Notes Nervous Start for Hometown Kids


AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Vaughn Taylor grew up in Augusta, so the nerves were understandable when he made his Masters debut.
He had a bogey on his opening hole, another one at No. 2 and settled down for a 75.
'It took me a while to get comfortable,' Taylor said. 'I was a little more nervous than I wanted to be.'
Taylor is a two-time winner of the Reno-Tahoe Open who became eligible for the Masters by finishing in the top 40 on the PGA Tour money list a year ago. He is doing a diary for The Augusta Chronicle and seeing more friendly faces than normal, although he tends to walk with his eyes to the ground.
It wasn't his best, but it was a start.
'I hit a good shot on the first tee,' he said. 'You learn what your body feels like. You learn how to deal with it. Each time you go through, you get better at it.'
Taylor played with Rocco Mediate, who shot 68 and was one shot out of the lead. Mediate hardly considers himself a veteran of Augusta National, although he offered sound advice.
'I said, 'Vaughn, a 7-iron still goes ... 160 yards. There's no green jackets hanging in the trees. Just play golf,'' Mediate said. 'He kind of laughed. You could tell he was a bit nervous. He didn't shoot a good score today, but that's fine.'
Charles Howell III didn't quite figure it out Thursday.
He also grew up in Augusta, and has been playing in the Masters every year since 2002.
Howell recently revamped the circle around him, switching swing coaches and sports psychologists. But he bogeyed five of his first six holes and wound up with an 80, by four shots his worst score in the Masters.
The five amateurs at this year's Masters played like, well, amateurs.
U.S. Amateur champion Edoardo Molinari of Italy failed to make a birdie while playing with defending champion Tiger Woods and wound up with an 80. He was tied with British Amateur champion Brian McElhinney, who at least birdied the 16th.
Clay Ogden, the U.S. Amateur Public Links winner who beat Michelle Wie in the quarterfinals, took quadruple-bogey 8 on the ninth hole on his way to an 83, while U.S. Amateur runner-up Dillon Dougherty went without a birdie and shot 82.
U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Kevin Marsh was low amateur Thursday -- no birdies in a 79.
Molinari had few complaints, spending the day before massive galleries while playing alongside Woods. The Masters traditionally puts the defending champion with the reigning U.S. Amateur champion.
'I was lucky to win the U.S. Amateur, and especially on the year I would play with Tiger,' Molinari said. 'It was really cool, and he was so nice. The most amazing experience I've ever had on a golf course. It beat my expectations by far.'
The Masters awards a sterling silver cup to the low amateur, provided he makes the cut. It has been awarded each of the last three years, a streak that looks to be over.
Even par never looked so good to Adam Scott.
The Aussie got off to a rough start in the first round of the Masters on Thursday, dropping three strokes in the first five holes. But he closed the front nine with three straight birdies to get back to even par, then had another 36 on the back nine.
'I got off to a bit of a nervous start, and then got it together,' he said. 'Even par is pretty good after being three over early.'
Scott's putter was the cause of his early problems. He needed three putts on Nos. 1 and 3, and missed a short one on No. 2.
'I was hitting shots OK, but I was a little shaky on the greens. That's always a little scary here,' said Scott, whose best finish in his previous four Masters is a tie for ninth in 2002. 'It was nice to pull myself together by the end of the front nine and give myself a chance.'
He wasn't the only player who recovered.
Davis Love III hit his tee shot on the par-3 12th over the green and into a bush, had to take a penalty drop and wound up with a triple bogey that left him 5 over par. He then birdied his next four holes and finished with a 2-over 74.
Robert Allenby was 3 over after three holes and headed south when he made a 35-foot par putt on the fourth. He shot 33 on the back nine and salvaged a 73.
Rocco Mediate hasn't been playing well the last two years as he copes with ongoing back problems.
He had to use a one-time exemption to keep his card last year, and a late surge allowed him to narrowly finish inside the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list. He is not the kind of guy anyone expected to see at the Masters.
Forgotten, however, is that he tied for sixth in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, his only top 10 last year. The Masters invites the top eight players from the U.S. Open.
Did anyone ask him why he was at Augusta National?
'Actually, they didn't,' Mediate said after his 68, leaving him one shot behind Vijay Singh. 'But I'd tell them, 'Just look at last year's U.S. Open,' and then they shut up.'
Mediate said he wouldn't blame anyone for asking.
'I haven't played a lot of golf, and I've been hurt,' he said. 'That's all body related, not golf swing or golf game related. Because otherwise, I would have killed myself by now.'
David Duval began using a cross-handed putting grip this week, although it didn't do him much good. He shot an 84. ... Fred Couples opened with a 71 and is in good shape to continue his streak as the only Masters champion to have never missed the cut at Augusta National. ... Thongchai Jaidee, the first Thai in 35 years at the Masters, shot 78. ... Ben Curtis had another good start at a major. The surprising winner of the '03 British Open was 3 under par until dropping two shots on the final five holes for a 71. He opened with a 67 at Baltusrol at the PGA Championship last year before tumbling into a tie for 34th. Curtis and his wife, Candace, recently learned they are expecting their first child in September.
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