Kaymer chooses odd time for swing change

Martin Kaymer hits a shot from the pine needles on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2011 Masters.

Martin Kaymer hits a shot from the pine needles on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2011 Masters.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Spraying it off the tee, Masters Round 1:

Surprise of the first round? Even though the conditions were perfect, World No. 1 Martin Kaymer shot 78, beating only four players – Tom Watson, Arjun Atwal, Craig Stadler and Henrik Stenson - in the 99-man field. Kaymer is 13 strokes off the co-lead of Rory McIlroy and Alvaro Quiros.

Kaymer might rank first on the planet, but he’s a mess right now. Here’s the chronology: He won the last major, became No. 1 a few months later and then changed his swing so he could hit a draw at Augusta.

Sometimes golfers take a step – or five – back when trying to go forward. Sometimes they don’t just go with what got them there in the first place. Or as famous football coach Darrell Royal used to say, “Dance with the one who brung ya.”

Kaymer has perhaps the best bullet fade in the game. Why he’s not sticking with it is curious.

Kaymer isn’t the best quote in golf, but he was terrific at the microphone Thursday if not on the golf course.

Asked about hitting his new draw in the first round, he said, “I was trying. It didn’t really work.”

Kaymer sounded like a man without a clue, not a World No. 1. He missed the cut in his first three Masters and is on the verge of going 0-for-4.

“It’s frustrating if you never play well (here),” he said. “If it doesn’t really suit your eye and you know that quite well, it’s a little frustrating. I think that I don’t really know how to play the golf course.”

So, what’s Plan B for Kaymer? Among other things, it’s having a chat with fellow German Bernhard Langer, two-time Masters champion.

“I can only get good advice from him,” Kaymer said. “Yeah, I need to try something different again. I don’t know what I have to do here. Maybe one day it will work out.”

At this very moment, it’s easy to bet he’ll never win the career Grand Slam. Or stay in the No. 1 spot much longer.

Here’s a quote you don’t normally hear from Tiger Woods after the first round of a major when he’s six strokes off the lead and tied for 23rd. Asked if he liked his position after shooting 71, he said, “Absolutely. I’m only six back.”

Times do change.

Woods made three birdies, and bogeys at Nos. 10-11. He turned his round around by making a good par save at 12, then birdieing Nos. 13-14, the latter on a bomb.

He hit an 8-iron short at 12 and his ball came to rest in a hole, making him wonder if he could keep his chip on the green. He did and converted the putt.

“I hit beautiful putts all day, and they were just skirting the edge,” he said. “Realistically the round probably should have been 68, 69.”

The Ol’ Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, was in Woods’ gallery. Best I could tell, he didn’t send in a play or a swing thought. Surely he knows Woods has enough of the latter.

LPGA star Paula Creamer was in the gallery, attending her second Masters. Your correspondent spotted her spectating at Amen Corner even though she was wearing a camouflage cap, aviator sunglasses, jean shorts and sneakers.

“Going incognito,” she said, flashing the big smile.

Creamer said she plans to stick around until Saturday.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Andrew Magee wandered the course while working for BBC radio. You might say the witty veteran was in a good mood.

“You know why I felt so good driving in here today?” he said while walking down the hill at No. 6. “Because I can’t miss the cut this week. I’ve got a Sunday night flight.”

Magee’s best Masters finish was T-7 in 1991.

Sergio Garcia used to be the Best Player Never to Have Won a Major. Now he’s the Most Interesting Reclamation Project on the Leaderboard. He shot 69 after bogeying the last hole.

Tough day for Americans. Only four Yanks in the top 12: Matt Kuchar, Ricky Barnes, Brandt Snedeker and Gary Woodland.

You might say South Korea had a sunnier afternoon. K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang are tied for third at 67.

Here’s one way to shoot 69 and suddenly improve your mood: Bomber Gary Woodland eagled 13 and then finished with four consecutive birdies.

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