Thursday, April 05, 2012

Masters Day One: What we learned

The best thing that happened at Augusta National Thursday besides Lee Westwood's opening-round 67?

The way the late-afternoon line of thunderstorms somehow sidestepped an already wet golf course, allowing the first round to be completed and, barring a heavy overnight downpour, giving the course a chance to firm up a little more by the weekend.

What are the takeaways from the first round?

Lee Westwood will be hard to beat. He still has to prove he can win a major obviously, but his start is a huge boost. He doesn't have to play from behind now, at least not seriously behind.

If he can keep avoiding mistakes and collect a few birdies along the way, Westwood will have a great chance to finally win that elusive first major.

Yes, it's just one day in a typically turbulent tournament but amid all the early expectations, Westwood delivered.

Don't discount Louis Oosthuizen and Peter Hanson.

When Oosthuizen gets going, he's renowned for going deep. He inexplicably shot 41 on the front nine of the final round of the Shell Houston Open last Sunday to kick away a tournament he was poised to win but apparently the disappointment didn't linger.

And keep an eye on Hanson. He has top-five finishes in both World Golf Championships this year. He's about to become famous here.

None of that precludes Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy or Phil Mickelson from storming back to the top. It's a golf course that can allow low scores but it can go the other way in a hurry.

The Masters is just getting started.