Phil Mickelson, shown after teeing off on the second hole in Thursday’s opening round of the Masters, was involved in a television spectacle later when the search for an errant shot of his took on the appearance of an Easter egg hunt. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

In simpler times, America’s pastime opened its season in America, usually several hours before the men’s college basketball champion was decided. They might not have been better times, but they were simpler.

Now baseball gives us something called Opening Week — which began last week so far away that it was the middle of the night here, I think, or maybe the next day — and I don’t know or care which was which. Spring training was still going on. This makes no sense.

Then came the U.S. version of opening day on Wednesday night, followed by opening day for most of the rest of us, which came Thursday. And by gum, they were right; it did take a week. And we wonder why baseball is no longer America’s pastime — it’s because of harebrained ideas like this one.

This meant the Nats would open their eighth season — and the first to be greeted by wild optimism from anywhere outside the Beltway — during the first round of the Masters, and right before the biggest regular season game the Capitals have played in a long, long time. (Rebecca Black’s already working on a song called “Thursday,” just to commemorate the day. Ear plugs sold separately.)

So all those years on the competitive thumb wrestling circuit finally paid off Thursday afternoon. Nats-Masters-Nats-Masters-Nats-Masters. Rinse-Repeat. The Nats started at 2:20 (well, a few minutes late, really) and the Masters came on the air at 3. I didn’t have to sit through my first commercial until 4:18. Not bad.

I watched all the Nats-Cubs game — nice to see so many Nats growing those Caps playoffs solidarity beards — and went to the Masters between half-innings, though my timing is not yet at midseason form yet because I missed a few pitches each time until, like Ryan Dempster, I got into a groove.

And what did we learn about the Nats from Game 1? During the pregame show, I heard that “some” had predicted the Nats to win the World Series. That was certainly an eye-opener. It wasn’t Harold Camping, was it? Because I don’t think we can take that to the bank. Ah, well, it’s April, when anything is still possible.

We also learned that Gio Gonzalez should read the lineup before every game. That their slogan this season is “Ignite Your Natitude.” That Chicago should be called the Windy City. (What? Really? Oh, never mind.) That the Nats certainly seem scrappy, one game into the season.

We learned far less in Augusta — or at least I did. At one point we were treated to people wading through shrubbery, looking for a small hidden object. It was just like an Easter egg hunt, if the hunters were adults drinking beer and waving into the television cameras like idiots, and the egg was Phil Mickelson’s ball.

That was fun, but a little bit of the treacly Masters coverage goes a long way. We saw a lot of Lee Westwood, who’s never won a major and who was leading or tied for the lead for much of the afternoon. We noticed he seemed to have two playing partners, but we seldom saw them. At the end of the round we learned they were “the best group” of the day, “they” being Westwood, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh. It’s not that I don’t believe the commentators — I believe whatever David Feherty tells me in that accent — but why did we see every one of Mickelson’s shots and almost none of the golfers who comprised two-thirds of the best group of the day? It’s not an either-or question; couldn’t we have seen some of both?

Never mind. The Caps-Panthers game was swiftly upon us, Jay Beagle swiftly scored, and even though things got a little dicey and Michal Neuvirth got a little damaged, it was a fine way to end a solid eight hours of watching the telly. (I think that’s what Feherty calls it.) So although the cherry blossoms are long gone — sorry, tourist hordes! — for at least one more season, the Nats will play their home opener before the Caps’ season ends. Now that’s a tradition unlike any other.

For Tracee Hamilton’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.­com/