AUGUSTA, Ga. – If there was ever a day to revel in being a dew sweeper then Thursday at Augusta National was your day.
With wet weather forecasted for late afternoon, a Western breeze picking up and a certain golfer making his return at the Masters with the day’s second-to-last tee time, the rooster’s crow never sounded so good to the pack of players who stepped foot onto the course in relative peace long before the cavalry arrived.
An early alarm meant quite another thing for a different group of folks, however. Masters patrons packed the course early this morning, staking out their spot to see two historic Masters firsts – Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus hitting their ceremonial tee shots at 7:40 a.m., and the anticipation of refrain slated for 1:42 p.m.
“Fore, please. Tiger Woods now on the tee.”
While Tiger Woods warmed up on the driving range, Nathan Green was tapping in for bogey on the 18th hole. Four hours earlier, Green struck the first competitive drive of the event just minutes after Arnie and Jack hit theirs.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking,” Green said. “Your first hit at the Masters and you’re right behind those guys. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of that crowd.”
Green’s even-par 72 was a score many players in the field would probably take on a day that turned overcast quickly and a stiff breeze began rumbling through the Georgia pines. Weather forecasters predicted a front would move in by late afternoon and bring rain.
“I think we definitely got a good draw,” said Heath Slocum, who paired with Green and Louis Oosthuizen (75), and also shot 72. “The guys are going to have to deal with all of these holes in the wind. I feel very fortunate to have played early.”
The wind started affecting the first group by the time they made the turn. Green said their second shots into the par-4 11th was into the wind and off the right. By the time they reached the 12th tee box, the wind started swirling.
Steve Marino, in the eighth group off at 9:07 a.m., took advantage of the benign conditions early, recording an eagle on the par-5 second. Bernhard Langer, who went off in the fourth group at 8:23 a.m., had it to 3 under through 16 holes. But as the wind freshened, he bogeyed Nos. 17-18 and shot 71. Playing in the group behind him, David Toms was even par through 11 holes, then made four birdies in a five-hole stretch. But he bogeyed No. 18 and posted 69, good for the low round of the day.
Still, the buzz among the patrons centered on Woods.
Will he hit the fairway on the first hole? What will he shoot? What if he didn’t break 80? How rusty will he be? Can he lead after Round 1?
We know the answer to the first one: He split the fairway down the middle.
The answers to the rest are coming soon.