Thursday's Birdies and Bogeys

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Thursday's Birdies and Bogeys

April 10, 2013

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Birdie: Sergio GarciaStill in search of his first major championship, Garcia's opening 66 began with what he called the best 10-hole stretch of his Masters career, and he kept it together enough to earn a share of the lead with Marc Leishman. Garcia holds little affection for Augusta National, but his opening round was evidence that he still has enough talent to overcome personal prejudice

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Birdie: Fred CouplesEach year when Couples creeps onto the leader board at Augusta, you think, OK, this is the LAST time he does this. And yet here Couples is, at 53, 21 years removed from his lone Masters win, but with top 20s in each of the last three trips here. With an opening 68, Couples popped up on the leader board yet again on Thursday, and with his syrupy swing and devil-may-care attitude, could hang around a little while longer.

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Birdie: Ceremonial StartPerhaps the greatest tradition in a tournament full of great traditions, the early morning scene around the first tee never disappoints. Between them, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer each hit impressive tee balls, cracked a few jokes with the gallery and press, then retreated into the clubhouse. It doesn't take much to start the most anticipated tournament of the season on just the right note.

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Birdie: Tianlang GuanHow young is this guy? Earlier this week, Augusta National announced it will host a Drive, Chip and Putt contest for kids ages 7-15 starting next year. If Guan doesn't make it back to the Masters, he'll still be eligible to compete in that. Yep, an eighth grader played in one of golf's major championships Thursday, meaning he was getting a birdie even if he failed to break 100. Instead, despite hitting fairway woods and hybrids on many of his approach shots to Augusta's lengthy par 4s, the kid came close to breaking par with a 73 that included a closing birdie. That should make whatever homework he had to get done afterward a lot more tolerable.

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Birdie: Lindsey VonnThis was the golf equivalent of showing up at your new boyfriend's company picnic. Only the new boyfriend is Tiger Woods, the company picnic is the Masters, and you've got to hobble around on a bum knee. OK, so not a great analogy. The point is that Vonn deserves credit for trying to follow at least some of her new beau's round among the masses while still not 100 percent. Augusta National is a tough walk, even tougher when you've got thousands of eyes on you as well.

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Bogey: Bubba WatsonSince winning his first major here a year ago, Bubba has been one of the game's superstars. Unfortunately for the long-hitting lefty, it hasn't translated to any more wins. But with his return to a place that provided him such a great memory, and after hosting his highly-anticipated Champions Dinner, he got back to playing a course that seems to suit his eye and promptly shot his second-worst round of the year. After a birdie on No. 2, Watson didn't post another red number the rest of the way, including three-putting after giving himself a good opportunity for an eagle on No. 15. On the bright side, we haven't heard of anyone getting sick from his southern-themed cuisine Tuesday night.

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Birdie: Marc LeishmanFor a surprise name at the top of a major championship leader board, Leishman actually shouldn't be that surprising. After all, the 29-year-old captured PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors in 2009 and picked up his first tour win at the Travelers Championship last year. In his second tour of Augusta National, Leishman looked much more comfortable than when he shot 72-79 to miss the cut in 2010. He bogeyed the first hole, but racked up seven birdies from there to open with a 66 to share the first-round lead with Sergio Garcia. However, history is against the Australian. No golfer from Down Under -- most famously, Greg Norman -- has ever captured the green jacket.

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Birdie: Rickie FowlerWhen you start out your tournament with a double bogey, you might be tempted to think it's not going to be your week. When you make another on the 10th hole, you should be assured of it. Remarkably for Fowler, he did enough good on Thursday to more than counter his missteps. With six birdies and an eagle, Fowler's opening 68 made him the first golfer at the Masters since Raymond Floyd in 1982 to make two doubles and still shoot a round in the 60s.

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Bogey: Augusta NationalPeople often complain about too much Tiger Woods coverage. They couldn't say that during the first round of the Masters. With a morning tee time, the 14-time winner obviously wasn't a big part of ESPN's TV coverage, which started at 3 p.m. More curious, though, was that his group, which also included World No. 4 Luke Donald and Scott Piercy, wasn't one of the "featured groups" shown on Masters.com. Love him or hate him, he's the biggest show in town. And showing him so little on such a highly-anticipated day made no sense.

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Birdie: Tiger WoodsFor all of Woods' stellar play this year, his start in the Masters was an important gauge in determining whether he's all the way back. He certainly looked like the old Tiger on Thursday. Woods airmailed the second green, but still saved par with a brilliant downhill chip, then settled into the type of strategic, conservative golf that defined his major wins. It was the fifth time Woods opened with a 70 at the Masters. On three previous occasions, he went on to win.

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Birdie: David LynnHow do you know it's a major championship? Because this relatively-unknown Englishman is on the leader board. Remarkably, the 39-year-old journeyman's only other major appearance was a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship last August. That earned him a spot in the field this week and Lynn didn't waste any time getting accustomed to Augusta National, firing an opening 68. A few more rounds like this and the colorful Brit (check out his Twitter feed at @DaveLynndawg) will become a fixture at golf's biggest events.

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Bogey: The Par 3 JinxIt's been well-documented that no one who has won the Wednesday Par 3 has gone on to win the Masters that week. It looks like Ted Potter Jr., who won this year's event in a five-man playoff, is going to keep that streak intact. The Masters rookie shot a four-over-par 76 in his first official tour of Augusta National's "big" course, leaving him needing a good Friday round just to stick around for the weekend. As for the Par 3, soon no one will want to play in this thing.

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Bogey: Sergio GarciaThe only problem with Garcia vaulting into the lead on Thursday was it offered a convenient excuse to dredge up his frustrated rant from 2012, when he said he wasn't good enough to win a major. Maybe he feels differently a year later, but if Garcia hangs around a few more days, those remarks might start to haunt him.

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Birdie: Dustin JohnsonAfter missing the tournament last year with a back injury, Johnson recorded his lowest career Masters round, a 5-under-par 67. Johnson converted four birdies and a 12-footer for eagle at the par-5 15th to offset one bogey to open the Masters with his fourth round of par or better in as many starts. A streaky putter, Johnson needed just 26 putts Thursday and avoided a three-putt green while tied for the lead in driving distance (with Thorbjorn Oleson) at 317.5 yards per measured poke.

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