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Masters First Round News & Notes

By Kevin Currie, Senior Golf Editor

Augusta, GA (SportsNetwork.com) - Adam Scott does not have history on his side. Only three previous Masters winners have successfully defended their titles.

Not only does Scott have that stat working against him, the recent history of defending champions isn't that great either. The last nine players that have defended their titles at Augusta have an average finish of just inside 25th place.

Mike Weir, who won in 2003, missed the cut in his title defense. The other nine winners since have all made the cut, but only three have finished inside the top 20.

Angel Cabrera shared 18th in his defense in 2010, while Phil Mickelson took 10th when he defended in 2005. The best of the group, not surprisingly, was Tiger Woods.

Woods followed his last Masters victory in 2005 with a tie for third in 2006.

Scott's opening 69 puts him in a good position to buck the recent trend, but it has been the final round that has gotten Scott recently.

The Australian had closed with rounds of 73 and 76 in his last two PGA Tour events. The 76 cost him victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

"The pace of play was a little bit slow on the back nine and I was in and out of concentration. A couple 3-putts wasn't ideal, but overall I'm very happy," Scott stated.

WALKER, STADLER, BLIXT HEADLINE FIRST-TIMERS

The last first-time participant to win the Masters was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. There are 24 first timers at Augusta this week trying to break that string.

Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler and Jonas Blixt lead the group of first timers as they opened with 2-under 70s.

Walker was one of the big stories early in the new wrap-around season as he won three times in the first eight tournaments. He has cooled with five straight top-25 finishes, none of which were better than tied for 16th.

Stadler won the Phoenix Open to join his father, Craig, in the field. Craig won the Masters in 1982. They were the first father-son duo to play the same Masters. The younger Stadler is playing his first Masters and opened with a 70.

"Once I got off the (first) tee box there, it was back into competitive mode," Kevin Stadler said. "I'll take 2-under all day every day the rest of my life."

While Walker and Stadler were making their seventh start in a major, Blixt was making just his third start in a major. Blixt, who took fourth at the PGA Championship last year, had six birdies and four bogeys in his opening round.

"That's Augusta. It's going to punish you if you don't focus. That was a little heartbreak," Blixt said of his bogeys on 15 and 18.

MICKELSON STRUGGLES TO A 76

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson again got his wish to tee off late in the first round as he was in the penultimate group out on Thursday.

Mickelson opened with six pars in a row. After making a mess of the seventh en route to a 3-putt triple-bogey, he got back to plus-1 after birdies on the 10th and 13th.

The reigning British Open champion stumbled to a bogey on the 14th and a double-bogey on the 15th, after finding water with his third, to fall back to plus-4.

Mickelson closed with three pars in a row to end there, and match his worst opening round score at the Masters.

"It wasn't the best day for me today. I've got a lot of work to do to make the cut. I've got some issues," Mickelson admitted. "I made a lot of mistakes around the greens. I threw away a lot of shots."

* Luke Donald was given a 2-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a fairway bunker on the ninth.

* Jimmy Walker made four straight birdies from the 14th to get back into red figures. Webb Simpson and Sandy Lyle both had three birdies in a row at one point their rounds. Simpson opened with three straight birdies from the first, while Lyle birdied three in a row from the second.

* Reigning British Amateur winner Garrick Porteous, 2013 U.S. Amateur champ Matthew Fitzpatrick and Oliver Goss, the 2013 U.S. Amateur runner-up, all opened with 4-over 76s. They are tied for low amateur after day one.

* Ben Crenshaw started his 42nd consecutive Masters Tournament. The two-time champions struggled to an 11-over 83.

* There were just three eagles in the first round. Ken Duke and Matt Jones eagled the 13th, while Sang-Moon Bae chipped in for eagle from over the 15th green.

* The cut will be the top 50 players and ties and anyone within 10 strokes of the lead after 36 holes.

* There were 250 birdies against 391 bogeys on Thursday as the field averaged 74.47 strokes.

* The easiest hole was the par-5 second. It was played in an average of 4.68 strokes.

* The hardest hole was the par-4 11th. It yielded just two birdies as the field played the hole in an average of 4.47 shots.

04/10 21:10:54 ET

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