AUGUSTA, Ga. Thursday, the first day of the Masters, was perfect, achingly beautiful, Mother Nature showing off for the crowd.
The air was so fresh, you wanted to spread it on a pimento cheese sandwich and eat it.
Out on the golf course, where no weed would dare show its face, the Masters kind of strolled through this first round. The course was giving and taking away, the bulk of the starry field kept at bay by cruel pin placements and fast greens. A couple under par was excellent golf.
The round had its moments, though, good and bad.
For a long while, it appeared we might have a leader with a resume to warm the hearts of everyone who pulls for anyone who’s not a favorite. Miguel Angel Jimenez, a 50-year-old Spaniard, got to 4 under par at one point and was tied for the lead but bogeyed the 11th and rinsed one on the evil 12th for a double, finishing at 1 under par.
“Not bad for a 50-year-old,” he said, throwing in a few little exercise movements and a smile.
Nothing about Jimenez suggests Masters champion, but he would have made a fine first-round leader, a journeyman who doesn’t know what a cookie cutter is. In some ways, he’s like a fictional character. He wears his hair in a pony tail. He has a belly that probably can’t remember its last situp, if there ever was one. He’s a car fancier, drives a red Ferrari and loves fine wines and cigars.
He’s a European star, but has been playing the U.S. tour since 1995 and has yet to win over here. And he won’t win this Masters. We’ll have our Adam Scotts and Rory McIlroys as the week progresses, but it was good to have one day of Miguel Jimenez to stir the imagination.
On such a benign day, before the weekend pressure sets in, there were a couple of thunderous stumbles to remind us that this is still Augusta National, and you’d better watch out. That it happened is no surprise. To whom it happened is.
Jason Dufner posted a wild and crazy nine on the par-5 13th, and Phil Mickelson, one of the pre-tournament favorites, chopped out a triple bogey seven on the seventh hole.
It’s still Augusta National and it’s still golf and sometimes it can get complicated.
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