AUGUSTA, Ga. – I always enjoy looking at the practice-round pairings. They give you an insight into which players enjoy each other’s company, which ones want to mentor their younger competitors and who likes to go it solo. Here’s some observations from today’s groupings:
• Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Scott Piercy were first off the first tee, playing at 8 a.m. They were followed by a group we’d love to see on a Masters Thursday: Tiger Woods, Fred Couples and Keegan Bradley.
• U.S. Amateur runner-up Michael Weaver got quite the thrill Wednesday when he played with Rory McIlroy. They were joined by Robert Garrigus.
• Here’s a threesome of stars seeking their first majors: Justin Rose and Luke Donald, Nos. 3 and 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and Sergio Garcia.
• South Africans Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen, two former Open Champions, were joined by Australia’s Adam Scott. All three have been runner-up at Augusta National, but never won the Green Jacket.
• Countrymen often stick together. Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal was showing his fellow Spaniard, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano around the grounds. Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn and Thorbjorn Olesen played together, as did Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and Hiroyuki Fujita.
• Among the solo starters: Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, K.J. Choi and Lee Westwood.
• Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas teed off the 10th hole at 10:55 a.m. Mahan, who attended Oklahoma State, and Haas, a Wake Forest alum, were the top two prospects during their collegiate careers.