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Rose blooms amid the azaleas
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Back-to-back birdies brought out that boyish smile in Justin Rose. The loss of his longtime looper brought a tear to Tom Watson. A suspect swing made Tiger Woods look as vulnerable as ever.
The Masters had a little bit of everything Thursday, starting with Rose shooting a 5-under 67 to take a two-shot lead, and ending with Woods walking briskly to his car in darkness, 4 over par through 14 holes and not much to say.
"I'm done for today," he said. "Thanks."
Watson's score was irrelevant. He was on his way to the course when he learned his longtime caddie, Bruce Edwards, died in Florida of Lou Gehrig's disease.
"I'm relying on his spirit to take care of me," Watson said.
The two-hour rain relay, which prevented 18 players from finishing the first round, took a little edge off the crusty course, but not enough to make it any less intimidating.
Only three players broke 70, and Augusta National was littered with heartache -- an 80 by Adam Scott, an 8 on the 15th hole for Vijay Singh, and a double bogey at the end of the day for defending champion Mike Weir.
No sooner had his ball spun back into the pond on the 15th that the siren sounded, and Weir stood in the fairway with his hands on hips, slamming his wedge into the turf.
"It was a weird day," said Ernie Els, who was 2 under with one hole to play. The 18 players resume the round at 8:45 a.m. today.
Rose, 23, had few complaints.
The youngest professional in the field, Rose started with back-to-back birdies to get his name on the leaderboard, then finished with birdies on the last two holes to build a two-shot lead over Chris DiMarco and 50-year-old Jay Haas.
"Unfazed would be my idea mindset for tomorrow," Rose said.
DiMarco, the 36-hole leader three years ago at the Masters, provided the biggest thrill when his 5-iron from 198 yards dropped for a hole-in-one at No. 6. He was the only player to avoid bogey and shot 69.
The cheers, as usual, belonged to the King.
Nothing rocked this place more than when Arnold Palmer rolled in a 40-foot putt that went up a steep slope and crashed into the pin before disappearing into the cup. Never mind that it was for par, or that the 74-year-old Palmer wound up with an 84 in his 50th and final Masters.
"I would have loved to have made the cut," Palmer said. "I may make it yet, (but) I'll have to quit after 9."
Woods might join him.
For the second straight Masters, the focus Friday will not be on his pursuit of another green jacket, but whether he can extend his record cut streak.
His scorecard -- no birdies, one sidetrip to a nature sanctuary behind the fifth green, two flung clubs at his bag, three curses under his breath, and four more holes to finish this not-so-spectacular round.
Chris Riley had to wait two hours during the delay to hit one putt, but he rolled in the 15-footer on No. 18 for a 70 to join Darren Clarke. The group at 71 included hometown favorite Charles Howell III, Colin Montgomerie and Europe's Ryder Cup captain, Bernhard Langer.
Rose hasn't heard these kinds of cheers since he was a 17-year-old at the 1998 British Open, when he chipped in for birdie on the final hole at Royal Birkdale to finish fourth.
He turned pro the next week, then missed 21 consecutive cuts before his game slowly recovered. He has won four times in Europe, and tied for fifth at the U.S. Open last year.
"There were times when you're thinking this is going to be a long, uphill struggle," Rose said. "But the last couple of seasons, I've recently enjoyed the situation I've been in. Hopefully, it's time to move onward and upward even more.
"If you want to be one of the best players in the world, now is the time to start coming through."
Rose played with DiMarco, and the highlight of the round came at the par-3 sixth.
"I hit a great shot into about 4, 5 feet," Rose said. "I was pretty proud of myself -- until Chris got up there."
DiMarco's shot was pure all the way, landing softly about 2 feet from the hole and dropping for an ace.
"Just a perfect shot," DiMarco said.
Haas was equally solid, and looks capable of becoming the oldest major champion. He made only one bogey and continues to play as though the 50-and-over Champions Tour shouldn't leave the light on for him.
"I'm trying not to think that I'm 50 and I shouldn't be doing this," said Haas, whose uncle, Bob Goalby, won the '68 Masters. "I don't know that there's a number that, all of a sudden, we decide we can't play anymore."
Six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus, 64, showed some fight, too. He was 2 over through 17 holes.
The lowlight of Woods' round came at No. 5, when his approach bounded over the green and into thick vegetation, causing him to crouch over and grip the club about 12 inches above the blade to get it out of that mess. He chipped nicely to 8 feet, then missed the putt to take double bogey.
Woods, of course, wasn't alone in his misery.
Singh, with his father watching at the Masters for the first time, was at 2 under par and poised to move up the leaderboard until his second shot on the par-5 15th went into the pond in front of the green, his next shot went into the pond over the green and he wound up with a triple bogey. Singh bogeyed the last two holes for a 75.
Phil Mickelson, whom many consider the favorite to finally win his first major, also was 2 under until he took four putts at the par-3 16th for a double bogey. His first putt climbed out of a hollow but stopped at the crest of a hill, leaving him no choice but to nudge the next putt and watch it roll some 15 feet away.
He wound up with a 72.
"I was three inches away from being six feet from the hole," Mickelson said. "But that's going to happen to everybody. I thought it could have been a much better score."
John Daly made double bogey on both par 3s on the back nine for a 78.
Shigeki Maruyama hit into the creek on the par-3 12th, then took three shots to get out of a bunker. He wound up with a quintuple-bogey 8 and shot 82.
Watson, meantime, finished with a 76 and then spent an hour sharing memories of his longtime caddie, who continued to work for him last year despite being in the throes of a disease for which there is no known cure.
Watson missed the cut last year at the Masters, and Edwards cried in the parking lot at Augusta National.
"He thought that was going to be his last Masters," Watson said. "Of course, it was."