Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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Spent most of the morning walking with Bubba Watson's group at The Masters. He's playing wit Sergio Garcia, whose pants are the same shade of pink as Bubba's driver. Not sure they coordinated that.
Bubba won this tournament two years ago and shot what might have been the most impressive round of Day 1, not making a single bogey while playing in the higher winds in the afternoon.
I followed him on the front nine and he was long and volatile as usual. He hit a bomb of a drive on No. 8, then, when his approach went left, he screamed that he had mud on his ball.
On No. 9, he drove long and left, and yelled at a photographer who snapped in his backswing. (Bubba was right to be angry.)
The theme of the week: You can't leave yourself above the hole. I watched two gropus play into the par-4 fifth hole, and all left the ball short of the green rather than chancing hitting it past the pin and facing a downhill putt, or winding up on a different tier.
I like that the course challenges the players' creativity. Thick rough forces all players to gouge the ball out and hope. Augusta National has shaved grass near the greens. So of the six players I watched, three putted, two chipped and Garcia used a fairway wood.
Garcia got to tap-in range. Joost Luiten putted in. Marc Leishman, who had made three birdies on his round, chipped past the hole and two-putted, leading to a collapse.
It's a fascinating course.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 with Mackey and Judd.
Bill Haas took the lead at The Masters on Thursday, but the course was the winner.
Augusta National demonstrated that fast greens and tough pin placements can defend par without high rough and bad weather.
It was a beautiful day in Augusta, although winds seemed to pick up and affect players in the afternoon. Yet there were only four players in the 60s, and eight in the 80s.
It's funny how this stuff works. Adam Scott, who shot at 69, hit one bad shot on Thursday. His tee shot on the Par-3 12th went into Rae's Creek. He said the lack of wind allowed him to lose focus, and he made a lousy swing.
Gotta be honest, I didn't miss Tiger Woods' golf game, but I did miss his presence today. He creates excitement. A Tiger birdie creates a bigger roar than anyone else's. I spent most of my time following Scott, Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed, and all three are wonderful players, but Tiger does draw the eye.
Wrote about Scott and leader Bill Haas for the paper. I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m., and on 1500ESPN at 12:15 tomorrow from Augusta. I'll also do my Sunday show on 1500ESPN from 10-noon.
Followed Rory McIlroy's group for the first seven holes, and he is crushing his driver, long and straight. hE's out-driving Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. He pulled his approach to No. 2 into the bunker, but if his driver allows him to attack Par 5s this week, he will be dangerous.
Jason Niebrugge, the Wiscnosin 20-year-old I profiled the other day, is 9-over. Augusta National can do that to a kid.
The leader at the moment is Miguel Angel Jiminez, ``The Mechanic,'' whose wild, weird stretching routine is difficult to watch, unless you like that sort of thing.
There always seems to be a veteran at or near the top of the leaderboard early on Thursday. I think the course is too long for Jiminez to last, but he's a great character to watch.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 or so to talk the Masters and everything else with Mackey & Judd.
It's a beautiful morning at The Masters, and the forecasts are for highs in the 70s and 80s with no precipitation all week.
The tourney has begun, and Stewart Cink, Jonas Blixt and Martin Kaymer lead at one-under.
Wrote three pieces for today's paper. Please check them out in print or at Startribune.com.
For me, the tee times to watch are at 9:41 and 9:52 a.m., Minnesota time.
at 9:41, it's defending champion Adam Scott, Jason Dufner and amateur Matthew Fitzpatrick. Scott and Dufner have won the last two majors.
At 9:52, it's Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy. All three have the game to win this week. McIlroy has a chance to become the best player in the game, Spieth might be the best young player in the game, and Reed thinks he's the best player in the game.
It is strange not having Tiger Woods to focus on, but I think a host of good young golfers will show off this week.
I'll be on @1500ESPN at 12:15ish from Augusta.
Golf is a beautiful sport to watch and a fascinating game to analyze. It also produces a certain class of jerk - privileged, entitled, independent contractors to play mostly for the money.
In this sport, the gracious and the good stand out.
Steve Stricker stands out. Always.
I wrote about Wisonsinite Jordan Niebrugge for the Wednesday paper. Because I followed him around Augusta National, I wound up following his playing partner, Stricker.
Stricker wanted to help a 20-year-old from Wisconsin, so he showed the kid the ropes - or, more accurately, the angles of a deceptive course.
Golf Channel's Jason Sobel tweeted that the average Masters winner has played in 6.1 Masters. So course knowledge matters. Especailly when you factor in that so many Masters winners had caddies who knew the course well.
Stricker spent the day with Niebrugger, and on the back nine, Russell Henley joined them.
After everyone hit shots to the tricky 17th green, Stricker and Henley walked back about 50 paces from the green and hit a bunch of wedge shots.
Were they betting? No. Stricker was showing Henley how to hit a wedge shot with the hand action of a bunker shot, holding the clubface open to make the ball skip to a stop. Henley's last shot using that technique skipped to within inches of the hole.
Stricker has given Tiger Woods putting lessons. In other words, in a sport where your finishing place determines your income, Stricker happily helps people finish ahead of him.
``He was just super helpful to Jordan and then even with Russell Henley,'' said Alan Bratton, the Oklahoma State coach who is caddying for Niebrugger this week. ``That’s a real credit to Russell, and it’s no wonder he’s doing so well on the tour if he’s smart enough to seek out a guy as smart as Steve Stricker. We really appreciate what Steve did today.''
Stricker is known as one of the nicest guys on tour. He has cut back his tour schedule so he can spend more time with his family. And he currently stars in the best golf commercial running - the Avis ad in which he discusses unleashing the beast within...while octagenarians speed past him on the highway.
You want to cheer for a good guy this week? Can't beat Stricker.
Phil Mickelson said that Rickie Fowler shot a 30 on the back nine on Tuesday in their practice round.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. and on 1500ESPN at about 12:15 all week. I'll co-host Sunday Sports Talk on 1500ESPN from 10-noon on Sunday from Augusta.
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