The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

April 10, 2014

Masters opens with Woods on the sideline

— AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The Masters is underway with three shots right down the middle of the fairway. Just not terribly far.

Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus hit the ceremonial tee shots Thursday morning with fans already lining both sides of the first fairway. Still competitive even after all these years, Nicklaus went last and hit a drive that went about a yard past Player's shot.

The "Big Three" combined to win 13 green jackets, including seven in a row at the start of the 1960s.

This Masters is far less predictable. Without Tiger Woods or a dominant figure, it's seen as the most wide-open Masters in years.

A bunch of brash Augusta rookies are eager to fill Woods' shoes. And the last two dozen majors have been divvied up among 21 winners.

Early Thursday, Stewart Cink, Ian Woosnam and Jonas Blixt were all 1-under-par, leading among the early starters.

Ryan Moore, who won the Par 3 contest Wednesday, thinks it might be time to break the curse of that winner never winning the tournament.

"You never know," he said. "Someone has got to break that (Par 3) curse at some point in time, so hopefully it's me. Who knows? I might go shoot 8 under or something, make a couple of hole-in-ones."

As unlikely as that sounds, pretty much everything else is up for grabs at this Masters. Recovering from back surgery, Woods is sitting out the opening major of the year for the first time since turning pro.

Even as his dominance waned in recent years, he was always the clear-cut favorite coming into Augusta, where he has won four times.

Now, as Moore said, who knows?

Jason Day, Sergio Garcia and former Masters champion Zach Johnson are the only players from the top 10 who have won anywhere in the world this year. Only one of the past seven winners on the PGA Tour was ranked in the top 75.

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