No rain, but cool and windy weather leads to early struggles

AUGUSTA — Although the second round of the Masters seems to have escaped  rain, cool temperatures and winds have made for some struggles for those out early Friday. After first-round temperatures in the 80s, the temperature at Augusta National was 52 degrees Friday.

Hole No. 1 is making its presence known. Ryo Ishikawa and John Senden had triple-bogeys on the opening hole and the likes of Scott Verplank, Mike Weir, Sandy Lyle, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Peter Hanson all took double-bogeys.

The weather promised to clear and warm up later this afternoon but those with early tee times have struggled. Louis Oosthuizen, who was tied for second after a first-round 4-under par, fell off the leader board. He shot a 39 on the front nine which included a double-bogey on No. 2.First-round leader Lee Westwood teed off at 9:40 a.m.  Phil Mickelson had a mid-morning tee time.

Tiger Woods tees off at 1:42 p.m.

The weekend weather forecast is much better with sunny skies and …

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Young amateurs attacking Augusta National

AUGUSTA — The kids don’t seem to be afraid of the Masters.

Led by Patrick Cantlay and Hideki Matsuyama, who each shot 1 under 71s in Thursday’s first round, four of the five college-aged amateurs have a shot at not only making the cut, but of giving ESPN and CBS even bigger ratings by competing for the green jacket. They trail leader Lee Westwood by four shots and don’t seem to be intimidated by the course’s history, length or degree of difficulty.

Asked if he thinks he can stay on the leaderboard all four rounds, Cantlay didn’t hesitate to answer.

“I think so,” said Cantlay, a UCLA student who can draw from the experience of being the low amateur at last year’s U.S. Open.

Joining them are Corbin Mills and Kelly Kraft, who each shot 2 over. Kraft, who qualified by defeating Cantlay for the 2011 U.S. Amateur Championship, tied Westwood for the best four-hole stretches of anyone on Thursday. He ran off four consecutive birdies on Nos. 12-15. Though Kraft dropped two …

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Gate to Augusta National no longer an obstacle for Bradley

AUGUSTA – Now is Keegan Bradley’s time to be at Augusta National.

It wasn’t when he was driving to college – in an old 2003 Ford with over 100,000 miles – and stopped to eat a sandwich across the street from the main gate and watched the traffic in and out.

It wasn’t when he was at St. John’s and someone had arranged for the van carrying the university team to a tournament to pull in the gate, drive down Magnolia Lane, turn around and drive back out. The quick entrance-exit did not happen and Bradley knew why. His father, Mark Bradley, recalled the story of when he called his son that evening to ask about it. “He said, ‘Everyone else was bummed dad but I just thought it’s not time for me to go in there.’”

Bradley made that drive down Magnolia Lane, with his father, in February when he played his first round at Augusta National in preparation for his first Masters. The 25-year old, who won last year’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, teed off in his second major …

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Woods grinds out even-par start to Masters

AUGUSTA — The snap hook off the first tee wasn’t Tiger Woods’ first indication he could be in for a long day.

Woods felt his swing wasn’t right on the practice range before Thursday’s first round of the Masters. Yet he saved par on the opening hole and scrambled his way to an even-par round. In fact, Woods was 2-under before bogeying the final two holes.

“I squeezed a lot out of that round,” Woods said. “I didn’t hit it very good at all. I warmed up bad, too, and it continued on the golf course. I really grinded.”

Woods described his issue as a backswing reminiscent of that taught by old swing coach Hank Haney and “a new downswing.”

Woods immediately went to the driving range to work on his swing before Friday’s afternoon tee time.

Woods was helped on the round by his putting. Just earlier in the day, with legends of the game Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus discussing the next generation of exceptional players, Woods was singled out as the best in the world …

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Mud balls at the Masters

Because Masters officials declined to allow the players to lift, clean and place balls in the fairway, many had to deal with the residual effects of this week’s rains. The dreaded mud ball, a ball with a dab of dirt on it that can end up flying in any direction when hit, was the result. More rain is expected on Friday.

Bo Van Pelt said he ended up with a clod of mud on his golf ball on No. 13. He elected to lay up and made par. On the par-5 15th he ended up with a clean lie in the fairway and tried to go for it. His ball flew over the green and he made a bogey. He shot 1-over 73.

“Maybe I should have some mud on 15 and it would have helped save me a couple of shots,” he said.

Kyle Stanley may  have been the most affected. He said he experienced mud on Nos. 1, 2, 5, 10, 11, 13, 15. He shot 3 over 75.

Many players said they seemed to experience more mud on the first nine, before the course had a chance to dry out in the afternoon.

Steve Stricker said he experienced mud on Nos. …

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Masters fan wears her love on her hat

Dotie Menger of Milledgeville wears her love of the Masters on her hat.

Pinned to a straw bucket hat are more than 30 badges from the 60 Masters she has attended.

In all shapes, sizes and colors, the badges tell the history of the tournament. One silver-colored badge from 1966 advertises a $15 price. Single-day badges to this year’s tournament were sold $75 on Masters.com earlier this year. Another features a photo of Bobby Jones. Attached to a hat band are smaller collectable pins.

Menger, 81, said she doesn’t know how many badges she has on her hat or what made her decide to craft the ultimate Masters accessory. She does know that the hat isn’t going to blow away or fall off. It’s secured to her head with a pin.

“My husband said don’t let anybody steal that hat,” she said with a relaxing country accent.

Though she wants to see three-time champion Phil Mickelson win again, she said her favorite memory was Larry Mize’s triumph over Greg Norman in 1987.

– Doug Roberson, AJC

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Fifty years and counting for Sarah Yates Sutherland

Sarah Yates Sutherland, the daugther of Charlie Yates, is attending her 50th consecutive Masters this week. She started coming in 1963 as an 11-year old.

Sarah Yates Sutherland, the daugther of Charlie Yates, is attending her 50th consecutive Masters this week. She started coming in 1963 as an 11-year old.

AUGUSTA — Sarah Yates Sutherland has seen Augusta National Golf Club like few. There is a pullout sofa in a den in Butler Cabin that served as her sleeping quarters as a young girl during Masters past.

Sutherland, now 61, is attending her 50th consecutive Masters this week. The daughter of Charlie Yates, a member at Augusta National for over 60 years and a participant in the first 11 Masters, started coming in 1963 as an 11-year old. One of her prized possessions in her collection of 50 Masters badges is the 1964 tag signed on the backside by Arnold Palmer. “I was a big Arnie’s Army fan,” Sutherland said.

She has been back every year through childhood, college and her adult life.

“I never missed one through college and I lived in [Washington] D.C. for 20 years,” Sutherland said. “It was a way always to catch up with my …

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Big Three get Masters under way

AUGUSTA — The 2012 Masters got officially under way Thursday when Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus hit ceremonial tee shots for the first time as a group.

All three shots were down the center of the first fairway. Palmer, 82, hit first and was so delighted with his shot he gave a high handshake to Augusta National chairman Billy Payne. Players, 76, hit next in his first shot as an honorary starter. Nicklaus, 72, hit the final shot.

When asked if they noticed whose tee shot went farthest, Nicklaus quipped “I don’t think any of us can see that far.”

Player said his first appearance as a honorary starter was “a great thrill.” Palmer called the reunion of golf’s Big Three “appropriate.”

“We’ve played golf all our lives together,” Palmer said.

Time may be catching up to the three players who have won 13 green jackets  between them in competing in a combined 147 Masters.

“We’d all like to still play,” Nicklaus said. “But when you look at our drives we all had 3-wood and …

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Player gives surprising answer to the new “Big 3″

Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player were known as the “Big 3″ because of the way they dominated the PGA Tour, winning 34 major titles.

During a press conference this morning, they were asked who they thought today’s “Big 3″ are.

Nicklaus shook his head, not offering an answer.

Player then answered Tiger Woods, who has 14 major titles, and … Rory McIlroy, who has one.

Left out was Phil Mickelson, who has four majors, including three Masters.

It was an odd moment considering Mickelson watched the “Big 3″ hit the ceremonial first tee shots to kick off this year’s Masters.

So, who do you think today’s “Big 3″ are? Is there even a “Big 3?” A  “Big  1 1/12?”

– Doug Roberson, AJC

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Cink believes in what he’s doing

Stewart Cink may not have the results he wants as he continues to change his swing, but he knows that when he can trust himself to swing well, the ball likes it.

“I wish I could tell you that I’m brimming with confidence but my game is a work in progress,” the Georgia Tech grad and Duluth resident said. “I knew it was going to be a rough transition at times and it has and it will. It’d be great if I could just take off a bunch of time, and totally implement the changes and come out here and be a new golfer but it doesn’t work like that.”

Cink will tee off in his 15th Masters at 8:56 a.m. on Thursday. He is in the field by virtue of winning the 2009 British Open, which provides a five-year automatic berth in the Masters.

As he continues to work on his swing, his results have fallen off so much that he wouldn’t have qualified otherwise.

He hasn’t won since taking the Claret Jug at Turnberry. He has just five top-10 finishes in full-field events since. But he believes in what …

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