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Golf: A quiet day of practice at Augusta

Associated Press
AUGUSTA, Ga. ó Augusta National looked like most other private clubs on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
But most clubs don’t get this kind of star power.
Tiger Woods, sporting a goatee, was on the course for the first time since his runner-up finish last year at the Masters, playing nine holes and hitting 3-wood on the 10th hole before walking over to a sandwich stand that catered to players and guests.
Guests?
That’s right. On the day before practice rounds begin for the season’s first major, guests are allowed to play on the hallowed and supremely manicured grounds of Augusta National.
Strangely enough, members are not allowed to bring a guest on this day. Only former Masters champions have that privilege.
That explains why Mark O’Meara was playing with his caddie, why Mike Weir teed off with his brother, and why Bernhard Langer had the ultimate family outing ó he played with his daughter, while son Stefan caddied for him.
Woods played No. 10, then hopped over to the 18th and called it a day.
He has not won the Masters since 2005, and while that might not seem like an eternity to players like Greg Norman and Ernie Els ó who have never won at Augusta National ó if the world’s No. 1 fails to win this week, it will be the longest he has gone without wearing a green jacket anywhere but the Champions Dinner.
Woods is coming off a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and again is a strong favorite at the Masters.
But he has company in that category.
Phil Mickelson missed the cut in the wind-blown Shell Houston Open, which may have been just as well. He got in a few days of competition and arrived at the Masters a day earlier than expected, allowing him to play nine holes in the group behind Woods. Mickelson already has won twice this year, and he can go to No. 1 in the world by winning the Masters.

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