one fan gets to compete in the Masters. How great would it be to see a guy post a 200?

Hold your breath, Pat. OK, keep holding it. Just a little longer. Almost there ...

No, seriously, I love it. Now playing, four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods ... and some dude named Pat from New Jersey! Only a matter of time, my man.

12:20 p.m.: Tiger Woods teed off just a little while ago, making par on the first hole. He's playing with Angel Cabrera and Stuart Appleby, neither of whom will be too in awe of the massive galleries surrounding their group.

But it does bring to mind a story Matt Kuchar told me when we were hanging at a Starbucks in Atlanta this past Saturday. Back in 1998, he was the reigning U.S. Amateur champ and played with Woods, the defending Masters champ. He told me the following (all paraphrased):

    "Walking from the practice green to the first tee, back then there were 40-50 yards in between and it was just the loudest sound I had ever heard. When I finally got over my ball on the first tee, my heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. I don't know how I even got it up in the air, but I hit a great one that flirted with the bunker but stayed in the fairway. Such a cool feeling."

Kuchar actually led Tiger through 15 holes that day, but wound up losing by one, shooting a 71 to his 72.

And yes, I just name-dropped Matt Kuchar. So there.

12:09 p.m.: ESPNEWS interview with Fred Hickman, back in 5-10 minutes ...

12:01 p.m.: Jeff in Parts Unknown would like to remind me of an earlier prediction:

    "For the record, I'll take the under. I don't think anyone -- not even some of the older former champions like Raymond Floyd or Gary Player -- will find the ugly side of 85, but we'll keep track of this throughout the day."

He then adds:

    Still want to take the under? With Player 8-over through eight holes, he needs to shoot the last 10 holes in less than 5-over to break 85. Plus, Zoeller is 8-over through 12, so there is a shot he might hit the ugly side of 85 as well.

Like I said earlier, I'm never right, so this isn't too surprising. What is surprising is that I'm receiving a lot of e-mails like this one from Todd in Akron, Ohio:

    The Masters is such a great tourney with all of the history and tradition. With that being said, isn't it time that crusties like Player and Zoeller move aside and let some of the younger crowd, who actually can compete, have a chance?

Really? We want to get rid of a few legends just so guys like, say, Rod Pampling or David Howell can play? And it's not as if they would get the spots from the former champs, necessarily, either. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I just don't think there's anything so wrong with having a handful of players competing who won't contend for the title. It's called tradition.

11:54 a.m.: Steve in Boise, Idaho, wants to tempt the fates:

    Hope there's no blog jinx, but I've always liked Justin Leonard. Nice to see him up there, and hope he keeps playing well.

Oh yeah, I'm sure one little mention won't jinx him. Couldn't hurt, right? We'll see ...

11:46 a.m.: At 7-over through seven holes, Gary Player is currently DFL (which stands for "Darn Freakin' Last," of course). Brings up an interesting question from Matt in Pittsburgh:

    Do you see Gary hanging 'em up at Augusta after this year? I know he really enjoys playing and I love him, but I think it's pretty unfair and frustrating to have to play with or behind a guy who is hitting it all over the yard, even for a player with the stature of Gary.

I'll say this much: When Player decides to stop playing Augusta -- or should I say "if" -- it won't be because he feels like he's holding up his playing partners; it'll be because he simply doesn't want to play anymore or the green-jacketed officials politely ask him to join Arnie on the first tee at 7:50 Thursday morning every year.

By the way, Player had a great quote the other day:

    "This is my 51st Masters. And that means I've spent 51 weeks here, which is almost a year of my life."

On that note, here's a haiku from my buddy Casey, because, well, I always hang with dudes who write poetry:

    If Gary Player
    Does not break 90, they should
    Hide his clubs Friday.

OK, that was actually kinda funny.

11:40 a.m.: E-mail from ESPN.com fantasy golf writer supreme and fellow Brandeis University grad Shawn Peters:

    Which would be the bigger upset: Zach Johnson (ranked outside the world's top-30 at the time) winning last year when the course was cold, fast and dry, forcing players to dial it down and play smart? Or someone like Scott Verplank or even Jim Furyk (both in the top-25 in the World Rankings but in the bottom quarter on tour in length off the tee) winning this year with the course playing soft, wet and looooooooong?

Well, I'd never say it's an upset if a player of Furyk's caliber contends or even wins on any course -- even one of this length. And I'm still not ready to buy the fact that just because the course is playing long right now it's going to hold up over the weekend. Supposed to start getting windier and I think the course will firm up as we go along.

(See, you come for the jokes. You stay for the analysis.)

11:34 a.m.: Peter in Parts Unknown makes the blog with two separate e-mails within minutes of each other:

    I bet Slocum would take 3-under now.

Uh, ya think? After posing that question when he was 3-under through eight, he's now gone bogey-bogey to drop to 1-under. Should've gone to the clubhouse and waited 'til Sunday like I suggested!

    Do they serve Heineken in the press tent? Have you started?

Yes. And, sadly, no.

11:30 a.m.: Young Nick Dougherty from England is the new solo leader at 2-under through three holes, making birdies on Nos. 2 and 3.

And right on cue, my buddy Brian in South Carolina has this passage that he stole from one of the British tabs (I assume):

    "Yeah, I had dinner with Nick last night," said Dougherty. "Nick" is Faldo, who first spotted the boy from Bootle and put him on the path to Georgia via his celebrated Junior Series. "He was great, very helpful. We talked about different shots to use around the greens and secret ways to check what that swirling wind is really doing. We went through each individual hole, looking at where the flags are going to be, the right places to hit it and where you can't afford to miss. He pointed out a couple of things it would probably have taken me years to realise [sic]. It makes me believe I've prepared really, really well. That and the four days I've just had there."

Memo to aspiring professional golfers: If you're going to have a mentor, try to get one with three green jackets in his closet. Might just come in handy someday.

11:26 a.m.: Has anyone been reading Bob Harig's SportsNation chat? Is it any good? Has anyone asked him why he's wearing sunglasses on his head even though he's indoors?

11:17 a.m.: Matt in Richmond, Va., e-mails with another prop bet (I hope someone is keeping track of these somewhere -- hint, hint):

    How many Aussies will finish in the top-10? I'm putting the over/under at three.

Done. I think that's a fair number. Guys like Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott are getting a lot of pub coming into this week. No Aussie player has ever won the Masters (a fact Greg Norman may unfortunately have inscribed on his tombstone one day), but Scott told me recently he wants it more than any other major. From the Hot Seat:

Q: Is there one major that suits your game better than the other three?
A: It's tough to say. I think it's all pretty much the same, but if I won one, I'd love it to be the Masters.
Q: More than the British?
A: Yeah, because an Australian has never won the Masters.

I know you can just click the link and read this, but some more good stuff from Scott in that interview:

Q: On to some more serious stuff. Where does winning a major championship rank on your list of priorities?
A: Obviously, No. 1. To win a major championship -- I think, at the end of the day, that's what a golfer's career is based upon.
Q: You have never finished closer than six strokes to the winner in 27 career majors. How come?
A: Well, I really haven't taken my best stuff into a major yet. It's been something that I've struggled with, peaking on those four weeks of the year. I'm working really hard to change that.

Q: What are your feelings going into a major championship week? Excitement? Nerves? Some combination of the two?
A: It's a combination of the two, but I'd certainly like to see the excitement level going up. I think there's more and more excitement now. I'm feeling more and more comfortable in my abilities to win one, so excitement should take over.

Scott WD'd from the Houston Open due to a high fever and throat infection last week, spent a few days bedridden and didn't practice here after showing up on Monday. Not the way he'd like to go into the biggest week of the year.

11:11 a.m.: BLOG JINX!!!

For those familiar with the live blogs from last year's majors, you know that, without fault, every single time a player gets mentioned in here, he screws up within minutes. (For those who weren't familiar with the live blogs from last year's majors, where the hell were you?) Well, we've just had out first blog jinx of the week, as Heath Slocum makes bogey on No. 9 and drops to 2-under for the tournament. Sorry 'bout that, dude.

11:09 a.m.: I'd love to ask the following question of Heath Slocum right now: Would you rather go straight to the locker room at 3-under right now with a chance of being the leader through the end of play on Sunday or play 64 more holes and take your chances?

I think he'd say he wants to play, but knows deep down inside that 3-under would be pretty damn cool.

11:02 a.m.: E-mail from Ian Poulter, who must have ducked into a porta-potty to send this:

    Thanks, Sobel, for saying the early players aren't the cream. Trust me, it's just me and Tiger out there ...

Reminds me of one of the funniest things I've read in a while, from a recent article in The Guardian:

    Scenes from a golfing village, part one: Tiger Woods and Ian Poulter are hitting balls on a driving range in Tucson, Arizona, when along comes Lee Westwood and takes his place between them. "Oh, I'm so nervous," says Westwood, who is almost as good at drollery as he is at smacking golf balls towards distant flags. "I don't know if I'm good enough to practise [sic] between the best two players in the world."

Poulter said he was misquoted in GolfWorld U.K. a few months back, though I spoke with the mag's editor who contended he wasn't. Either way, he's getting grief for the comments from all over the place, even the good-natured ribbing sort from his British buddies.

(On another note, I think we can stop referring to the top players simply as "cream." It just sounds a little too ... dirty.)

10:54 a.m.: Gary Player is 4-over through four holes so far. An Ocho Cinco uh-oh? Perhaps ...

10:47 a.m.: E-mail from Phil in Manchester, N.H.:

    What hole will Slocum blow the save on? And when did he change sports?

And where are the other 1996-era Red Sox relievers? No Mike Maddux? Or Stan Belinda? Or El Guapo?

I don't think there's any "cliff" at the end of this Slocum's first name and I know there's no "b" at the end of his last name. But I do remember a story from a few years ago in which the pro golfer and the former pitcher were paired together at a charity event.

10:35 a.m.: By the way, I spoke with Heath Slocum for about two minutes on Tuesday afternoon. From our conversation -- and I'm paraphrasing here:

Me: How's the course playing?
Heath: Long!
Me: Too long for you?
Heath: Well ...

Slocum doesn't hit the ball a long way, so his game isn't quite built for a big course like this. He told me he was hitting 4-irons, 3-irons, even hybrids into a lot of the par-4 holes, which puts him at a huge disadvantage against some longer hitters who can hit 6- and 7-irons into the greens.

And so maybe it makes sense that both of Slocum's birdies so far came at the par-3 holes on the front side, Nos. 4 and 6.

10:31 a.m.: E-mail from my buddy Casey in Austin, Texas:

    I know you'll say it's way too early, but ... there are lots of red numbers so far -- and the guys on the course aren't exactly the cream. Other than No. 2, those first five or six holes aren't all that easy. There could be a low number posted today.

Very true. Perfect conditions out there right now, with seven players in red numbers -- Heath Slocum (2-under) and Mark O'Meara, Ian Poulter, Peter Lonard, Hunter Mahan, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Justin Leonard (each 1-under).

10:28 a.m.: E-mail from Lanier in the bathroom:

    Are you doing the "spy reports" in your blog again this year? If so, tell people to be careful. I just saw someone escorted out for talking on a cell phone. There goes their badge! I'm typing from the bathroom.

I would never promote breaking the rules and bringing a cell phone or PDA to Augusta National. But if you simply MUST contribute to the live blog, take Lanier's advice and do it from the bathroom.

10:20 a.m.: As usual, make me laugh and you make the blog. From Tommy in New Castle, Del.:

    Can you get a picture of Tiger when he tees off for me?

In all seriousness, after the latest flap surrounding Woods' anger toward a photographer who snapped him in his downswing at Doral, many readers wrote to me asking the same thing I was thinking: With all the technology out there, don't they make high-quality professional cameras that don't make any noise? And if not, why can't someone invent them? I'll get one of the pro photogs around here to answer this for me at some point today.

10:14 a.m.: I've gotten a lot of e-mails asking the following questions: Who's going to win this week? Who's a good sleeper pick? Who should I take in my office pool? Who might miss the cut?

If you're just asking for my predictions, I know I posted a link to my rankings earlier, but they're not changing for at least a few more hours, so that should answer all the questions.

Oh, and one other thing: I'm never right. So go with the opposite of what I predict. (Which means Gary Player will win and Tiger Woods will finish last.) I'm still waiting for Stewart Cink to pick up his 2007 PGA Championship trophy.

10:05 a.m.: Super-early leaderboard check: Heath Slocum, Hunter Mahan and Ian Poulter all tied at 1-under.

9:58 a.m.: How crazy is everyone here for this tournament? I just ran to the restroom and a maintenance employee asked me a trivia question.

(Which first-year player had the lowest score at the Masters? I guessed Fuzzy Zoeller. It was Toshi Izawa. Moral of the story: You can learn a lot around here, even in the restroom.)

9:50 a.m.: One e-mail from William in North Carolina before I take a two-minute breakfast break:

    Who you got in the past champions over 50 crowd as the low man? I'm saying Ben Crenshaw again.

I'll take Bernhard Langer and even give you 3.5 strokes. It seems like every year an older dude makes a run -- for two days at least -- and I've got my eye on Langer this year. He has three wins on the Champions Tour in 11 starts since turning 50 a year ago.

9:44 a.m.: We're still about two hours away from Tiger Woods teeing off, but I'll take this early e-mail from Phil in Syracuse, N.Y.:

    Tiger has never shot below 70 in the first round. Do you think that he plays Round 1 like a boxer, just feeling the course out, not allowing himself to be knocked out early? If so, isn't it likely he leaves birdies out there that he needs on Sunday, ya know, like when he loses by 2 to Zach Johnson? Or do you think he always tries to go low?

I think the boxer analogy is a great one and one I've used myself in the past. The most important character trait a player can have at a major championship is patience. Believe me, Tiger wouldn't mind shooting a 65 today and putting the whole tourney out of reach, but he knows, as do most other players, that a major can't be won during the opening round. But it can be lost.

9:40 a.m.: First two birdies of the week are now on the board as Brett Wetterich and Fuzzy Zoeller each bounced back to post a 4 at the par-5 second hole.

9:33 a.m.: My buddy Jared in Boston has another prop bet:

    To make things more interesting: Ben Curtis, Rich Beem, Todd Hamilton, Shaun Micheel. Who will have the highest score this week? The lowest score?

According to my original ranking, I have Micheel at No. 78, Curtis at No. 79 and Hamilton at No. 85. Beem isn't entered. Double-bogey on me for saying he was earlier. Not the first, won't be the last.

9:27 a.m.: E-mail from Michael in Cookeville, Tenn.:

    Give us an update on weather conditions this morning!

Well, since you added the exclamation point, I can't say no ...

Here's the outlook from the sheet I picked up here in the media center when I arrived this morning (subject to change, of course):

• 9 a.m.: Partly cloudy. Temp: 55F. Winds: NE 4-8 mph.
• 12 p.m.: Partly cloudy. Temp: 65F. Winds: NE 5-10 mph.
• 3 p.m.: Partly cloudy. Temp: 74F. Winds: ENE 5-10 mph.

Advantage: Late guys. Doesn't look like the wind is going to kick up much in the afternoon, and anyone who's ever hit a ball knows it's easier to do in 74-degree weather than 55, so expect some leaders to come from later groups today.

9:24 a.m.: Heath Slocum joins the leaders at even-par through one hole, while Fuzzy Zoeller and Brett Wetterich each make bogey to fall one stroke behind. And no, I will not be updating every golfer's score on every hole this week. Just excited to see a little golf going on.

9:18 a.m.: If the Masters ended right now ...

Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel would be co-leaders at even-par through one hole. Each guy made par at No. 1 and though I'm not going to overanalyze this too much, Jerry Kelly told me on Tuesday that the first hole is playing tougher than ever before. And Tiger Woods has often said that it's the toughest opening hole in all of golf. Will be interesting to see how many other players can remain at level-par after the first one.

9:12 a.m.: E-mail from Tim in Indianapolis:

    I'm a big fan of Gary Player. What are his odds of winning this year?

According to Robert Walker, Director of Race and Sports Book of the MGM Mirage Resorts in Las Vegas, the odds on Gary Player to win are 6-to-1. Seriously.

That's because he's not listed among the Sports Book's top 50 or so contenders and is lumped into the "Field" bet. I'm sure there are individual odds on him somewhere that are astronomically higher. I like it, though. Anytime you can get great odds on a guy with nine major wins, you take 'em. Nothing like celebrating the 30-year anniversary of your last major victory with another one.

9:08 a.m.: As the first group gets ready to tee off (I see a ball on a tee and a player taking practice swings, so they're close), we continue discussing my dining experience. From Ron in Hartford:

    Have you been to T-Bonz this year? If so, what famous athletes have you run into?

Yes, two-hour wait for a table of six and someone's still waiting for some asparagus. Is Scott Van Pelt a famous athlete? I say yes. But if you disagree, then the answer is zero.

9:01 a.m.: E-mail from Jay in Virginia:

    In case you care, it's foggy in Virginia this morning, too, and nobody said that I could come in an hour later when the fog lifted.

Good point. How many people could come in late for work and blame the fog? Pilots and golfers. that might be about it.

8:53 a.m.: Welcome back to the Fog Blog.

Just took a walk outside to the first fairway (I know; the words "live-blogging" and "outside" don't mix) and though Curtis and Micheel have yet to tee off, they should be any minute. According to one observer who had been out there for a little while, "The fog just started lifting over the past two or three minutes." Another person, walking down from the first tee, reported that caddies were making their way from the practice green to the tee box, golf bags on shoulders. So it looks like we'll actually have some golf to talk about pretty soon.

8:45 a.m.: E-mail from Brian in the beautiful town of Ashland, Mass.:

    Last pairing -- er, grouping -- is scheduled to now go out at 2:43. Giving that it is threesomes, what are the chances they finish play today?

Probably not real good. I'd have to check when official sundown is, but I'm guessing they won't be able to play past 7:30 or so, if that. Of course, with a 94-man field, the Masters is better equipped to handle delays than most other tournaments with some 60 more competitors.

8:41 a.m.: Another spy report (though from the same spy, who's now taken a 2-up lead on all other on-course spies so far):

    "I was standing just off the fairway where Arnie's ball landed. An official walked into the fairway, picked up the ball and walked away."

Think Palmer will get it back? Will it go into some trophy case here at Augusta National? Or will the Green Jacket Purloiner have a new souvenir for the hallway shelf? Hmm ...

8:36 a.m.: First spy report of the week, from an on-course observer:

    "I was out there for Arnie's tee shot and there was a medium-dense fog, but it wasn't too bad. But now? You can't see 100 yards out there. It's total pea soup."

I haven't heard whether they'll actually begin teeing off at 8:40 or move 'em back again, but it doesn't sound good.

8:31 a.m.: I've just been informed that all tee times have been moved back 40 minutes, which means I've been live-blogging nothing since 8 a.m. I feel so empty.

8:24 a.m.: Our first for-entertainment-purposes-only prop bet of the tournament comes from Rob Roddy in Erie, Pa. (who may or may not be the "Come on down!" guy from "The Price is Right"):

    What's the over/under on Ocho Cinco scores for the first day of the 2008 Masters? Last year, there was three. I'll put it at 1.5, seeing that the conditions won't be as brutally cold.

Done and done. For the record, I'll take the under. I don't think anyone -- not even some of the older former champions like Raymond Floyd or Gary Player -- will find the ugly side of 85, but we'll keep track of this throughout the day.

8:16 a.m.: If Arnold Palmer hit the ceremonial first tee shot, then Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel may have hit the ceremonial second and third tee shots. Among the things likely to be overheard from today's opening pairing:

• "So, what are you doing this week next year?
• "Hey, we still have one more major than 99.99 percent of the world's population, right?
• "What, they couldn't give us Hamilton and Beem and make it a foursome?

As the 2003 British Open and PGA champions, the five-year Masters exemption ends after this week for Curtis and Micheel. If they want back in, they'll have to play their way back.

8:10 a.m.: First e-mail of the day from Bart in Tennessee:

    Good morning! What's for breakfast?

I'm always amazed that everyone out there cares what I'm eating while writing this. Maybe I should just do live lunch blogs from my cubicle even when major championships aren't going on. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I haven't eaten a thing yet. (If you have any suggestions, let me know.) Had planned to grab breakfast in the Augusta National grillroom (one of the many perks of being a member of the working press) with my buddy Wright Thompson, but neither of us made it to the course in time.

8:04 a.m.: Here was Arnold Palmer, in a interview with Golf Channel's Steve Sands a few minutes ago:

    "I feel great. I'm just sorry I'm not going to go all the way. ... [The ceremonial first tee shot] is tradition and what Augusta is all about."

My only question: What happened to the ball? I mean, Arnie just knocked one right down the fairway, then shook hands with Billy Payne and walked off. I know someone will go out there and get it -- they certainly won't leave it there -- but who? And what will they do with it? I'll go sleuthing around to find out something soon.

8:00 a.m.: Hi, my name is Jason Sobel. You may remember me from such live blogs as all of last year's majors and yesterday's Par 3 Contest. (And if you do, you probably also remember that I've used that opening line before. Save the planet. Recycle.)

The 72nd Masters is under way, as Arnold Palmer hit the ceremonial first tee shot into the gloaming and right down the center of the fairway on the first hole. Now the real tournament begins, with Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel stepping to the tee box momentarily.

I'll be here at Augusta National all day -- literally, ALL day -- providing news and info, oh, every few minutes or so. As always, got a question, suggestion or snarky comment, fire away to the e-mail above. Let's get started ...

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.