Palmer's Drive Is 'Out of Sight'
Friday, April 11, 2008
AUGUSTA, Ga., April 10 -- On the 50th anniversary of the first of his four Masters championships, Arnold Palmer returned to the first tee at Augusta National on Thursday morning to hit the ceremonial first ball signaling the start of play for the 2008 tournament.
Palmer, 78, last played here in 2004 and had been somewhat reluctant to assume such a role, but he finally agreed to do the honors in 2007 and now seems to be reveling in his official starter capacity, particularly after he smacked a drive straight down the middle of the fairway with his opening shot.
Neither he, nor any of the hundreds of spectators crowded around the first tee at 7:50 a.m., had any idea how far the ball traveled because of dense fog that delayed the official start of play by 67 minutes after he teed off.
"As a matter of fact, it went out of sight, I hit it out of sight," Palmer said before ducking back into the clubhouse. "Did you see that shot? You couldn't see it, it went so far, right? Fifty years ago, it went a lot farther, but the tee was a lot farther up, too."
Palmer's old friend and longtime rival, South African Gary Player, is playing in his record 51st Masters this year, one more than Palmer's old mark.
Player, 72, had an opening 83 that included eight bogeys, two double bogeys and a birdie at the 510-yard 13th hole, and when he finished, he said: "Man, that's a tough golf course. No question, the toughest golf course that I've ever played, not even a doubt." . . .
Virginia Tech junior Drew Weaver, the reigning British Amateur champion playing in his first Masters, got off to a decent start with five straight pars and a front nine of 1-over 37. He began the back nine with bogeys on three of the first five holes and eventually signed for a round of 4-over 76, with a single birdie at the 170-yard 16th.
"My nerves were good for the most part," said Weaver, followed around the course by a throng of spectators wearing Hokies hats or other VT gear. "I wouldn't say I was nervous to the point where I couldn't really or had trouble pulling the trigger. I was fine most of the day. It was a good first day, I think. I've got a long way to go tomorrow [to make the cut], but I feel okay about the way I played."
He felt best of all at the 16th, when he hit an 8-iron off the tee that stopped a foot from the hole, "about an inch from going in, I think," he said. "I thought it had a good chance."