By John Strege
All eyes will be on Tiger Woods on Thursday...or would be were the Augusta National Golf Club not so stubbornly resistant to change.
So Tiger Woods will play the bulk of the first round of the Masters out of view of audiences with access via television or computer. Woods tees off at 10:45 a.m. EDT on Thursday. Coverage of the Masters on ESPN begins at 3 p.m., or four hours, 15 minutes after Tiger's tee time.
Live coverage of two featured groups will be shown at Masters.com or via a Masters app, neither of them featuring Woods. One has Peter Hanson, Charl Schwartzel and Webb Simpson, the other has K.J. Choi, Zach Johnson and Graeme McDowell.
Tiger won't make his first appearance on the web until he arrives at Amen Corner (the 11th, 12th and 13th holes), and then at the 15th and 16th holes, each part of live coverage at Masters.com.
Augusta National did the same thing last year, too, inexplicably. Woods is the greatest player of this, and perhaps any, generation, seems to have recovered his game and his confidence, and is elevating already heightened anticipation of the Masters, and the masses are deprived the opportunity to see most of his first round.
Johnny Miller chokes (up)
On Golf Channel's Live from the Masters show Wednesday morning, Steve Sands, noting that "you're famous on television for saying that people choke," asked Johnny Miller whether he choked in the 1971 Masters.
"I made a big mistake," Miller said. "I shot the low round on Saturday, a 68. I shot the low round on Sunday, a 68. But, I was six-under par through 14 and looked over at the leaderboard and it showed me two shots up and I had this swell of adrenaline and all I could think of was all those amazing hours my dad put in with me."
Miller became visibly emotional at the memory of his father, before continuing. "I had a chance my first time as a pro. Just 23 years old. I was feeling pretty good, saying, I'm going to win. That was my best chance as it turned out...Did I choke? I choked with my thoughts. I didn't really choke tee to green. I don't remember yipping any putts. In some ways I did choke because I put the cart in front of the horse."
...Tiger vs. Rory: "When his game is on, when he's got his A game and Tiger has his A game, I would say it's about a dead heat, because Rory's a little bit more aggressive than Tiger. I really think if Rory plays his best golf he's got some real A game plus. He's got that ability to go against Tiger, to look him in the eye, and I think he can handle him."
...Tiger: "He knows his game is back now, but the question mark is, can he make those same putts that he's been making lately, can he make them at Augusta, where he has not been making them for several years. If he can win at Augusta, he is going to be a tough guy to handle the next few years. I think this makes his year if he wins the Masters. It shows he's back on track to go after Jack's record. He has to go through Augusta, though.
...Rory: "I can tell his giddyup is back in his step. The first round is key. If he can shoot a 69 or 70, he is going to be tough to handle."
(Getty Images photo)