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2-under round harbinger of good things for Tiger

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Every time Tiger Woods opened the Masters with a round of 2-under-par 70, he went on to win the tournament.

The first time, a dozen years ago, it was by a mind-blowing 12 strokes. Even though he’s five behind after just one day, he has the field exactly where he wants it.

On a picture-postcard day when journeymen and even a 50-year-old were part of the crowd going low, low and lower on every side of him, Woods was unusually calm. He closed this round of 2-under with a few uncharacteristic stumbles, but that didn’t seem to fluster him, either.

He missed an 8-footer at No. 16, then a 4-footer at No. 17 for birdies. Next, he deposited an 8-iron from the fairway 50 feet over the 18th green and wound up making bogey. You half expected to see steam blowing out of both ears when he exited the scoring hut.

“If I had hit bad putts, it would be a totally different deal, but I hit good putts. It just means,” he said evenly, “I need to read them a little better.”

Why so calm?

Over a golf course where he averages almost 73 on Thursday, it was his best opening round in a half-dozen years.

So when someone pointed out that Woods had never broken 70 on the first day at Augusta National, he was rehearsed and ready. His smile widened from ear to ear.

“Yeah,” he said, fixing his gaze on the questioner. “I also won it four times.”

Moments like that are a reminder that Woods had surgery to rebuild his knee, not his confidence.

“It’s a long week and the weather is going to start changing a little bit here and you’ve just got to keep patient, stay with it,” he said. “It’s not like I haven’t been in this position before.”

Youth movement

So much for the kids waiting their turn.

Teenagers Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa and Danny Lee aren’t on the leader board, but all turned in respectable scores in their first round at the Masters on Thursday.

McIlroy, the 19-year-old sensation from Northern Ireland, did the best, shooting a par 72. The 17-year-old Ishikawa was one stroke back, and 18-year-old Danny Lee – the only amateur in the bunch – had a 74.

McIlroy said he wasn’t really nervous. “Over the first tee shot I was probably,” he said. “But once the first shot is off, you’re off and running and then you’re just trying to shoot the lowest score possible.”

He’s back

Jose Maria Olazabal looked pretty good for a guy who’s barely played.

Olazabal has played only twice this year because of rheumatism, and didn’t expect much when he arrived at Augusta National. But something about this place brings out the best in the two-time Masters champion, and he shot a 1-under 71 in the first round Thursday.

“Obviously, I’m very happy about it,” he said. “It’s a special place for me. It brings me wonderful memories, I won’t deny that. I get quite emotional every time I put my feet in this part of the world.”

Olazabal won the Masters in 1994 and 1999. He has three other top-five finishes. He missed the cut last year.

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