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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The second round has begun, and Trevor Immelman, the Masters champ in 2008, has birdied No. 2 to reach five-under par, good for third place.
Observations after a day and a sliver of the tourney:
-David Lynn, tied for fifth after the first round, is a bit of a character. The Englishman was fairly unkown until he shot consecutive 68s at the PGA Championship last year to finish second to Rory McIlroy.
He's a prankster, and a ``planker.'' That's the act of pretending you're a plank, and laying with arms tightly to your side in unusual positions. (No, I don't get it either.) He said he's cut back on the pranks and planking and won't be doing any of that at Augusta. ``I want to be welcomed back,'' he said.
-Dustin Johnson has come close to winning the other three majors - remember him grounding his club on loose sand at Whistling Straits at the PGA in 2010? - and says his game is best-suited to The Masters. He loves hitting driver, hits it a mile, and, depending on the conditions, sometimes has a short iron in to the back-nine par 5s that so often determine the winner here.
He begins the day tied for third.
-Fred Couples is 53, but he plays well here regardless of age. He's tied for fifth after an opening 68. He won here in 1992 only because his tee shot to the par-3 12th hung up on the bank rather than sliding into Rae's Creek. He has always played here as if blessed by the golf gods.
He's made the cut in 26 of his 28 Masters appearances, and he clearly loves playing here.
Can he win? As with most entrants of any age, the answer is ``probably not.'' But if Tom Watson can come close to winning the British Open at the age of 59 in 2009, why can't Couples compete on a course perfectly suited to his game?
He says he'll play The Masters until he doesn't think he can win. Whcih, of course, means, he thinks he can win now.
-First rounds are rarely definitive, but the first day of The Masters was remindful of how rare golf is in terms of inclusiveness to all ages.
Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer hit ceremonial tee shots. Tianlang Guan shot a 73 at the age of 14, then said he'd like to someday win all four majors in one year. Couples put himself into contention at 53. And Sergio Garcia, who has seen past his prime for years, is tied for the lead.
How old is he? Just 33.
-I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon for my regular weekday hit. Sunday, we'll have the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30, followed by Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon.
This is the first time I've covered the Masters since 2009. The course looks longer and tighter.
What's most striking is No. 11. I'm not sure I can explain how long and intimidating the hole is now. The tees are pushed as far back as they conceivably can be. It's now a 505-yard par-4 that demands a precise tee shot to avoid clipping the new trees guarding the right side of the fairway.
the second shot requires a long or mid-iron over a pond fronting the left side of the green. As Phil Mickelson said, you either have to risk hitting it in the pond, or you have to leave it out to the right, forcing a chip to a green that slopes away, toward the water.
More stuff from my second day at the course:
-No player who ever won the Par-3 tournament has won the Masters in the same year. Asked if he would avoid winning the par-3 tourney, Keegan Bradley said, ``I don't believe in curses. I'm a Red Sox fan.''
-Steve Politi of the Newark Star-Ledger noticed on Monday that Arnold Palmer was ordering an Arnold Palmer (half ice tea, half lemonade.) He chased down the waitress who was serving it and asked how Arnold Palmer orders an Arnold Palmer.
The answer: He asked for a ``Mr. Palmer,'' then winked.
-Last time neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson finished in the Top 10 at the Masters? 1994.
Phil Mickelson is one of the most fascinating golfers and personalities of his generation. He was interesting again on Tuesday.
During his press conference at Augusta National in preparation for The Masters, he said...
-He loved his new Callaway 3-wood so much that he had the company design a driver that is 8.5 degrees but is built and plays like his 3-wood. He said the new club, termed by some ``Frankenclub,'' hits a penetrating trajectory with lots of roll. He said he's reaching parts of the course, particularly on No. 9, that he hasn't reached in years.
-There may be a reason why five of the last 10 Masters champions have been lefthanded. He noted that No. 12, one of the hardest short par-3s in the world, allows a lefthander favorable misses. Typically, a lefthanded pro will miss long to the right and short to the left, and that dispersal is perfect for 12, while it's particularly challenging for righthanders.
-He wouldn't comment on Augusta National admitting female members, or whether other golf clubs and governing bodies should follow suit. Earlier this year, he complained about California taxes, saying he may be forced to move from his home of San Diego.
``I love the game of golf, and I love playing professional golf, and I love playing different courses and being part of different tournaments and organizations,'' he said. ``What I don't love is getting involved in the politics of it. I tried that ealrier in the year, and it didn't go so well.''
He was smiling when he said that.
-That Auigusta National has softer greens than most tour courses, and that it's in particularly good shape this year. ``The areas that have historically given them problems here are not having a problem this year,'' he said. ``They are perfect.''
As far as the Augusta greens striking fear in touring pros, Mickelson said, ``You can fire at a lot of these pins without any fear...That fear factor has not been there and I don't anticipate them going back to the way we expect. I think it's going to stay kind of soft.''
-That the 13th hole at Augusta is his favorite hole in golf, because of the risk-reward value of the second shot, and how the slope of the fairway makes the shot much more challenging than it appears.
Just arrived at Augusta National after a few years' hiatus, and the place is as beautiful as ever.
Already got to see Bubba Watson crying during a press conference. He does that at every press conference.
About to attend Tiger Woods' press conference. He, like Bubba, has a tradition: Tiger hardly ever says anything of interest. We'll see.
I'lll be here until Monday morning covering the tournament. Please look for my columns at startribune.com (or follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib and I'll link to them). I won't be live-tweeting from the course because cel phones are restricted to the press building, but I'll blog and tweet when I can.
This is one of the great assignments in sports, one of the assignments that makes you feel privileged to work in sports journalism. I love covering all of the big events, but at many of them you feel like you're watching the game on TV and cramming into a clubhouse for a few quotes after. Here, you get to walk the grounds and speak with players as they exit the course.
This has to be the most beautiful land-locked piece of geography in America. Yes, I am lucky to be here.
More on this blog later...
Also, I'll join Judd Zulgad and Jeff Dubay at noon on 1500ESPN every day this week, and will co-host Sunday Sports Talk from here with Tom Pelissero anchoring from the studio. That's 10-noon Sunday, right after the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30.
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