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Bill Haas takes lead after first round at Masters

By Mark Whicker
McClatchy-Tribune
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Sergio Garcia, who rarely speaks for his peers, said Thursday that he “just can’t find the comfort” at Augusta National.
A befuddled and inhibited Masters field seconded that emotion.
On a Thursday of minimal wind and made-to-order atmospherics, no one could top Bill Haas’ 4-under-par 68 in the first round.
Although 19 players broke par-72, there was relatively little fan noise and only three eagles, and you never heard one player exhaling.
If there was an exception, it was Adam Scott, who won last year and had a 69 that was marred only by a double-bogey on the par-3 12th.
“There’s no doubt that winning the Masters had me a little more comfortable,” said Scott, who shot 3 under even though he three-putted two par-5s, for pars. “I didn’t have the legs shaking and nerves jangling for six or seven holes, like usual.
“You’ve waited eight months to play a major championship. But I felt like, what was the worst that can happen? I’m still going to be a Masters champion.”
Scott is tied with 2012 champ Bubba Watson and 2012 runner-up Louis Oosthuizen. Seven are at 2 under, including Jimmy Walker, who has won three times on tour this year and was making his Masters debut.
Five of the first-time pros broke par. Jordan Spieth, 20, who is on track to become the game’s next celebrity, shot 1 under, as did playing partner Rory McIlroy.
Haas, who had never broken 70 here in four Masters, had six birdies, including one at 18 after he bogeyed 17.
“The wind changed there, or at least that’s what I’m claiming,” Haas said. “But they keep a bounceback statistic on our tour, with birdies after bogeys, and it’s one of the most important ones we have.”
Champions Tour dominators Bernhard Langer and Fred Couples felt comfortable here, as always. Langer saved par on 18 to finish at even-par 72 and Couples shot 1 under. Miguel Angel Jimenez, who turned 50 in January, was at 1 under.
But Phil Mickelson triple-bogeyed the seventh, double-bogeyed the 15th, and stumbled home with a 4-over-par 76. It was the first time Mickelson has put two 7s on any card since 1997. Three of his past four Masters rounds have been 76 or worse.
Scott can become the world’s top-ranked player with a victory. He arranged the champions dinner Tuesday night and, with Tiger Woods injured, has been under the sharpest microscope of his career.