AUGUSTA, GA. -- The charm of the Masters always has been its artful blend of the old and the new, which can be a very delicate balance. Tiger Woods can testify that occasionally the two don't mesh well at all, such as when he found himself using a swing composed of, "The Hank backswing and the new downswing."
That refers to the old motion fostered by former swing coach Hank Haney and the current motion fostered by new swing coach Sean Foley that has given Woods hope for a revival. In any case, it caused him to repeatedly and severely hook his tee shots Thursday and left him relieved to have shot par 72 -- five strokes out of the lead -- in the first round of the Masters.
"I hit some of the worst shots I've ever hit," Woods said, having hit only six of 14 fairways. It could have been worse, he added, except, "I know how to play this golf course."
He also knows the course this tournament can take. There is no guarantee of an easy ride for first-round leader Lee Westwood, who shot 67, or Louis Oosthuizen and Peter Hanson, who each shot 68. And there is promise for the three most prominent names in the field: Woods, Rory McIlroy (1 under) and Phil Mickelson (2 over).
Each had his poor moments. Woods had unplayable lies as a result of tee shots on the second and 18th holes. McIlroy double-bogeyed the first. Mickelson hit so deep into the underbrush off the 10th fairway that spectators formed a conga line, stomping the ivy, trying (in vain) to find it.
Yet each felt he had done enough to keep himself afloat.
"As poorly as I played and the mishaps I had, missing on the wrong spots, I'm right there," Mickelson said, insisting his birdie 3 on No. 18 softened the sting of the triple-bogey 7 on No. 10. "I'm right there."
McIlroy finished even more strongly, with birdies on the final two holes. Plus, he didn't come close to repeating the disastrous drive into the cabins on No. 10, as he had last April. His tee shot went toward the trees on the right Thursday. "I wasn't going left, that's for sure," the U.S. Open champion said. "I made a nice, solid four and moved on."
Woods spoke of difficult pin positions and wet conditions that left mud spots on the ball. His point was that it was tough out there. He would get no argument from Henrik Stenson, who led most of his round and once was 6 under. Stenson took an 8 on the last hole and finished 1 under. Luke Donald, ranked No. 1 in the world, shot 3-over-par 75 and withstood a scare when it appeared that he had signed an incorrect scorecard. He was fine; it was determined that it was all a clerical error.
Then again, 28 golfers did break par. "This course gives you a chance if it's soft, but it also takes a bit away because it plays longer when it's soft," said Westwood, who led the Masters after three rounds two years ago and didn't win.
So he knows that there is a long way to go. So does Woods, who still believes he can get his old results with a new swing. "I made some bad swings, [but] my commitment to each and every shot, my alignment, my setup . . . that was something I'm excited about," Woods said. "At least I have something to build on."