Masters notes: A cool morning with Jack, Arnie and Gary

 

 
 
 
 
Arnold Palmer puts his arm around Jack Nicklaus before the honorary tee off before the first round of the Masters.
 

Arnold Palmer puts his arm around Jack Nicklaus before the honorary tee off before the first round of the Masters.

Photograph by: Matt Slocum, AP

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Augusta, Ga

EARLY BIRD: Charley Hoffman was in the first competitive group off the tee Thursday at the Masters, and in every way it suited him perfectly.

“It was cool getting up this morning and warming up with (honorary starters) Jack, Arnie and Gary Player. Puts the nerves at ease, really, watching those guys warm up,” said the 38-year-old Hoffman, who shot an early 67 to hold the lead among the morning finishers.

“Out there on the putting green I actually got Jack and Arnie’s autograph this morning, they were nice enough to do that. I was sort of scared, should I ask them, should I not ask them.

“This is only my second Masters, and to follow those guys off the tee, I mean, its pretty lucky and special. I’m honored that the Masters gave me that opportunity and I sort of took advantage of it. I like playing early and I like playing ready golf.

“We didn’t rush, by any means, but never to have to wait on a golf shot at Augusta National in the Masters … that’s my dream. You couldn’t have set me up any better than that.”

Hoffman’s group finished in four hours, four minutes.

Later rounds were taking nearly 5-1/2 hours.

Four under the last four holes

FINNISH FLASH: Just as Mike Weir was finishing his round at the 18th green, a security guard accosted a spectator running across to the first tee to see the drive of Finland’s Mikko Ilonen.

There’s no running at the Masters.

The Pinkerton man admonished the spectator, whose name was Teemu Selanne.

When told that the misbehaving fan was one of the greatest European hockey players in history, the security man seemed unimpressed. “Who did you say that was?” he asked.

And how did Selanne take the lecture? Was he nice about it?

“Oh yes,” said the Pinkerton man.

THIS IS A RECORDING: With Jordan Spieth in the middle of a string of four birdies in the first five holes of the back nine, he and playing partner Billy Horschel seemed to be sharing a joke. Asked what Horschel said to him, Spieth looked embarrassed.

“Yeah, Billy said, to quote him, I need a tape recorder that just plays ‘nice hole, Jordan’ on every tee box.”

It was, Spieth said, a comfortable pairing for him. He’s close friends with Horschel, and Henrik (Stenson) is a great guy, too. He’s just been under the weather this week, but he toughed it out (shooting 73.) Horschel was at two-under-par 70.

OLD TOM, STILL TICKING: Tom Watson’s one-under-par 71, at age 65, ranks as yet another great “for his age” performance in a string of them.

“It’s fun to be able to be in red figures at Augusta National. At my age, it’s a minor miracle,” said Watson, who has often said today’s Masters course is too long for him.

“No wind, greens are very soft. It was there for the taking, the golf course,” he said. Still …

“I couldn’t reach the green at 7, and 9’s awfully tough for me to get to that pin. The kids are hitting 8-irons to 7 and nine-irons to 9, and I’m hitting 3-irons off the downslope. It’s a hard shot for an old guy like me.”

He rolled in an eight-footer for par at the 18th to break par.

“Yeah, I want to make the cut. I haven’t done that for a few years.”

ERNIE’S DEMONS: Ernie Els, who’s has been close here several times but hardly at all since his heartbreaking loss to Phil Mickelson in 2004, admitted that that defeat haunted him for years after.

“Definitely,” he said. “I was trying to wipe it under the carpet that I wanted this one so badly for so many years. Definitely, there was something going on. Kind of, you get fed up with yourself. Never with Augusta, but with yourself for the mistakes you make. I felt I left a lot of shots out there in that five-, six-year span, so a little frustration set in there, definitely.”

ccole@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
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Arnold Palmer puts his arm around Jack Nicklaus before the honorary tee off before the first round of the Masters.
 

Arnold Palmer puts his arm around Jack Nicklaus before the honorary tee off before the first round of the Masters.

Photograph by: Matt Slocum, AP

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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