AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Some of Augusta National's new landscape came into play yesterday in the opening round of the 63rd Masters. So, too, did some of its old and tricky terrain, causing the world's top golfers to look, at times, as if they were playing for the C-flight championship at the local club.
Just consider what happened to Tiger Woods on the par-5 eighth hole.
Playing a bit erratically, but still 1-under par, Woods hooked his drive into the trees on the 550-yard hole. With his ball between two pinecones, he tried to thread his second shot through a couple of trees. The ball hit one and disappeared into an azalea bush.
Woods took an unplayable lie, wound up with a triple-bogey 8 on the hole and, after a par on the ninth, was 2-over at the turn.
"In the past, when I'm 2-over, I would try to be aggressive right away," he said later. "Now I say to myself, `Be patient. I have a lot of holes left.' "
Three straight back-nine birdies helped Woods climb back, though a bogey on the 17th left the 1997 champion and tournament record-holder at even-par-72.
But it was also the difficult conditions, which later included a 90-minute rain delay, that helped keep Woods in the hunt.
Woods ended up only three shots out of the lead, the same deficit he faced here two years ago before running away from the field, though with many more players to jump over.
This time, the lead is shared by former PGA champion Davis Love, Scott McCarron and Masters rookie Brandel Chamblee at 3-under-par 69.
Former PGA and British Open champion Nick Price also was at 3-under through 17 when play was suspended last night.
Seven players -- defending champion Mark O'Meara, 1994 champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain, reigning and two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, former British Open champion Justin Leonard, former PGA champion Jeff Sluman, Colin Montgomerie of Scotland and Andrew Magee -- were at 2-under-par 70.
Seven more were at 1-under 71. Two-time U.S. Open titlist Ernie Els saw his share of the early lead disappear with a double-bogey 6 on the 18th hole. Among those tied with Els were former champions Ian Woosnam (1991) of Wales and Sandy Lyle (1988) of Scotland, as well as Greg Norman, whose heart-breaking defeats here are now part of the tournament's lore.
"It was a long day," said O'Meara, whose group was the last to finish when play was called, leaving four threesomes on the course to finish this morning. "We're used to playing twosomes, and threesomes made it longer. The rain delay made it even longer."
David Duval, the pre-tournament favorite, didn't use the 90-minute delay as an excuse for the problems he encountered on the back nine. After making the turn at 3-under 33, Duval had already bogeyed the par-4 12th hole and was looking at an 8-foot putt for par on the par-5 13th when the horn sounded because of lightning.
He wound up missing the putt, then making bogey at the par-4 14th. Duval had birdied the par-4 17th hole to go 1-under when play was called for good. Price had just missed an 8-foot putt for birdie that would have put him in the lead.
"A round of golf doesn't involve just nine holes," said Duval, who at 27 is seeking his first major championship and his third victory in as many weeks. "There's 18 holes and you're going to run into some bad stuff. You have to outweigh it with some good stuff."
Said Love, who finished second here to Ben Crenshaw in 1995 before finally winning his first major two years ago at Winged Foot: "I don't think anybody's going to tear it up. The greens are firm and fast there are some really hard pins. With the wind blowing, it's just going to get harder and harder and dry up more and more."
The hot weather, with temperatures in the high 80s and matching humidity, is expected to continue for the rest of the week. It will only serve to enhance the degree of difficulty of a course toughened up by a number of significant alterations this year. Some of those changes proved vexing to many.
"There's a lot of decisions out there and lot of mental strain when you play this course," said Montgomerie. "As soon as you relax, you drop a shot, at least one. You think you're safe after you've got through 16 -- there's no more water -- and then you hit some trees and bunkers and stuff."
Some didn't even get that far. Former champion Nick Faldo, still trying his find a shred of his old form, put his first drive into the woods and two more tee balls on the second hole into the trees.
"I paid for every single mistake," said Faldo, who finished with an 80.
While most expected the lengthening of the par-5 second hole and the par-4 17th, where tee boxes were moved back some 25 yards, to have the biggest impact, it was the removal of the mounds on the par-5 15th that made a dramatic difference yesterday.
What was once considered among the easiest par-5s at any major championship became a monster, producing 11 double-bogeys and two triples.