- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

AUGUSTA, Ga. | Augusta National's roar has been restored.

After two years of layout-juiced, weather-induced tedium, both the Greencoats and Mother Nature took pity on golf's glitterati. The pair presented a toothless layout for the opener of the 73rd Masters, and the field responded with a first-round rout.

Paced by Chad Campbell (65), the 96-man field compiled the best opening-round scoring day at the Masters since 1992. With soft greens, accessible pins and no wind to protect the 7,435-yard, par-72 layout, Augusta National hemorrhaged birdies.

Thirty-eight players bettered par on the day - more than a third of the field and nearly as many as in the past three opening rounds combined. And 19 players posted rounds in the 60s, one off the record number of sub-70 scores posted in one round in Masters history (second round, 1995).

“A score could have been had out there,” said Tiger Woods (70), who matched his best start at the Masters. “You could see the way the guys were tearing the place apart toward the middle of the round and on the back nine. You could definitely go get it.”

Players of every age, experience and description battered Bobby Jones' venerable shrine in the pines. Campbell began with five straight birdies for the best start in Masters history. He flirted with the single-round major scoring record (63) before a pair of closing bogeys sabotaged his stab at history.

“[The record] entered my mind, definitely on the back nine,” the four-time PGA Tour winner said. “I was trying not to think. … I didn't finish as well as I would have liked, but I'm definitely happy with the round.”

One behind Campbell, veteran Jim Furyk and fiery Hunter Mahan carded 66s. Furyk hit all 18 greens in his round.

“I would have never put that together, although I don't remember chipping that much,” said Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion. “That's probably nothing that I'll ever replicate again.”

Never say never. Larry Mize (67) and Greg Norman (70), the 50-something protagonists of the 1987 Masters, made leader board appearances. Seeking his third consecutive major victory, Padraig Harrington (68) labeled the setup the most generous he had ever encountered at Augusta National.

Woods and world No. 2 Phil Mickelson (73) were among those who didn't maximize their opportunities. Woods slumped to 1-over through eight holes before mounting a charge on the back nine. After reaching par with a birdie at No. 9, the 14-time major champion sandwiched a 14-foot salvo at No. 14 around two-putt birdies at Nos. 13 and 15 to reach 3-under.

Lurking within contact of the leader board, Woods stiffed approaches at Nos. 16 and 17 only to miss from short range each time. Then he airmailed the 18th green with a short iron en route to a bogey that left him tight-lipped and steaming after yet another relatively forgettable opener at the Masters.

“Yeah, that's how I won it four times,” said Woods, who has failed to break 70 in 15 Masters openers. “I let a couple shots slip away at the end, but I'm happy overall with the way I hit the golf ball today.”

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