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The MAsters: Johnson’s day drives him to the range

rmillians@thestate.comApril 10, 2014 

Dustin Johnson hits his approach on No. 17.

GERRY MELENDEZ — GMelendez@thestate.com

— Columbia’s Dustin Johnson didn’t get off to the start he envisioned Thursday.

His first-round, 5-over 77 was his highest round in five Masters appearances and 10 shots higher than the 67 he shot in the first round last year.

Johnson had two pars on his back nine, which also included two birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey.

The double bogey came on the par-5 15th, after he dumped his approach into the water.

After his round, Johnson jumped into a cart with fiancé Paulina Gretzky and said he was going to the driving range.

Competitive trio

Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, who combined to win 13 green jackets in 147 Masters appearances, again were the honorary starters, hitting drives off the first tee. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t have a little friendly competition.

Palmer hit first, his drive landing at the bottom of the hill.

Player was next, sending his drive past Palmer and up a hill.

Then Nicklaus hit, his drive beating Player’s by a few feet.

“I think Jack outdrove me by a yard or two, but it’s not bad when you think he used to outdrive me by 50,” Player said.

“They were pretty close,” Nicklaus said. “Gary and I have argued about it every year because one of us hit it this way, and one of us hit it that way so it was hard to tell. This year they were pretty close.”

Tiger Woods, missing from the Masters after back surgery, watched the trio on TV and tweeted that the honorary starters at the Masters is one of the best traditions in golf.

Father and son

Twelve shots were the difference in the opening rounds of father Craig Stadler and son Kevin. Craig, a former Masters champ, shot 82, and Kevin was in a large group at 2-under 70.

They are the first father-son duo playing in the same Masters.

Craig said his game “stinks.”

But about Kevin’s chances, he said, “He’s driving it really good. He’s evolved into a wonderful iron player. He hits it high. He does what you need to do around here, so it’s just a matter of how friendly his putter is day in and day out.”

Kevin said he didn’t get much pre-tournament advice from his father.

“I think he wanted me to find my way around here – not over-think things,” Kevin said.

Kevin was happy with his 70, saying, “I’ll take 2-under all day, every day the rest of my life.”

Defending champ

Adam Scott shot a 3-under 69 and said he hopes to start a long period of domination at Augusta, like Woods and Phil Mickelson have enjoyed the past decade.

“Coming back, it’s been a lot of good, positive memories for me,” Scott said. “I have developed an affinity for the golf course, like Phil has. The course sets up well for me, and while it’s like this, I’ve got to take advantage of it.”

Scott could have been the first-day leader had he not taken a double-bogey on the par-3 No. 12.

Chip shots

Mickelson continued his pattern of having high numbers derail his round. He made a triple-bogey 7 on No. 7 and a double-bogey 7 on No. 15. ... Pre-tournament favorite Rory McIlroy remained in contention with a first-round 71. Birdies at Nos. 3, 5, 13 and 15 were offset by bogeys at Nos. 8, 12 and 18. “I was keeping an eye on the leader boards, and 1-under was actually a good effort out here today.” ... Two-time winner Ben Crenshaw on whether he enjoyed an opening 83: “Um, no.”

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