Love leads at 67, but course proves biggest winner

Effect of longer Augusta is felt as 11 players fewer than last year break par

The Masters

April 12, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. - The tone for the 66th Masters might have been set yesterday morning when 89-year-old legend Sam Snead whacked the ceremonial first tee shot into the mist.

The crowd at the tee cheered the ball's flight. Little did they know that it found the forehead of an unsuspecting fan.

The unidentified fan was the first casualty at Augusta National this year, but certainly not the last.

While a 5-under-par 67 from perennial contender Davis Love III was at the top of a fairly impressive scoreboard by the end of the opening round, the leaders in the clubhouse might have been those in charge of redesigning the course and setting some nasty pin placements.

Love, who has finished second twice in the last six years, led Sergio Garcia of Spain and Angel Cabrera of Argentina by one stroke.

Phil Mickelson, another player who has found heartbreak here, was two strokes behind, tied with reigning U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa and Padraig Harrington of Ireland.

Eleven players - including two-time and defending-champion Tiger Woods, two-time champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain, former champion Vijay Singh and two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, as well as former British Open and PGA champion Nick Price - were three strokes back.

On a day when overnight rains had softened the greens and cool, calm conditions made low scores a strong possibility, 21 players were able to break par, compared with 32 last year. Most attributed that to the extra 285 yards they had to negotiate.

As Woods said: "I think if you're playing poorly, it's probably going to show a little more."

It showed for David Duval, last year's runner-up, who made three bogeys and double bogey in the first seven holes before finishing with a 2-over 74.

It showed for reigning PGA champion David Toms, who after making birdies on three of the first five holes, double-bogeyed the par-4 ninth and wound up at 1-over 73.

It was a new ballgame for Love, one he hasn't played in a while because of back and neck injuries. In the midst of one of his worst seasons during an otherwise successful, 13-year career, he had five birdies and no bogeys while playing his way out of potential trouble on a couple of holes.

The most unsettling moment came when Love drove into the trees to the right of the fairway on the par-5 13th hole, but managed to scrape out a par.

`That's the difference. When I've hit a bad shot recently, it's gotten a bad break and then I've compounded it several times, turned them into big numbers," said Love, who'll turn 38 tomorrow and has missed the cut in five of 10 tournaments this year.

"I was pleased with that par, of any par of the day."

Love certainly didn't mind leading the Masters after the opening round, which he did three years ago when he finished second to Olazabal. Love didn't blink when reminded that a first-round leader hasn't won the Masters since Ben Crenshaw in 1984.

"I don't pay much attention to stats like that," said Love, whose only major-championship victory came in the 1997 PGA at Winged Foot. "We'd quit playing if we did. But it's better to be the first-round leader than not to be."

Harrington was seemingly on his way there, starting out as if he was going to threaten the Masters record of 63, set by Price during the third round in 1986 and equaled by Greg Norman (a 71 yesterday) in the first round in 1996.

But after sizzling with five birdies on the front nine and a sixth on the par-4 11th, Harrington fizzled with three bogeys.

`"There's never a day that you tee it up here that you would not take a 69, " said Harrington, 30, a two-time Ryder Cupper who has won four European Tour events in an eight-year career.

Woods had it going early in his round. After saving par from a greenside bunker on the opening hole and missing a 10-footer for birdie on the par-5 second, he made three straight birdies.

But a bogey on the par-3 sixth hole and two on the par-4 10th and par-4 14th brought Woods back to even before he salvaged the round with two late birdies.

"I just wanted to shoot even par or better and that was the goal," said Woods. "You've just got to keep hanging in there.

"It's not one of those type of golf courses where you can say, `Just turn it on here and make a few birdies and no big deal.' I think you've just got to go out there and play what the golf course gives you."

At least yesterday, Augusta National didn't give as much as it did last year.

Well, except for one unsuspecting fan.

Tee times

Today's second round

Morning

8:30: Mark O'Meara, Joe Durant, Robert Allenby

8:41: Sandy Lyle, Stewart Cink, Steve Lowery

8:52: Fred Couples, Shingo Katayama, Tom Pernice Jr.

9:03: Seve Ballesteros, Steve Stricker, Kenny Perry

9:14: Ian Woosnam, Jim Furyk, Miguel Jimenez

9:25: Larry Mize, Lee Westwood, Billy Andrade

9:36: Tom Watson, a-Chez Reavie, Billy Mayfair

9:47: Lee Janzen, Tom Kite, Rocco Mediate

9:58: Davis Love III, Nick Price, Brad Faxon

10:09: Craig Stadler, Stuart Appleby, Padraig Harrington

10:20: Vijay Singh, Thomas Bjorn, Justin Leonard

10:31: David Toms, Sergio Garcia, Paul Azinger

10:42: Phil Mickelson, Darre Clarke, Angel Cabrera

10:53: John Daly, Mike Weir, Nicklas Fasth

11:04: Bernhard Langer, Bob Estes, Shigeki Maruyama

11:15: Charles Coody, Tommy Aaron

11:26: Tom Lehman, Paul Lawrie, Craig Perks

11:37: Fuzzy Zoeller, Adam Scott, Kevin Sutherland

11:48: Nick Faldo, Frank Lickliter

11:59: Mark Brooks, Rory Sabbatini, Jerry Kelly

Afternoon

12:10: Ben Crenshaw, a-Tim Jackson, Scott Verplank

12:21: Scott Hoch, Kirk Triplett, Mark Calcavecchia

12:32: Raymond Floyd, a-Michael Hoey, Jeff Sluman

12:43: Jesper Parnevik, Chris DiMarco, Paul McGinley

12:54: David Duval, Ernie Els, Greg Norman

1:05: Arnold Palmer, a-Robert Hamilton, Toru Taniguchi

1:16: Retief Goosen, Scott McCarron, Colin Montgomerie

1:27: Jose Maria Olazabal, Michael Campbell, Matt Kuchar

1:38: Tiger Woods, a-Bubba Dickerson, Toshi Izawa

1:49: Gary Player, Charles Howell III, Jose Coceres a-amateur

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