What a day for Tom Watson, Masters

AUGUSTA -- Thanks, Tom! What a breath of fresh air. Now we can get on with the Masters. What Tom Watson has done is get the Tiger Woods story out of our hair -- for a while at least.

Watson just won't act his age. He was 59 last year when he carried the British Open into overtime before he lost to Stewart Cink. This is just the first round in Augusta, true. Tom made that point.

"It doesn't matter right now," he said.

Tom is 60 now, and he's in a field with a 16-year-old high school sophomore from Italy and two 17-year-olds from Korea. The son Tom had on his bag is older than all of them. Before he teed off, the son, Michael, told ol' dad, "Let's go play some golf."

"I knew what he meant," Tom said.

It wasn't easy, from the way he described it. He turned disaster into pars or birdies on some holes. This was a day on which he could do no wrong. He birdied the first and the 18th holes, with three in between, and when he was done, his 67 took the early lead.

The first hole, for instance, he was just trying to save par with a two-putt, and rolled in a birdie instead and was off.

He'd gotten out early in the day to watch Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer kick-start their act as honorary starters. "It was just something I wanted to do," he said.

While he was attracting all the early attention, it wasn't long before he had company, and a lot of it. Lee Westwood came first, then Phil Mickelson, and later Y.E. Yang, all clustered at 67. Yang, ah yes, the Korean who blistered Woods for the PGA Championship.

But this day was Watson's, and it wasn't long before Fred Couples, a rookie for the Champions Tour, was turning 6 under par for the lead. This is the kind of day Augusta National likes for openers. A lot of sparkling rounds and low scores. Even among the young blades the 16-year-old Matteo Manassero, the Italian sophomore, checked in with a round of 71.

Not to miss a beat, Watson was whisked into the Butler Cabin before meeting a roomful of curious media in the Media Center. Butler Cabin is where the champion traditionally slips his shoulders into the green jacket on Sunday.

"A rehearsal?" someone suggested.

Hardly, but after a testy week centered on things other than golf, Watson brought a giggle and a sigh to the cast of media types present. Again, thanks Tom, from all of us.