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Brisk north breeze is not handicap for round of golf

You should check the thermometer, if you look for low numbers at the Master.

The second round kicked off Friday with a brisk north breeze whistling through the Georgia pines.

Brett Wetterich made tough putts to save par on his first two holes and stay tied for the lead with Justin Rose at 3 under par.

Rose had the day's last tee time. After shooting 3-under 69 on Thursday, he said he fully expected there to be someone else at the top of the leaderboard when his second round started. But with the winds expected to pick up and dry, cold conditions forecast to persist, that was no sure thing.

"You're not going to go low," Tiger Woods said Thursday, commenting on the conditions after finishing with two bogeys to post a disappointing 73. "Low is only 69 today. That's some pretty good playing."

The only others who finished the first round in red numbers were David Howell and David Toms at 70, and Tim Clark, J.J. Henry, Rich Beem, Vaughn Taylor and Zach Johnson at 71.

Howell opened Friday with double-bogey and bogey to drop off the leaderboard.

At a U.S. Open, any below-par score is normally something to celebrate. At the Masters, not so much. But this is the new Augusta, lengthened to 7,445 yards over the last few years. When fickle weather kicks in, low scores aren't so readily available.

The first-round average of 76.187 was the highest in four years. There were more than twice as many bogeys as birdies.

"You feel like the course is going to get you somewhere," Ben Crenshaw said after a 76. "It doesn't matter who you are."

With about half the field on the course Friday morning, nobody was making a move.

Wetterich made a testy 8-footer to save par on No. 1. On No. 2, he tried to finesse his short third shot onto the top of the green, but it bumped into the hill and rolled down, forcing him to make a tough two-putt to save par. On No. 3, he hit iron off the tee into sand on the left, but scrambled for par from there. He was holding at 3 under through five holes.

Woods had a tee time later in the morning and defending champion Phil Mickelson was scheduled to start at 2:03 p.m., hoping to get back in contention after an opening-round 76.

"If I can shoot a 68 or better, I could get myself back to par and get back in it," said Mickelson.

No one has won the Masters after shooting worse than 75 in the first round. But who, other than the 12 players who failed to break 80, couldn't hold out at least a glimmer of hope after this day?

Ernie Els shot 78 but thought he still had a chance. Jim Furyk, the distant second in the world behind Woods, shot 75 and was also looking at the bright side.

"Plus-3 isn't out of it," Furyk said. "I didn't do anything well today."

He opened his round Friday with seven straight pars.

Dean Wilson shot a 75 that didn't include a birdie.

"But when you look up and no one else is doing it, it gives me a boost," he said. "I didn't hear the roars Augusta National is famous for."

On a relatively quiet opening round at Augusta, Gary Player provided some laughs when he realized he had mistakenly forgotten his ball marker on the first green. He had to bum a dime off amateur Julien Guerrier of France.

"You just kind of chuckle about it and play on," said Vaughn Taylor, the other man in Player's threesome, who shot 71.

After his 83, the 71-year-old Player proclaimed beefed-up Augusta National to have moved onto his list of the three toughest golf courses in the world, along with Carnoustie and The Links in his homeland of South Africa.

The difficult conditions were supposed to knock all the oldtimers into oblivion. Funny, then, that names like Craig Stadler (74), Fuzzy Zoeller (74) and Tom Watson (75) spent a good deal of time on the leaderboard.

"Washington Road is softer than the No. 1 green," Zoeller said. "That's the hardest green I think I've ever seen."

Els opened with a double bogey, then took bogey on the par-5 second. He shot 42 on the front nine. U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was some 50 yards in front of the green on No. 2 when he hit wedge long into a bunker, then hit that shot back toward the fairway, finally pitched up to about 8 feet and three-putted for an 8. He also took a double bogey on the par-3 12th, but still managed a 75.

Woods said the greens were crusting out as badly as they did during a particularly dry year in 1999, but the pin positions were easier than he expected - maybe a bow to the windy weather.

But all that was secondary to Tiger, who was steaming after he grinded his way to below par, only to give it away on the last two holes.

"I just threw away a good round of golf," he said.

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