By Chuck Garbedian Special to Published Apr 09, 2010 at 5:09 AM

The first two days of any major championship present a slew of stories and Day One of the 2010 Masters was no exception.

Surprisingly, on the day that Tiger Woods returned from scandal, the big story this day was Fred "Boom Boom" Couples.

The Champions Tour Rookie of the Year (can we give it to him already, what with three firsts and a runner-up in four events on the Senior circuit?) and 1992 Masters champ lit up a firm and fair Augusta National to the tune of a 6-under par 66, his best round ever at the majestic course.

It was beautiful round of golf that featured seven birdies against one bogey. The key to this gem was the fact that Couples has taken the silky smooth putting stroke that has defined his Champions Tour season to this point and brought it with him to Augusta National. Boom Boom used only 24 putts in his opening round, helping him translate 12 of 18 greens and 11 of 14 fairways into the first-round lead.

It was only Day One, but the way Couples has played this season on the Champions Tour gives credence to the notion that he actually could pull off a victory.

Look up and down the top of the leader board and you'll find a wonderful Junior Senior event featuring the likes of, in the Senior Division; Couples, Tom Watson (tied for second, one stroke back of Couples with his own bogey free 5-under 67), Sandy Lyle (T12, three shots back with a five birdie two bogey round of 69) and Kenny Perry T32 with an even par round of 72.

It's not the age, it's the experience that counts at Augusta National. The more rounds you can log on the National, the better off you are. Of course, the powers that be also make subtle changes to the course each year so the yardage books are extremely important, especially in the tournament preparation department. Knowing what tweaks have been made and where they have been made are especially key in determining where the risk is lurking and the reward can be found.

Just look at the 2009 event, where you had a three-man playoff between Chad Campbell, Kenny Perry and eventual winner Angel Cabrera. None are "old" but all have valuable experience in playing Augusta National and each were able to parlay that experience into exceptional play.

This is a difficult game but if you can get the body to believe what the mind is telling you, the golf ball, the equipment and the golf course doesn't know how old you really are, but they will all soon discover if you can execute the shot called for.

The new gentler, kinder Tiger Woods made his competitive tournament debut for the 2010 season following a five-month layoff and put on an impressive display of golf ball management.

His putting was a different story.

Woods hit nine of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, but took 31 putts in a 4-under round of 68, the first time in his career at the Masters where he has broken 70 on Day One. Oh, but for a few putts dropping what this round could have been...

For the first time in his career at Augusta, Woods tallied two eagles in the same round. He converted his first big bird of the day on the par-five 8th hole and then gave himself a great look for eagle at No. 13 after busting a drive to the center of the fairway followed by an iron to the green that used the slope of the short grass to get within eight feet of the stick, only to see the putt lip out on the high side where birdie would have to suffice.

Moving to the 15th, Woods again hit two great shots to the green followed by an eagle putt into the center of the cup. On the day, Woods notched eight 3s on his card, blemished only by bogeys at Nos. 7, 10 and 14.

All in all, it was a solid start for Woods, leaning on the adage that, "you cannot win The Masters on Thursday, but you sure can lose it..." Make no mistake; Woods did everything he had to do. And with the first round under his belt and out of the way, with another round of 68, Woods could take control of this 74th Masters.

There is a five player logjam in the group tied for second at 5-under par 67. The names include what I'm sure is a very relieved and pleased Phil Mickelson. "Philly Mick" has not had the type of start to the season he was looking for in 2010, especially with Tiger Woods out of action until making his debut on Tour this week.

However, Lefty says he always feels "calm" on the grounds of Augusta National and feels that the course suits his game because he doesn't have to be as precise to get something out of his game.

On Thursday, Mickelson's 67 included only six of 14 fairways but 14 of 18 greens and the putter added up to 28 strokes. The brilliance of Philly Mick shone through on the back nine during a stretch on holes Nos. 12-16 where Lefty put up an eagle-birdie-birdie run and a scorecard that added up to four 3s in five holes.

Tom Watson's bogey free 5-under 67 was simply brilliant. Nothing spectacular, but a textbook round by a player who knew what to do and then executed the shots needed when called upon. The brightest part of the round was the finishing kick when Watson rolled in birdies on 15, 16 and 18 much to the patrons delight. Watson also channeled the putting Watson of old by using the flat stick only 24 times that was certainly a round that many will remember.

Lee Westwood's play has put him on the verge of major championships recently and Thursday's first round of the Masters was no exception. Westwood put up seven birdies against two bogeys in his 5-under par 67 that included a bogey free 4-under par 32 coming in. Westwood has grown into a great ball striker and if this is the week that he rolls his rock well, a green jacket could be added to his wardrobe.

KJ Choi used a run of four birdies in a row, holes Nos. 13-16 to post his 5-under par 67. The key for Choi were the two sand saves that kept the round going in the right direction. A valuable lesson to be learned as Touring Professionals don't always hit it where they want it to go and sometimes you need to make something out of next to nothing; Choi did that well by saving par twice in the round.

Y.E. Yang is again back in the mix at a major championship and is the only player in the field who can tally two majors in a row. When Yang won the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine, he did it with precision and patience, outlasting and outplaying Tiger Woods down the stretch in Minnesota. On Thursday in Georgia, Yang had a run of five birdies (Nos. 9, 10, 12, 13 & 15) in seven holes (Nos. 9-15) to secure his 5-under par 67 showing the qualities of a major champion by finishing strong.

Those not having nearly the day they would have liked on Day One of The Masters included:

Michael Campbell (83 +11) who has continued his downward spiral of play since claiming the 2005 US Open at Pinehurst

Jim Furyk (80 +8) whose round one included three bogeys, seven pars, four birdies, three doubles and a triple

Henrik Stenson (80 +8) whose round featured a run of seven over par in seven holes (one double, one par, five bogeys on Nos. 6-12)

Chad Campbell (79 +7) who was the third wheel in the '09 playoff, could tally only one birdie all day against two doubles and four bogeys while taking 35 putts on the round

Martin Kaymer (76 +4) who was a boutique pick by those "in the know", had eight 5s on his card with only one birdie

David Duval (76 +4) You want to believe that Double D is back on his game and in stretches he is, but then he throws up (literally) a round that features only two birdies against four bogeys and a double on a day where the scoring was decent and it just doesn't make sense.

Stewart Cink (76 +4) The Champion Golfer of the Year's first round of the 2010 Masters featured four birdies, but also had four bogeys and two doubles thrown in for good measure

Lucas Glover (76 +4) Didn't play poorly, just didn't play well and Augusta that is the difference. Two birdies, three bogeys and a double for the defending US Open Champ

Defending Masters Champion Angel Cabrera posted a one-over par 73 that featured three birdies on his outward nine (Nos. 2, 3 & 8) with a double (No. 13) and two bogeys (Nos. 16 & 17) coming in. Cabrera hit 9 of 14 fairways but only seven of 18 greens while taking 27 putts on the day. Certainly the round could have been much worse but as it stands after Day One Cabrera can still make a run at his title defense.

Steve Stricker shot a one-over par 73 that featured 10 out of 14 fairways hit but only 10 of 18 greens in regulation and 29 putts. Strick had three bogeys on the day but could manage only one birdie to go along with 14 pars. It was a difficult combination of not generating enough opportunities to score and then when he did, he couldn't take advantage of them. Stricker goes off at 10:24 a.m. Masters time.

Jerry Kelly shot an even par 72 that included 13 of 14 fairways hit but only 11 of 18 greens in regulation and 28 putts. Kelly had two birdies, two bogeys and 14 pars in his opening round. Kelly goes off at 11:08 a.m. Masters time.

For the record, Fred Couples and Lee Westwood each notched seven birdies to lead in that stat category. There were nine eagles made in Round One, two by Woods (Nos. 8 & 15) and one each from Mickelson (No. 13), Rickey Barnes (No.2), Ben Crane (No.15), Anthony Kim (No.13), Steve Marino (No.2), Kenny Perry (No.15) and John Rollins (No.2)
Lee Westwood led the field in Greens in Regulation by nailing 16 of 18 (88.89 percent)
Five players hit 13 of 14 (92.86 percent) fairways: Larry Mize, Matteo Manassero, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Jerry Kelly.

Dustin Johnson leads the driving distance category with an average of 305.5 yards

Day One is in the books and we've learned once again that this is the greatest game ever invented. This is a game that is played on an emerald carpet against a deep blue sky in a Georgian cathedral with players of all ages from around the world vying the prize of a Masters Green Jacket and a major championship.

The close of Day One brings on the questions for Day Two.

Can 50-year old Fred Couples or 60-year old Tom Watson continue to execute shots and make putts to stay atop the leader board?

With Round One safely tucked away and having finally broken 70 in the first round for the first time in his career at Augusta National, will Tiger Woods continue to excel?

Can Phil Mickelson put together back to back rounds and continue to stay in the hunt?

Can Lee Westwood continue to rack up birdies in his quest for his first major?

Can the stylish Ian Poulter add a Green Jacket to his walk in closet with continued great play on Day Two?

Can Rickey Barnes keep it going and put together four solid rounds as he did last summer at Bethpage Black during the US Open?

Who will be mixed into the story of Day Two?

I will highly recommend the Masters newly redesigned Web site (also linked below) to not only keep up with the action, but watch it as well as they have several live viewing capabilities.

I will also highly recommend The Golf Channel's "Live From..." show to catch highlights and insights immediately following the conclusion of a round. They do a great job and cover the game from a variety of angles.

ESPN's live coverage from Augusta runs from 4 to 7:30 p.m. and the replay runs from 8 to 11 p.m.


Chuck Garbedian Special to
Chuck has more than a decade of experience in many aspects of the golf industry -- from sales to teaching to hosting radio talk shows. He has been media chairman for the Greater Milwaukee Open since 1992, has served as women's golf coach at Wisconsin Lutheran College and is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America. He currently does work for PGA TOUR Network on SIRIUS XM Radio.