April 9, 2013

The Masters: Woods paired with Donald, Piercy

Tiger Woods will play the first two rounds of the Masters with Luke Donald and Scott Piercy.

Tiger Woods will play the first two rounds of the Masters with Luke Donald and Scott Piercy.

Woods has played with Donald before in majors, though never in the opening rounds at Augusta National. Piercy is making his Masters debut. They are in the morning wave Thursday, teeing off at 10:45 a.m.

Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson are at the back end of the draw for the opening round.

Mickelson, going after a fourth green jacket, tees off at 1:30 p.m. with Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer. McIlroy is in the group right behind him with Keegan Bradley and Freddie Jacobson of Sweden.

Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old from China, plays with Matteo Manassero and 61-year-old Ben Crenshaw.

Lefty’s rust

Mickelson is worried about rust.

A quirk in the PGA Tour schedule left Lefty idle last week, and he’s feeling some angst about playing the Masters after a layoff.

“I love this tournament so much, and I’m nervous because I haven’t been in competition it will be 10, 11 days, I guess, as opposed to three,” the three-time Masters champion said. “That’s what I’m nervous about, just those first opening five or six holes, being mentally tuned in. That’s what I care about.

“Because I’m aware of it, I’m going to work hard on it to make sure that I am,” he added. “But it’s always a challenge those first five or six holes when you haven’t been in competition to be really mentally focused and sharp.”

Mickelson traditionally plays the Houston Open the week before the Masters so he arrives at Augusta National in prime competition form. But Houston swapped dates with the Texas Open because the San Antonio tournament can’t end on Easter Sunday. Conditions at the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio have been tight and windy in recent years — the exact opposite of the set-up Mickelson likes when he’s preparing for the Masters.

So he came to Augusta National on Friday instead, and spent the weekend around the green and working on shots he knows he’ll need.

“I had some great days here,” he said. “The course is very close to tournament setup, so I’m hopeful that I’ll get off to a good start and take that preparation and shoot a low score. But I am a little bit nervous.”

On the bag

This will be a working vacation for Caroline Wozniacki.

The tennis star accompanied boyfriend McIlroy to this year’s Masters — “Road trip to Augusta started!” she said Sunday on Twitter — and McIlroy said Wozniacki will caddie for him in today’s Par 3 Tournament.

“Yes, Caroline will be on the bag tomorrow,” he said Tuesday.

The Par 3 is one of the Masters’ most endearing traditions, a light-hearted event for fans and players alike. Many players have their kids — or grandkids, in some cases — caddie for them, and there are few things more adorable than watching youngsters roam the greens in Augusta National’s traditional white coveralls or proudly tote carry-bags.

Bubba Watson’s son, Caleb, isn’t old enough to walk yet, let alone carry a golf bag. But the defending Masters champion said the 1-year-old will be his caddie for the Par 3.

Or maybe it will be the other way around.

“We’ll be carrying him,” Watson said. “So I guess we’ll be caddying him.”

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