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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tuesday at Augusta National was all about the weather. Severe thunderstorms overnight took down trees and knocked out power. Patrons had to wait an extra 45 minutes to get on the grounds as storms passed and crews cleaned up the course. The storms will have little impact on the tournament, though. The forecast for the rest of the week is ideal.
1. If you’re not first…: Five players, including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, have a chance to overtake the No. 1 player in the world this week. Martin Kaymer, of course, is the man currently occupying that top spot. He’s missed the cut in his past three Masters appearances, though.
That lack of success caused Kaymer to change his pre-tournament preparations. Instead of playing the Shell Houston Open, which he did the past two years, he spent the past two weeks practicing.
“I think it’s only normal that you want to change something if you don’t do well,” said Kaymer, who blamed his past struggles at Augusta National on his short game.
2. Green machine: Tiger Woods may be No. 7 in the world, but he’s still the focal point every time he tees it up. We all know he’s in the middle of a swing change with Sean Foley. Woods’ full swing likely isn’t going to determine whether he wins or loses this year’s Masters, though.
It’ll be his putting stroke.
“Not putting well certainly has cost me a few Masters,” Woods said. “I felt that I had a pretty good shot on a couple of different occasions to win on the back nine and just putted poorly.
“I have been streaky here for some reason, and you can’t be streaky here. You have to get it going and you have to keep it going.”
Woods recalled 2008 and 2006 as years when poor putting over the Augusta National’s second nine cost him green jackets. “(In 2006) My dad was sick and I tried way too hard on those putts,” Woods said.
Woods is seeking his first major since the 2008 U.S. Open, and first PGA Tour victory since the 2009 BMW Championship. When Woods was asked if we’ve seen the best of Tiger Woods, he said, “I believe in myself.”
Confidence is key to winning golf tournaments, especially majors. But so is putting.
3. Pairings party: Woods will tee off at 10:41 a.m. Thursday with Graeme McDowell, another player that can become No. 1 this week, and Robert Allenby. You may remember McDowell beat Woods at Woods’ own tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, with birdies on the 72nd hole and first of a sudden-death playoff.
Some other premiere pairings:
• 8:40 a.m.: Butch Harmon disciples Nick Watney and Dustin Johnson, who dueled at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, are paired with former Harmon student Adam Scott.
• 10:19 a.m.: The top two players in the world – Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood – are paired with Matt Kuchar, who has six top-10s in eight starts this year.
• 1:48 p.m.: Defending champion Phil Mickelson and U.S. Amateur winner Peter Uihlein tee with former U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy.
• 1:59 p.m.: Long hitters Jhonattan Vegas, Gary Woodland and Alvaro Quiros are the field’s caboose, teeing off in the day’s final threesome.
4. Other than Phil Mickelson and perhaps Tiger Woods, perhaps no one is as happy to be back at the Masters than Lee Westwood.
Not because he feels he has a score to settle after finishing second here last year. Not because he dearly wants to win his first major.
Rather, because he’s happy to be breathing.
Westwood, fellow Ryder Cupper Ross Fisher, manager Chubby Chandler and two caddies were aboard a Cessna Citation Excel that started malfunctioning a few minutes after it took off from Houston on Sunday night. Smoke in the cabin prompted the pilots to put on oxygen masks and return to the airport for an emergency landing.
Westwood said the plane was in the air about 3-4 minutes. Chandler thought it was more like 7-9 minutes. Several fire engines awaited as they landed, and they flew to Augusta on a different NetJets plane.
5. Full nest: U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein had trouble sleeping last night. It wasn’t so much the anticipation of his Thursday pairing with Phil Mickelson as the thunder and lightning that rocked the Crow’s Nest, which is located at the top story of Augusta National’s clubhouse.
“David (Chung) doesn’t remember anything about the storm,” Uihlein said. “I was up all night. But he’s a deep sleeper, I guess.”
Uihlein will try to play a practice round Wednesday with Phil Mickelson, then pair with former Oklahoma State teammate Rickie Fowler in the Par-3 Contest.
– Jeff Rude contributed