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Tiger trails but isn't mad after tying his best start

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001


AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The round seemed rather lackluster, with several squandered chances for birdies and none of the usual theatrics that seem to accompany a Tiger Woods day on the golf course.

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The round seemed rather lackluster, with several squandered chances for birdies and none of the usual theatrics that seem to accompany a Tiger Woods day on the golf course.

But Woods' 70 in Thursday's opening round of the Masters was significant in one respect: It matched his best opening-round score in seven appearances and was the same score he shot in 1997, when he won by a record 12 shots.

Woods was not looking for any omens after his round. Trying to become the first to win four consecutive major championships, Woods said he was pleased with his score and position.

"I thought I played pretty solid," said Woods, who was tied for 15th and trailed first-round leader Chris DiMarco by five. "I hit a lot of good drives, a lot of crisp irons. I hit a few good puts, misread a few, but overall I'm pleased with the start I was able to get off to."

Woods bogeyed the first hole when he sprayed his drive into the trees on the right but followed with three birdies. After bogey at the 10th, he birdied the 15th to play the back nine in par.

"I was nervous, but not to the point where I couldn't tee it up and couldn't swing," Woods said. "Honestly, I felt pretty good out there. I think one of the reasons why is my preparation coming into the tournament. I've hit the ball reasonably well in the practice rounds. I just need to go out there and execute my own golf shots."

PLAYING FOR FREE: James Driscoll had a dream day. An amateur from Brookline, Mass., and a Virginia graduate, Driscoll, 23, played his first Masters round in 68 with just 23 putts. He was tied for seventh, three shots behind DiMarco.

Driscoll finished runner-up to Jeff Quinney last summer at the U.S. Amateur, earning a Masters invitation he could accept only if he remained an amateur. So he put off turning pro, made a few trips to Augusta for practice rounds and made the most of his opportunity.

"I'll be a pro for a long time, and playing this tournament is one thing, but playing it as an amateur is more special," Driscoll said. "I really wanted to do that."

His round included long birdie putts at the fourth and ninth holes and a chip-in for birdie from a bunker at the 16th.

Oh, and he played with two-time Masters champion Tom Watson, who shot 10 strokes higher.

"James played very well, played under control," Watson said. "You could see how much he enjoyed some of the good shots he made, especially when he holed it from the bunker. ... This was the best round I've seen played here by an amateur. He kept it very even keel all day."

Driscoll's score was the best at the Masters by an amateur since Matt Kuchar shot 68 in the third round in 1998 and the best first-year amateur score since Jodie Mudd shot 67 in 1982.

CHIP SHOTS: Phil Mickelson has been under par in seven of his past eight Masters rounds after his 67. ... Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player each shot 73. They played with Arnold Palmer, who had 82. ... Steve Jones managed to shoot 74 despite taking 9 at the par-5 second hole. ... Doug Ford, 78, the 1957 Masters champion, withdrew after making 6 on the first hole. ... The par-4 10th hole was the most difficult, playing to an average of 4.38 strokes. It yielded just five birdies. The first hole was the second toughest at 4.269, giving up only nine birdies.

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