Notes: Jimenez succeeds in Tiger's shadow

Tiger Woods (L) of the US and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain walk on the second fairway during the first round of the 76th Masters golf tournament at Augusta National.

Tiger Woods (L) of the US and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain walk on the second fairway during the first round of the 76th Masters golf tournament at Augusta National.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Miguel Angel Jimenez had thousands of fans following him Thursday at Augusta National.

But they weren’t there to see him. It was that Tiger guy they came to see. And Jimenez actually thinks playing with Woods is an advantage.

“I’m fine playing with Tiger,” said Jimenez, who fired a 3-under 69 and is two shots behind leader Lee Westwood. “Sometime the public, when he hits a shot, they start moving and you can hear the roar, but playing with him, it’s fine. I love playing with him. He’s a great player and a nice comfort on the golf course.”

Did Jimenez use the five hours on the course as a chance to get Woods to play in Spain?

“All the time I’m trying to convince him to come play my tournament,” Jimenez quipped.

Jimenez went low in an unorthodox way: He scored on the par 4s, picking up birdies on Nos. 9, 14 and 17. He had only one bogey, on the par-4 fifth.

“I hit it very good from tee-to-green, and I missed a couple of fairways,” Jimenez said. “Nobody is perfect, but (I) hit very good shots, (with) many chances for birdies and only one mistake, on the fifth when I missed my drive just on the edge of the fairway.”

Jimenez will tee it up again with Woods on Friday and could have scoring conditions if it does indeed rain Thursday night and Friday.

- Nick Masuda

• • •

NOT SO DEFENSELESS: Augusta National is playing wet after storms on Tuesday and Wednesday, but its trademark greens are helping defend the course against too many low scores.

“I didn’t anticipate the greens being 14 (on the Stimpmeter) today,” said Robert Garrigus, who played in the day’s second group. “I think Phil (Mickelson) made them a little angry with his comments saying it was going to be a birdie-fest. I was hammering putts by the hole right and left.”

Garrigus estimated that the greens were rolling 4 feet faster on the Stimpmeter than the previous day. He guessed he had five three-putts and a four-putt in his 77. Mud also was an issue on the wet fairways, which offered little, if any, roll. “About 95 percent of my balls in the fairway had mud caked all over them and it was almost impossible to control it,” he said.

Garrigus was 5 over par on two holes, playing the other 16 in even par. He triple-bogeyed No. 1 after missing the green and four-putting from 30 feet. He double-bogeyed the 10th when mud sent astray his approach from the fairway.

Henrik Stenson held the early lead after playing his first 11 holes in 6 under par. He was three shots ahead of Paul Lawrie, who had the clubhouse lead with a 69, and Scott Verplank, who was 3 under through eight holes.

Last year, 30 players broke par in the first round.

Brendan Steele, like Garrigus a Masters rookie, said many hole locations were tucked behind ridges and slopes, likely as a defense against greens softened by rain. “Some of the pins are really hard, some of the classic ones that you just can’t go at,” Steele said. “There weren’t very many holes I felt I could go right at and be aggressive with. They knew it would be softer than maybe they wanted, so they put them in some good spots.”

Said Rory McIlroy, "There definitely were some Sunday pin positions out there. They set the pin positions up pretty tough today, probably thinking the guys were going to go low because it was so soft."

Steele’s first competitive round at Augusta National fell on his 29th birthday. “It’s a birthday I’ll never forget, “ said Steele, who shot 76.

- Sean Martin

• • •

But if there were do-overs: Besides those who are annually exempt into the Masters, no one has been waiting as anxiously for this tournament as Brendan Steele.

Last year’s rookie standout won the Valero Texas Open the week after the 2011 Masters, thus becoming the first non-exempt player to earn a spot into the 2012 event. Maybe he hasn’t been thinking about it every day, but there haven’t been many times when he hasn’t given it at least a thought.

All of which made his debut a bit disappointing, because an inward 40 led to a round of 76 that left a sour taste in his mouth.

Yes, he knows mulligans aren’t allowed, but if he could have back one shot? “It would be the putt at the 10th hole,” Steele said.

With 25 feet for birdie, Steele hit a poor putt, then missed the comebacker. It was the first of four consecutive bogeys.

What truly frustrated Steele is the fact that he loved his tee time – first off alongside Craig Stadler and Tim Clark.

“How good was that? I got to watch The Big Three (Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player) tee off, then go off first. But it didn’t quite go the way I wanted to.”

- Jim McCabe

• • •

No carryover to his momentum: The last time we saw Adam Scott at Augusta National, he was closing with a 5-under 67 to nearly sneak away with the 2011 green jacket. He settled for a share of second behind Charl Schwartzel, but the Aussie clearly hoped to ride those positives into this year’s event.

He may still do it, but he’ll have to overcome a frustrating start, one that he was hard-pressed to explain.

“My rhythm was poor,” Scott said after a 75 that featured just one highlight – an eagle at the par-5 eighth. Unfortunately, Scott made five bogeys to go with it for an outward 39 and even though he brought it into the clubhouse with 10 consecutive pars, it was not an enjoyable day.

“I just didn’t make my par putts,” Scott said after a day in which he took 32 putts. “Maybe I was just a little too respectful of my first putts.”

- Jim McCabe

• • •

You, talking to me? When you shoot 81, you don’t expect to get invited to speak to the media. But this is the Masters and the media wants to talk to everyone.

Yes, even you, Craig Stadler.

“Why, to talk about the three pars I made?”

True, Stadler had failed to make a birdie in a round of 81, but he was being a bit harsh. He had made nine pars.

“It was bordering on embarrassment,” said the 1982 Masters champ.

- Jim McCabe

• • •

What’s in a number? When you’re talking about what’s on the left breastpocket on the white jumpers for the caddies at Augusta National, it indicates the order in which your player registered.

Carl Jackson, working his 51st Masters, once again for Ben Crenshaw, had No. 36 but said he hadn’t kept track of what numbers he’s worn through the years.

“All I know is, I wore No. 1 twice,” he said with a smile.

That was in reference to 1985 and 1996, those times when Crenshaw was the defending champ, an honor that earns you No. 1.

–Jim McCabe contributed

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