By Mark Long ,AP
AUGUSTA, Georgia — In a tournament packed with a bunch of young newcomers, the 50-and-over crowd made a bit of a stand in the first round of the Masters.
Miguel Angel Jimenez was leading the tournament for a time before stumbling on the back nine. Fred Couples was on the leaderboard himself before tying the 50-year-old Jimenez with a 1-under 71 that left both players three shots off the lead.
And former champion Bernard Langer managed to shoot even par in his 31st Masters.
“A 72 is not that shabby,” the 56-year-old Langer said.
Not shabby at all, though the Masters is the one major championship where older players tend to do well. Jack Nicklaus finished in a tie for sixth here at the age of 58 in 1998, while Couples always seems to be hanging around the lead in the early rounds.
Power still counts, but sometimes the older players can make up for it by knowing where to put the ball and being crafty.
“It’s hard for anyone. There are a lot of young guys that can hit the ball a long ways,” said Jimenez, who was 4 under and in the lead before making bogey on No. 11 and double on 12 after hitting it in the water. “I don’t hit the ball that far, but I hit it and it goes straight to the flag.”
Couples, who won the 1992 Masters, said he feels like he can still play Augusta National and compete with younger players, though he concedes he would have to get some breaks to put on another green jacket on Sunday.
“Can a 50-year-old win here?” the 54-year-old Couples asked. “I think so. I’m one of them.”
Family Ties Bill Haas didn’t let blood get in the way of work. He fired his brother last month and picked up a new caddie for the Masters.
“I needed to switch it up,” Haas said. “My brother has been on the bag a bunch for a few years, and I think I needed a change.”
Jay Haas Jr. has been hired and fired before — just like any other player-caddie relationship — and Bill, his younger brother, is known to be tough to work for at times. Plus, Bill didn’t just go find anyone from the caddie yard.
He is using Scott Gneiser, who was with David Toms when he won the 2001 PGA Championship. Gneiser started this year working for PGA Tour rookie John Peterson until getting fired, about the time Bill put his brother on the bench.
Tough 12 The tricky little Par-3 12th at Augusta National played tougher than it has in years.
The 155-yard hole, which has water and a bunker in front, proved to be the second-hardest on the course in the opening round Thursday. Nicknamed “Golden Bell,” the hole yielded six birdies, 56 pars, 26 bogeys, six doubles and three triples. The only hole tougher was the par-4 No. 11.
It was the only blemish on defending champion Adam Scott’s scorecard.
Scott doubled the 12th after his tee shot caught the bank in front of the green and hopped back into Rae’s Creek.
“I had just received the most incredible ovation as I came to the 12th tee — and I hit my worst shot of the day,” Scott said. “That’s my first-ever trip into Rae’s Creek.”