Perhaps Tiger Woods and the other young bombers will make Augusta National obsolete someday. Thursday's first round of the Masters was not that day.
When Woods walked away from here last year with a green jacket on his back and a record 18-under par on his scorecard, the cry went up from some to "Tigerize" Augusta.Make it longer. Grow rough. Move the bunkers back.
But all it took to reveal the devilishly deceiving design of the grand old course planned by Bobby Jones 65 years ago was an unnerving wind and some wicked greens.
Fifty-six of the 88 players had finished the first round before Fred Couples was finally able to post a score below 70, rolling in a 6-foot par saver on No. 18 for a 69, a lead that held up.
Woods, trying to become only the third man to win consecutive Masters, played the par-5 holes 13-under par last year and dominated them again in the first round, making two-putt birdies on Nos. 2, 8 and 13 as he shot a 71, two strokes behind Couples.
But as much as he overpowered the course last year, this time Woods hung in there with one gutsy par save after another. He hit every fairway but his iron game was off. Ten times he missed the green and had to scramble to save par. Seven times he was successful.
With gusts that topped 30 mph, bent flagsticks and whipped sand from the bunkers in a blinding swirl, the best players in the world were forced to use everything in their bags, from spin shots to knockdowns to bump-and-runs.
"What you had to do was invent shots all day long," said Jack Nicklaus, who was playing in his 40th Masters, has a record six green jackets and shot a 73.
And they were forced to make a ton of putts, many merely to save par.
This was not a day to attack Augusta National.
"If it had not rained, I don't think anyone would have broken par," Couples said about the 2-inch downpour overnight that delayed the start of play by 90 minutes so the bunkers could be drained and greens dried.
Couples said the course played "probably a 9, maybe an 8 1/2" on a scale of 1 to 10.
Paul Stankowski, a Texan used to playing in the wind; 1994 Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, a Spaniard who plays in the wind of the European Tour; and Scott Hoch, a great ballstriker, got to 2-under-par 70.
"I used to say in college the wind is my friend," said Stankowski, who went to Texas-El Paso. "But here at Augusta, it's a real challenge."
Colin Montgomerie, Paul Azinger, Phil Blackmar, Fuzzy Zoeller and Woods were the only other players to break par, getting in with 71s.
If no one among the 10 players still on the course when play was suspended by darkness gets in at 70 or lower, Woods and Zoeller - who crossed paths after last year's Masters when Zoeller made racial jokes about Woods - would be paired in Friday's second round.
The wind on Thursday gusted so hard it even affected putting.
"It was blowing as hard today as possibly any wind I've played in," Blackmar said. "Thank goodness the course is surrounded by trees. If we had been on an exposed course, the wind would have blown the ball off the greens."
Azinger made a birdie on the second hole, then ran off 16 consecutive pars as the only player to make it through 18 holes without a bogey.
Disasters were all over the scoreboard. Ben Crenshaw shot an 83. Tom Watson had a 78 and John Daly was at 77. Greg Norman, Jim Furyk, Billy Mayfair and Lee Janzen were at 76. Costantino Rocca, who made a 10 on the 15th hole, shot an 81.
PGA Championship winner Davis Love III was at 74 along with British Open winner Justin Leon-ard.
U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, Nick Faldo and David Duval were still on the course when play was suspended.
Among the surprising successes were 66-year-old Gay Brewer, who became the oldest person in the 62 Masters to shoot par or better with a 72.
Also surprising - and impressive - was the way Woods had to struggle to shoot a 71.
Woods missed the green at Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 6, but managed to save par three of the four times. When he rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 9, he was tied for the lead at 2-under par.
But he missed the first three greens on the back nine and was not able to save par on the 11th and 12th hole, slamming his club to the ground after the latter bogey. He got a stroke back with the birdie on No. 13.
He rolled in 3-foot par putt on No. 14, a 15-footer to save par on No. 16 and chipped to 2 feet to save par on the final hole.
Couples, who won here in 1992, made birdies on the first three holes, made bogeys on the extremely difficult par-3 holes at Nos. 4 and 6, then closed the front nine with two birdies on the final three holes.
He made another bogey on No. 12 when he played is second shot from edge of water with his bare right foot in the water and chipped to 6 feet but missed the putt.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was Zoeller, who has not won on the PGA Tour since 1986. He birdied the par-5 8th hole to get to two under par then made nine consecutive pars before making a bogey on the last hole to finish with a 71.
"It was fun to play the old course today," Zoeller said. "She had her teeth out."
Zoeller, who may end up being bettered remembered for the jokes he made about Woods than for winning the Masters in 1979, was carried along by waves of cheers everywhere he went.
"There's a long way to go," Zoeller said when asked how it would feel to get a second green jacket. "The tournament doesn't start until Sunday, you know."
Last year the tournament was over by Sunday. Woods was so overwhelming he was ahead by nine strokes starting the final round and went on to win by 12.
This year, it seems, nature may keep that from happening.
Fred Couples 33-36-69
Paul Stankowski 36-34-70
Jose Maria Olazabal 35-35-70
Scott Hoch 35-35-70
Paul Azinger 35-36-71
Phil Blackmar 36-35-71
Fuzzy Zoeller 34-37-71
Tiger Woods 34-37-71
Colin Montgomerie 36-35-71
David Duval 36-35-71