AUGUSTA, Ga. – Chris DiMarco (search), who showed defending Masters champion Phil Mickelson (search) the line on his winning putt last year, birdied three straight holes Thursday and was atop the leaderboard at 4 under par with four holes still to play.
Opening Day at the season's first major brought some familiar sights — first the rain, then the names atop the leaderboard that included Mickelson and world No. 1 Vijay Singh.
But don't get the idea this was just another typical day at Augusta National (search).
Tiger Woods hit an eagle putt that went off the green and into Rae's Creek. Ernie Els spent more time in the trees than in the fairway. Former champion Billy Casper returned to the Masters for the first time in three years and made history with the highest score on a hole (14) and the highest round (106).
Jack Nicklaus teed off to a heartfelt ovation in what might be his last Masters.
And when a wet and wacky start to the 69th Masters ended in darkness, Palmer was on the leaderboard — not four-time winner Arnold Palmer (search), but Masters rookie Ryan Palmer.
Of the 24 players who managed to squeeze in the first round, Mark Hensby of Australia was the clubhouse leader at 3-under 69, showing that Augusta National doesn't have to be crusty and firm to be a brute.
Luke Donald of England was another shot behind and four holes left in his first round, while the group at 2 under included Mickelson, Singh, Palmer, Retief Goosen and Stuart Appleby.
Players were to return at 9:45 a.m. to complete the first round, and barring any more weather delays, the tournament should be back to normal by the weekend.
This was the ninth time in 15 tournaments that weather interrupted play, and the fourth straight week of rain.
Trying to hold down his No. 1 ranking, Singh was a model of consistency in a first round that was out of whack before players even arrived at Augusta National — tee times were pushed back five times as more than an inch of rain fell, leading to a 5 1/2-hour delay and players starting from both tees.
Along with picking up three birdies on the front nine, Singh twice saved par with 10-foot putts. His only bogey came on the 11th hole, the last one he played before the round was suspended, leaving him at 2 under.
Mickelson was all smiles when he stepped to the first tee, looking not much differently from when he left the Masters last year wearing a green jacket. He opened with a bogey, but kept himself out of trouble most of the day and gave himself ample birdie chances.
Goosen, the forgotten figure in all the hype over the "Big Four," made a rare birdie on the par-3 12th, then recovered from a tee shot into the azaleas on the par-5 13th to escape with par.
It wasn't the fast, fiery course most players wanted to see, conditions that have not been around for the Masters since the course was super-sized three years ago.
Based on the scoring, they might be thankful for the rain.
Even with the greens soft and holding approach shots, only 10 of the 92 players were under par, and already there were five scores at 80 or higher among those who finished.
Woods hasn't broken par in the first round of the Masters since he won in 2002, and that's where he was headed this year — some of that because of bad shots and bad judgment, some from sheer bad luck.
He reached the par-5 13th in two with a risky shot out of the pines, leaving him a 70-foot eagle putt. But he misjudged the speed so badly that the ball raced by the hole, tumbled down the bank and went into Rae's Creek. Woods left the ball there, replayed the putt and fared much better, two-putting for a bogey.
He looked as though he might get that shot back when his approach into No. 1 descended on the flag, but Woods turned away in shock when it hit the bottom of pin and spun off to the side into a bunker, turning birdie into bogey.
He wasn't alone in his misery.
Paul Casey, who tied for sixth last year in his Masters debut, took a 10 on the 13th hole and shot 79. David Toms stood over a 20-foot putt on the 14th hole until a gust blew his ball down the slope and into the fairway. He made a double bogey, and shot 41 on his outward nine.
Still, nothing quite compared with Casper.
A 51-time winner on the PGA Tour who got overlooked in the Big Three era of the 1960s, the 73-year-old got plenty of attention in his return to Augusta National.
He hit five balls into the water on the par-3 16th and took 14, the highest score on any hole in the Masters. By the time he finished 12 holes, he already shot his age. His score of 106 would also go down in the record books, except that Casper declined to turn in his card.
"That's going in the scrapbook," Casper said.