Woods, Mickelson need big Friday
AUGUSTA, Ga. – It was an atypical Thursday at the Masters, especially for fans of red, white and blue – and this has nothing to do with four out of the top five players on the leaderboard being American.
For the first time since Augusta National’s widely-roasted renovations, we were met with a stampede of roars and red numbers – all led by Chad Campbell, who birdied five in a row, and then four in a row, and then bogeyed his last two holes and still shot 7-under 65, one better than Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan, two better than Shingo Katayama and Larry Mize.
Also, for the first time since the invention of white belts and golf shoes, Phil Mickelson played in the same group as the always-fashionable Camilo Villegas and only Lefty wore a white belt and golf shoes; he also shot 1-over 73 and said he played “just terrible” on a course “as easy as I’ve seen given that the greens were receptive.”
As for the blue part, you can choose between these two things: The bottom eighth of the sleeves on Tiger Woods’ otherwise black Nike polo, which made him look from a distance like he was wearing his son’s black golf shirt and one of John Daly’s blue undershirts; or the feeling Woods had after air-mailing the 18th green late Thursday, pitching his ball too far down a ridge and making bogey for a momentum-spoiling 2-under 70.
During that final sequence of events, Woods whispered something to himself and spit, presumably both in disgust.
The spitting, Campbell understood.
“Obviously happy that I’m in the lead, but definitely never want to finish the round with two bogeys. Kind of leaves a little bit of a sour taste in your mouth,” said Campbell, whose round-ending bogey came after driving his ball into the right fairway bunker.
Had Campbell made par on Nos. 17 and 18, he would have tied the tournament’s single-round scoring record (63), held by Nick Price and Greg Norman. Instead, it only seemed like someone had tapped Campbell on the shoulder on the 17th tee and said, “Time to let Tiger back in this thing.”
When Campbell’s par putt on 18 rolled by the cup, the patrons let out a sigh almost as big as a roar.
At one point during the sunny, calm, easy-as-ever afternoon, Woods trailed Campbell by nine shots. At the end of the day, after Woods woke up a bit on a back nine that he said people were “tearing apart,” he was only down five, a number that never means anything to Woods on Thursday nights, or even Saturday nights anymore.
For example, when a reporter asked Woods afterward why he has yet to break 70 in the first round of a Masters, Woods said: “Yeah, that’s how I won it four times, too.”
So if it still happens to come off strange that on one of the easiest days on record in Masters history, 50-year-old Larry Mize (67) leads Woods by three shots, and Mickelson by six, stop thinking about it.
At Augusta National, things change, winds change, pins change.
“I have to go out tomorrow and shoot a low round,” said a stern Mickelson, who made three bogeys and two birdies. He said he put himself in “the wrong spots” all day and never gave himself a chance to take advantage of the scoring conditions.
“I’ll play in the afternoon and a lot of time in the afternoon the wind will calm down around 5-6 o’clock,” he said, “so there’s a good chance I’ll have good conditons on the back side tomorrow, because I’ll most likely need it.”
Might be a good idea to start like Campbell did Thursday. Five holes in, Campbell was on a pace to shoot 72-under. He birdied all five – breaking the record set by Ken Venturi’s opening quartet of birdies at the 1956 Masters – stalled at 5 under until the 12th hole, then sank another four straight from Nos. 13-16.
Though if there was any magic involved, we’re not hearing anything about it.
“All I’m trying to do out there is hit one shot at a time. I know it’s kind of cliché, but it’s really all you can do, especially out here,” said Campbell, currently ranked No. 76 in the world.
“You get one bad shot and you’re behind the 8-ball,” he said. “No telling.”
Of course, at Augusta National, that’s what always makes it interesting.