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Taking flight from the start

Friday, April 10, 2009
By David Westin
Staff Writer

Welcome back, Augusta National Golf Club. You were missed. Hope you stay around for a while.

Back Photo: 1 of 4 Next

Crowds of patrons head for different holes as Fuzzy Zoeller, Ken Duke and Michael Campbell finish on the second green during the first round of the Masters Tournament.

(Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

On a day that produced the second-lowest first-round scoring average in Masters Tournament history, the course played like the shorter, pre-2002 version.

If the club wanted to answer critics who said the excitement was gone forever at one of golf's greatest shrines, it did.

To bring the thrills back, tee markers were moved up on at least three holes, pins were accessible and the greens were softer than normal.

Combined with ideal weather conditions -- one thing the club can't control -- a first-round tournament record 19 players shot in the 60s, headed by Chad Campbell's 7-under-par 65.

The 65 is the lowest first round since 2001, the year before nearly 300 yards were added to the course.

There was also a first-round record 38 under-par scores. Only 18 players broke par in last year's first round.

Campbell, who is 76th in the Official World Golf Ranking, took full advantage of the shorter tees, easier pins and little wind, striking for nine birdies and flirting with the course record of 63.

"They felt sorry for us," Campbell said of Augusta National's competition committee.

"This day was reminiscent of how it used to be," said Tiger Woods, who had 70 for the day.

The first-round scoring average was 72.25, second lowest to 1992's 72.06. It was 74.181 last year.

Tiger Woods throws his club after his shot from the 18th fairway lands in the gallery. After a string of birdies on Nos. 13-15, Woods bogeyed No. 18 in Thursday's round to finish at 2-under par.

(Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

Campbell, who was the second-round leader in the 2006 Masters before finishing tied for third place, has a one-shot lead over Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk. Mahan went to the 18th hole tied with Campbell, who had just finished, but made bogey.

Augusta native Larry Mize, the 1987 Masters champion, who is 50 years old, shot 67, as did Japan's Shingo Katayama.

The top story lines going into the tournament -- involving Woods, Padraig Harrington and Greg Norman -- are still going strong.

Woods, seeking his fifth green jacket, is five shots back after his opening 70. After an even-par 36 on the front nine, Woods got it to 3-under through 16 holes. He then missed a short birdie putt on No. 17 and flew the green on No. 18 and emerged with a bogey.

"Overall, I'm pleased with the way I hit the golf ball," Woods said. "I let a couple of shots slip away at the end there. We've got a long way to go. The conditions are going to change a little bit, and you've just got to stay patient."

It was the putter that let down Woods. He hit 10 of the 14 fairways and 14 greens in regulation, but needed 32 putts.

"I had good pace, I just didn't make any putts," Woods said.

Harrington started off with 69 in his bid to become the third player in history to win three consecutive major championships.

Norman, who is 54 and playing in his first Masters in seven years, matched Woods' 70.

Not everyone took advantage of the benign playing conditions, including Phil Mickelson, who shot 73 while playing alongside Furyk.

Chad Campbell hits on the 13th fairway. No. 13 was one of nine holes Campbell birdied in the first round. He also birdied Nos. 1-5 and 12-15.

(Chris Thelen/Staff)

None of the highly touted teenagers in the field broke par: Rory McIlory had 72, Ryo Ishikawa had 73 and Danny Lee shot 74.

Campbell set a Masters record by making birdies on his first five holes. He also had four consecutive birdies on the back nine (Nos. 12-15).

"The hole looked pretty big," Campbell said.

Campbell had a legitimate shot at breaking the course record, which is 9-under. He had a 15-footer for birdie on No. 16 to go 10-under, but settled for par. He bogeyed the final two holes after missing the fairways to the left.

"It entered my mind, definitely," Campbell said of the course record. "Definitely on the back nine. But I don't think anything's wrong with that. It's hard not to think about that. I tried to make as many birdies as I could and unfortunately had a couple of bogeys at the end."

"I thought he was going to get to 10-under, no problem the way he was playing out there," Mahan said of Campbell.

Though Furyk has contended here before (he finished fourth in 1998 and 2003), this is rarefied air for Mahan, who is playing in just his third Masters. His 66 bested his previous low here by six shots. Mahan finished tied for 28th in his Masters debut in 2003 and missed the cut last year.

The key moment in Mahan's round might not have involved any of his nine birdies, but rather his reaction to the double bogey he made on No. 11.

He settled down with a par on No. 12, then ran off four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 before closing his round with bogey.

"I've been playing pretty good this year, but I've just been getting in my own way," Mahan said. "I discovered, 'Get the heck out of my way and just play golf.' I didn't let little stuff bother me, or one mistake affect everything else, which it's just one swing."

First-round leader Chad Campbell, of Texas, tees off on No. 8.

(Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

None of the players expects this kind of course setup to continue.

"I don't see that happening," Furyk said.

"You've got to feel that it's going to get a little bit tougher as we go on the next three days," Harrington said. "At some stage during the week, I would expect to play a golf course that's very difficult, really difficult, because we are playing a major championship,"

Players knew something was up when they took a look at the pin-position sheet before they teed off.

Another tip-off was the tee on the first hole, which had already been shortened by 10 yards for this Masters. It was on the very front of the box.

"Did somebody make a mistake with these tees?" Rocco Mediate said jokingly to an Augusta National official when he walked on the first tee.

Reach David Westin at (706) 823-3224 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.

Chad Campbell - 1st Round

Hole

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

Out

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

In

T

Par

4

5

4

3

4

3

4

5

4

36

4

4

3

5

4

5

3

4

4

36

72

Rnd

3

4

3

2

3

3

4

5

4

31

4

4

2

4

3

4

3

5

5

34

65

Tot.

-1

-2

-3

-4

-5

-5

-5

-5

-5

-5

-5

-5

-6

-7

-8

-9

-9

-8

-7

-7

-7

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In this StoryChad Campbell (Stats | Bio | Photos)Michael Campbell (Stats | Bio | Photos)Jim Furyk (Stats | Bio | Photos)Padraig Harrington (Stats | Bio | Photos)Shingo Katayama (Stats | Bio | Photos)Hunter Mahan (Stats | Bio | Photos)Rocco Mediate (Stats | Bio | Photos)Phil Mickelson (Stats | Bio | Photos)Larry Mize (Stats | Bio | Photos)Greg Norman (Stats | Bio | Photos)Tiger Woods (Stats | Bio | Photos)Fuzzy Zoeller (Stats | Bio | Photos)

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