There for the taking

April 09, 2009

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The leader board at the Masters is looking like a Georgia football game -- more red than you can count. While the weather -- warm, negligible breeze -- has been a factor, it's clear the competitions committee did its part, too.

Only four hole locations were less than five yards from the edge, and one of those, at No. 16, was on the left side below a slope that shots could feed off toward the cup. The tee was up at the first hole, and the par-3 12th hole was playing only 148 yards with a friendly pin placement. The greens were fast but receptive.

I watched a few groups play their approach shots to the par-4 ninth hole, where the hole was located 15 yards on the green just beyond the false front. Several shots hit on the slope and spun back, but instead of going all the way back down the fairway, as they often do, they stopped within 10 or 15 feet from the green. Slightly taller grass? More moisture? The players weren't complaining. Chad Campbell hit one of those approaches, and he was able to chip to close range and save par on his way to an outgoing 31.

"It is impressive the way the golf course was obviously set up for scoring," said Padraig Harrington, who shot a 69. "The tournament committee, they have full control over that during the week. They can set the course up any way they feel to get the score they want. Today was definitely one of the more generous days ever around Augusta, and you've got to feel that it's going to get a little bit tougher as we go on the next three days."

-- *Bill Fields *