A vintage first day at the US Masters as Woods, Couples and Watson shine

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Published 09/04/2010 10:51:11
 

There was always something in the air at this year's tournament, the build-up was tense; people didn't know if Tiger would hit a tree, miss the cut or break down after a barrage of criticism. Turns out Tiger did what he does best - played solid golf and got himself in the running for his 15th major.

 

But Tiger's story isn't the most dramatic for once. How about 60-year-old veteran Tom Watson repeating his from from the British Open at Turnberry last year to card a round of 67 on five under. Watson hasn't broken 70 at Augusta since 1997.

 

Then there's our leader - fan-favourite Fred Couples, hot from three successive victories on the Champions Tour, carded a blistering 66 to have the outright lead by one shot. Couples was clearly relishing the prospect of tackling the Augusta course:

 

"This is one of my favourite tournaments, so I've been playing this year with a view to coming to Augusta, just like I do every other year. On the Champions Tour I have played very well but I drove the ball and putted well in all of those tournaments, and that's pretty much what I did today too," he said, before venturing on to the subject of turning 50.

"No matter what age you are, you want to do well. I felt like today was just one of those rounds where maybe it was good that the wind was blowing when I was playing, because I wasn't expecting too much, to be honest with you. And once I got going, I just kept making putts and ended up six under."

 

And so onto the man of the hour - the often sour and salacious Tiger Woods. Now reinvented as Tiger 2.0 - he kisses babies and acknowledges fans now - Woods was never likely to miss the cut (though I had a cheeky bet on it, just in case) or hit a tree or do anything other than play the excellent golf we all know he's capable of.

 

Woods has won the Masters four times now, so knows his way around better than most. I would expect him to be on the shoulders of the leaders right the way through this tournament. Two eagles in one round, two shots back represents a good day's work for the clearly nervous Tiger:

"Very pleased," was Woods' assessment. "I hit the ball well all day. … For the most part, I think I hit the ball well all day. And I just didn't make a lot of putts. If I putted well today, it could have been a really special round."

 

And let's get this straight - this leaderboard is about as good as it gets for day one of a golf major. Old guys, young guys, fan favourites, underdogs - they're all in with a shout. Day one leaderboards are normally filled with the less-fancied players who eventually fade away as the pressure ramps up, I can't see this happening here. These guys have done it before. I don't see Couples or Watson donning the green jacket, but expect fireworks.

FIRST ROUND LEADERBOARD (US unless stated):

-6 Fred Couples

-5 T Watson, P Mickelson, L Westwood (GB), Y Yang (Kor), KJ Choi

-4 T Woods, A Kim, N Watney, I Poulter (GB), R Barnes

-3 D Toms, S Lyle (GB), T Immelman (SA), C Schwartzel (SA), A Scott (Aus)




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