AUGUSTA, Ga. - Adam Scott could tell instantly that this was different from any Masters round that he had ever experienced. He could just feel it in his bones, especially the ones in his legs. For a change, they weren't shaking.
It always has taken him six or seven holes to stop what he called "the nerves jangling." Not this time, though. This was the first time he got to experience the secret, that the green jacket is less an article of clothing than a state of mind.
That was huge for someone who figures he has worn the jacket at some point every day since they put it on him last April. The feeling stays with a fellow even when he changes into a golf outfit. "It kind of felt like, what was the worst that could happen? I'm still going to be a Masters champion," he said after he shot 3-under-par 69, one shot behind Bill Haas' lead.
Just knowing that he had done it before made all the difference in the world for Scott.
Naturally, someone might have jumped to the conclusion that any difference Thursday was related to a golfer who wasn't here. It would be easy to assume that the dearth of fireworks in the first round was directly attributable to Tiger Woods' absence. It also would be wrong.
The businesslike, steady round performed by the field -- a few scores in the 60s, a handful more under par, many around par 72 -- was exactly like the Thursdays that occur when Woods is here. He rarely detonates bursts of noise in the first round here. His lifetime aggregate score in his 19 Masters first rounds is par. Only once has he shot as low as Haas did Thursday. You could almost hear him say, "It's a good start," as he did after a 70 last year or "I know how to play this course," after a 72 in 2012.
Anyone who has succeeded at the Masters knows there is no rush. If you know how a green jacket feels, Thursday is more a matter of Zen than when.
"I've always said the first few holes of the Masters is the most nervous I ever get on a golf course. We've been waiting eight months to play a major championship. Then to get here . . . everything about the place, it's hard to calm down," Scott said.
He was not rattled this time, not even by making double- bogey 5 after having put a ball in the water on No. 12. Probably the most nervous he has been all week was when he had to stand in front of all his fellow green jacket-wearers at the champions dinner Tuesday night.
Some of the guys had been giving him the business beforehand, asking him if he had prepared to sing the "requisite solo."
"I may be a little gullible," he said.
Scott didn't have to sing, but he did have to speak. He said he kept it short and sweet. "I looked around and got to see all the faces. It's quite surreal," he said, adding that he really enjoyed chatting up emcee Ben Crenshaw at the head table -- acknowledging he could have asked a million questions but didn't want to be a pain.
Ultimately, it was the legends who sang his praises. "The words they had to say about what I did last year," he said, "meant the world to me."
So did the cheering on every tee. The reception peaked at Amen Corner, where the throng gave him a long standing ovation. "But then I went and hit it in the water," he said.
But then he bounced back to shoot the same score he did in the first round last year. Thursday, he was tied for second, and still champion.