PGA Players Assault Venerable Augusta National

April 10, 2009

Thursday at the Masters produced plenty of low scores to the surprise of many. In all there were 38 rounds under par, a record for the first round. Well, so much for the theory that lengthening the course (it has been increased over 500 yards this past decade) would make it too tough. Chad Campbell, who leads after the first day with a 7-under 65 , noted "They must have felt sorry for us."

Campbell was right. Although the perfect weather helped the players, the club's decision to have soft and slow greens was the greatest factor in allowing for such a birdie festival. Gone, at least for a day, were the ultra fast greens the course is known for.

Of course this made many players happy and created a certain sense of excitement among the crowd. Old-timers like Greg Norman (-2) and Larry Mize (-5) not only had great days, but they even believed they should have scored lower. Campbell stormed out of the gate with five straight birdies making many believe he would challenge the course record.

But this is the Masters, the first major tournament of the year. Should it be this easy?

I personally always enjoyed watching the greatest players in the world struggle and flounder during major tournaments. Like the late great L.A Times columnist Jim Murray used to say: when it comes to golf, I cheer for the course. It should be hard and challenging, that's what separates the major tournaments (even though admittedly the Masters rarely has higher scores than the U.S Open, British Open, or PGA Championship).

Ironically, tournament favorite Tiger Woods shot a relatively mild 2-under 70. But then again, the 4-time champion regularly struggles in the first round and has never shot under 70 on opening day at the Masters.

At 5 strokes behind the leader, Woods is in better position than usual to make a run for another victory. If all goes as exected, Tiger should cut the lead even further on Day 2, take the lead by Day 3, and cruise to victory on Day 4. This would be an incredible achievement coming only a month after returning from major knee surgery.

Let's just hope by then, the course has made a comeback as well.

By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for

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