Notes Fowler goes green Harrington hurting


AUGUSTA, Ga. – Rickie Fowler might have taken the whole Masters green thing a bit too far.

The young player known for his colorful outfits dressed in all green for his first official round in the Masters, nearly blending in with the grass as he made his way around Augusta National.

Fowler wore matching green pants, shirt, belt and hat for his Masters debut, though for a while it looked as if perhaps he should have spent more time on his game than picking out his outfit.

Fowler was 2-over before making birdies on four of the last five holes to finish with a 2-under 70 that put him five strokes off the lead.

 “Definitely a nice way to finish,” said Fowler, who played with leader Rory McIlroy. “I’m looking forward to getting into tomorrow.”

Golf fans can look forward to another fashion statement from Fowler, who said he plans to wear blue with stripes in the second round, green again on Saturday, and his traditional Oklahoma State orange on Sunday.

One thing he won’t be doing is wearing his hat backward. He tried that in the interview room before the tournament, only to be told by a Masters official to turn it around before he answered any questions.

Even a Masters rookie knows to listen when the other people in green speak.

“Around here, it’s forwards,” Fowler said.

CLARK’S PAIN: Tim Clark made it through the Par 3 contest. Then he made it through the first round without embarrassing himself.

Whether he can nurse his ailing elbow through another round, won’t be known until Friday.

“I’m not sure if I can play tomorrow,” Clark said after shooting an opening 1-over 73. “It’s pretty bad.”

The South African has been hurting since returning from Honolulu in January and waking up with a throbbing elbow after his first night at home. A cortisone shot didn’t help and he pulled out of Pebble Beach the next month after trying to swing on the practice range.

The injury has baffled doctors, though Clark said earlier in the week that they now believe it might be caused by a pinched nerve in his neck. He’s taking anti-inflammatory medication, but Clark said it has done little to help the pain.

Clark said he wouldn’t even try to play anywhere else, but attempted to gut it out because this is the Masters. And, while 73 was not the score he was hoping for, it wasn’t as bad as he thought it might have been.

Still, he’s waiting until Friday to decide whether he can go on.

“I’ve still got a chance here,” he said. “But if it gets to a point where I can’t swing, I just can’t swing.”

QUARTERBACK RORY: Rory McIlroy still makes his home in Northern Ireland, but his time in America is starting to turn him into a football fan. He loves the New York Jets, and McIlroy is so intrigued that he even bought a football this week.

McIlroy said he went to the mall Wednesday night to buy a football and tossed it around to kill time.

Someone asked if he knew how to throw a spiral.

“Yeah, it’s the thumb down, isn’t it? I’m still learning,” he replied.

Mark Sanchez can rest easy at the moment.

STAR STRUCK: For once, Ross Fisher didn’t mind having the first tee time.

Fisher, Jonathan Byrd and Sean O’Hair were on hand to watch Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus kick off the Masters on Thursday morning. The two, who have 10 green jackets between them, hit their ceremonial tee shots just after daybreak.

“It was a special treat for the three of us to see two legends like Arnie and Jack get it under way,” Fisher said. “That was pretty special to be here and witness that.”

Palmer, the 81-year-old with four green jackets, hit his shot to the base of the hill in the fairway. Then came Nicklaus, a six-time winner who turned 71 in January. He pounded his tee shot down the middle, some 30 yards past Palmer.

“It’s not often you get two legends of the game standing on the same tee playing in the same group,” Fisher said. “And they showed us that they’ve still got it. Sean thought that Arnie actually knocked it past him on the first hole.”

Fisher got off to a rough start with bogeys on two of his first four holes. But he closed the front nine with four birdies, and finished at 3-under 69.

HARRINGTON HURTING: Padraig Harrington had done everything he could to get ready for the Masters, and then did just a little too much. Just a few minutes into his practice routine Thursday morning, the Irishman was swinging left-handed to loosen up when he tweaked something in his neck. Suddenly, he was not able to move to his right.

And then it was time to tee off. He shot a 77, matching his highest score ever at Augusta.

“I nearly pulled out before I started,” Harrington said. “I wanted to pull out, but I wouldn’t. That’s just not my nature. I would always have a go. But it wasn’t much fun.”

He doesn’t know if he will play Friday, although the three-time major champion suspects he will. Harrington says he has never failed to finish a tournament unless he misses the cut or gets disqualified.

Harrington has coped with the occasional neck pain for the last eight years, although he says he has it under control. As for swinging from the other side, he says he usually does that as part of his warm-up routine.

“I prepared very well. I was in good form. But it was not to be,” Harrington said. “I swing left-handed when I’m warming up before I hit shots. I’ll keep swinging left-handed, but I won’t swing as hard next time.”