Thursday, April 8, 2010

Couples, Watson, Woods Create Memories at Augusta

The primary storyline for day one of the 2010 Masters was bound to be the return of the world's number one player, Tiger Woods. How would he fare after a 144-day layoff? Would his game show signs of rust? Could he play well enough to be in contention on Sunday?

However, Woods was in the next-to-last group to tee off on Thursday at Augusta, so there was plenty of time for other stories to develop. And boy, did they develop.

First, it was 60-year-old Tom Watson shooting a 5-under par 67, tying his best round ever at Augusta National and grabbing the lead. After nearly winning the British Open at Turnberry, Watson is once again in contention at a major on the young guys' tour.

But later in the day, Watson was done one better by fellow Champions Tour player Fred Couples, who shot a 6-under par 66, good enough for the lead after round one. In the process, Couples became the oldest player to lead the Masters after the first round.

And finally, at 1:42 ET, Woods hit his tee shot on the first hole, and his round was underway. Woods put together a 4-under par 68, his best-ever first round score in the Masters. He also recorded a pair of eagles, at No. 8 and No. 15, the first time he'd ever had multiple eagles in a Masters round.

The "patrons", as the gallery is called at Augusta, could not have been more supportive of Woods. He got a wonderful ovation on the first tee, and the crowds were cheering for him on nearly every hole.

The leaderboard is littered with big names. Couples leads the way, and is followed by a group of six golfers at 5-under par. In that group are Watson, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Y.E. Yang and K.J. Choi. Among those at 4-under par are Woods, Anthony Kim, Ian Poulter, Nick Watney and Ricky Barnes.

It was a good day for players over 50. In addition to the stellar rounds by Couples and Watson, Sandy Lyle shot 3-under par 69, while Bernhard Langer shot 71.

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