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Observations from the first round of the Masters golf tournament

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From the easy chair, here are a few observations from Day One of the Masters, led by Bill Haas at 68.

U.S. Open Champion and now TV golf analyst Curtis Strange spent much of his on-air time Thursday during the first round of the Masters wondering aloud why scores were not lower than they were, pointing out that weather and course conditions were perfect for record scoring.

Maybe Strange forgot to check out the course setup at Augusta National.

Several pins on Thursday were in traditional Sunday spots, No. 1 on the back right shelf, No. 11 tucked left near the water and No. 12 on the difficult right side of the green, just to name a few. That’s why the short par 3 12th played as the second toughest hole on Thursday, just behind No. 11.

Said another U.S. Open, Graeme McDowell, ““Level par is not a bad score to these flag positions today, which I thought were tough for day one. We’re lucky we had benign conditions. You’re not going to get this golf course any more perfect than it was this morning.”

Let’s hope Curtis checks more than the weather report today before he starts wondering aloud.

One short moment in time became the perfect microcosm of just how difficult the greens at Augusta can be. It came on the 7th hole during Phil Mickelson’s round.

The three-time Masters champion was a tad long on his second shot, leaving a delicate downhill, side-hill chip to try and save par. The inventive Mickelson normally relishes short-game challenges such as that. But in the next two minutes he went from Phil the Magician to Joe The Hammer. Two chips and three putts later he recorded a round-busting triple bogey. He went on to shoot 77.

It appears the Par 3 Contest jinx will survive another year. A day after winning the Par 3 Contest at 6-under-par, Ryan Moore struggled to an opening-round 77.

Ever since the event began in 1960, no Par 3 champion has ever gone on to win the Masters the same year. Moore will need a miracle to break that streak.

Maybe the best putting round of the day belonged to possibly the best putter on the PGA Tour year in and year out. Brandt Snedeker managed to post a two-under-par 70 despite missing nearly half the fairways and greens in regulation because he stroked only 26 putts.

A record number of 24 first-timers teed it up Thursday, and surprisingly five of them beat par to earn a spot on the leaderboard. Jonas Blixt, Kevin Stadler and Jimmy Walker shot 70 and Jordan Spieth and Stephen Gallacher 71, all making a falsehood out of the common theory that Augusta will own rookies. Of course, the tournament is still young.

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