Sat, Apr 07, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Augusta cheers go mute as brittle course takes toll

AP , AUGUSTA, GEORGIA

Justin Rose of England hits his tee shot on the 18th hole on Friday during the first round of the Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Rose leads after the round.

PHOTO: AFP

The cheers broke the morning calm at Augusta National when Arnold Palmer took a mighty swing at his ceremonial tee shot, but for the next 11 hours on Thursday, the Masters went mute. Throw together a course that has grown 500m with brittle conditions and there wasn't much to cheer.

Justin Rose was as proud of his 15 pars as his three birdies in a round of 69, which left him atop the leaderboard with Masters rookie Brett Wetterich. It was the highest score to lead the first round at the Masters in eight years.

Tiger Woods tossed away a solid round with bogeys on his final two holes for a 73. Phil Mickelson shot a 76, his worst start at the Masters in 10 years, and still was optimistic about winning another green jacket. Never mind that no one has ever won the Masters after opening with a score worse than 75.

Then again, this was not the Masters everyone has come to embrace for several years. Birdies were rare and the so-called "cathedral of golf" was every bit of that for one reason.

It was quiet.

"I was chatting with my caddie and we were discussing how muted the atmosphere was," David Howell said. "But very pleasant."

Maybe it was pleasant for the nine players who managed to break par, a group that included Howell and David Toms at 70 and Rich Beem, Tim Clark, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson and Augusta resident Vaughn Taylor at 71.

It was a nightmare for the dozen players who couldn't break 80.

The average score was 76.187, the highest in four years.

And it wasn't much fun for just about everyone else.

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