With windy 75, Woods avoids deeper trouble, helped by late birdies

1997 champ is one of 74 who finish day over par


The Masters

April 07, 2000|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Maybe he is just setting himself up for another of his now legendary comebacks. Maybe he is trying to give the rest of the field at Augusta National for the 64th Masters a false sense of security. Or maybe Tiger Woods was merely proving he was human.

What could have been disaster for Woods yesterday was saved by a couple of late birdies that helped him walk off the wind-swept, tricked-up course with a 3-over-par 75. It left him seven shots behind first-round leader Dennis Paulson.

It also left Woods with plenty of company. Of the 95 players who teed it up, 74 were over par. Woods' score -- his highest this season and matching his first round here in 1996, the only year he has failed to make the cut -- didn't faze the 1997 Masters champion.

"I'm pleased. I just had two bad holes," said Woods. "It's a long tournament. It's not an 18-hole tournament. If it was, I'd be in a lot of trouble."

Woods seemed to be in trouble for a while on the back nine, when he double-bogeyed the par-4 10th after pushing his ball into a green-side bunker and then when he triple-bogeyed on the always sinister par-3 12th hole, his 8-iron tee shot getting caught up and then knocked down by the wind into a pond. Woods wound up three-putting from 10 feet on that hole.

"I told Stevie [Williams, his caddie] walking off [the 12th green] that if we got it back to 2-over or 3-over, we're fine," said Woods, who birdied the par-5 13th and the par-3 16th. "We'll keep plugging along and making the putts when we can. Give myself chances and I'll be all right."

What Woods displayed after the bogeys, aside from his obvious tenacity, was a maturity that seems to have become part of his persona. While he still has a tendency to slam a club or let an expletive slip, he was pretty calm yesterday despite tough conditions.

"It's a long tournament and a long week, and there's a lot of things that can happen out there," he said. "I'm not the only one who can make mistakes. I just need to limit my mistakes to a minimum. I think it's just learning how to play the game."

Begay has 74 in debut

Woods' former teammate, Notah Begay III, made his debut at the Masters with a 2-over-par 74. After starting out with bogeys on two of the first three holes, and finishing with two straight bogeys, Begay seemed pleased that he had not shot himself out of contention.

"I have always set high goals and expectations," said Begay. "I expect a lot. I'm really glad and honored to be here. But I also expected to be here if I wanted to be in top-notch competition. I didn't like the way I finished, but overall it wasn't a bad way to start."

Rough day for big names

How's this for a stat? The top three players in the world -- Woods, David Duval and Colin Montgomerie -- were a combined 8-over par. The combined scores of Tommy Aaron, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player was 6-over par.

Aaron, 63, matched the score posted two years ago by fellow Super Senior Gay Brewer.

"Hope springs eternal for the golfer," said Aaron, considered by many to be the least accomplished Masters champion in history, with only one other win aside from his victory here in 1973. "You always have to hope for the best. When you shoot a 72, you have to feel good."

This marks the second time in the past four years that Aaron started well. In 1996, he shot an opening-round 71 but missed the cut after shooting 76 on Friday.

"I missed the cut by one shot," he said. "Tomorrow, I want to shoot another good round."

94 for Ford

The highest score of the day belonged to 77-year-old Doug Ford, who shot a 94. It matched his highest score here, three years ago, but Ford said, "It was the worst round of golf I've played in 50 years."

His playing partner, Billy Casper, finished with an 84.

"Was there any particular hole that was worse than others?" said Casper. "1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10- 11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18. How's that?"

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