AUGUSTA — Three old guys were a little short off the tee at 7:40 a.m, then withdrew. Slackers.
The 79th Masters officially opened after ceremonial tee shots by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. What a cool gig that is — hit a shot, have a press conference, eat lunch, take the rest of the week off. Every profession needs an equivalent to that for honored retirees. (Honored retired sportswriter: Ask the first question in a news conference, mock the answer, leave, go to dinner.)
Back to today. Tiger Woods tees off at 1:48. I point that out first for: 1) Page views; 2) Just to irritate the loud 2 percent of readers who complain, “Why do you always write about Tiger Woods.”
Spoke to Ben Crenshaw and Jordan Spieth, who practiced with Woods on Wednesday. (Click here to read a column on the retiring Crenshaw and his final Masters.) Both said Woods is hitting the ball well and suggested he could challenge this week. Woods was entertaining at his news conference this week and is exuding more confidence than ever, by my expectations aren’t as high, given recent results and the fact he’s coming back from a nine-week layoff.
My pick for the tournament: Jordan Spieth (1:15 p.m. tee time). The 21-year-old 2013 PGA Rookie of the Year nearly became the youngest Masters winner a year ago, leading by two strokes on Sunday, before settling for a second-place tie, three shots behind Bubba Watson.
I got Watson (9:24 a.m.) with the fifth pick in our annual Masters’ draft. A value pick. He’s trying to become only the fourth champion to successfully defend a title (Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Woods).
Rory McIlroy (10:41 a.m.) is the wagering favorite. He has won four majors but never the Masters, and has had his share of meltdowns in Augusta.
As I finish this, Charley Hoffman, Gary Woodland and Vijay Singh are tied for the lead at 1-under. I don’t expect that to last.
Who’s your pick?
•Some recent ramblings from the digital jukebox — MyAJC: On eve of final Masters, Ben Crenshaw embracing every moment — MyAJC: Woods loose, confident, but is he really ready for Masters — MyAJC: Braves stop the noise with opening victory — AJC: Short takes: Small ball, Teheran, bullpen and a Braves’ win — AJC: LIVE: Braves (or what’s left of them) open series vs. Marlins — AJC: Braves’ deal saves budget (Upton) but drives nail in season (Kimbrel) — MyAJC: Trade reaffirms Braves’ decision to go backward before forward — MyAJC: With expectations low, at least Braves won’t underachieve — AJC: Hawks’ biggest nightmare: Millsap suffers shoulder injury — MyAJC: Hawks’ turnaround started with trade of Joe Johnson — and he knows it — AJC: (Updated) Hank Haney was right — Tiger Woods to play in Masters — AJC: Braves’ deal for Trevor Cahill illustrates concerns about rotation — MyAJC: Real news would be Tiger Woods making shots — AJC: Tiger Woods’ plane in Augusta but status for Masters still uncertain — AJC: Are Braves really second-worst team in majors (thank you, Philly)? — AJC: Falcons will pay appropriate penalties for dumb decision — MyAJC: Paul Millsap: The 6-8 kid who couldn’t dunk now leading Hawks — AJC: Hawks clinch East, act like it’s no big deal (which is probably good) — MyAJC: NBA needs to curtail resting of players — AJC: Will Falcons, others avoid losing draft picks this year? — MyAJC: Basketball is where Georgia State’s focus should be — AJC: New reality at Georgia State: What Ron Hunter wants, he gets — MyAJC: Hawks get drilled, and concerns may be growing — MyAJC: Georgia better but still not where it needs to be — AJC: Mark Fox returns subtle fire at Brian Gregory before tournament — MyAJC: Gregory knows he needs to make most of his extended lifeline — AJC: Gregory says he gave Izzo ‘everything’ he has on Georgia — AJC: Timing is everything, as Tech keeps Gregory — AJC: Tech expected to keep Gregory, but former coach (Hewitt) fired again