By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
AUGUSTA, GA -- Alvaro Quiros bounced into the press room with a huge grin on his face.
His eyes were dancing as he scanned the room, glanced at the leaderboard and heard -- for, oh, the kajillionth time in the last 15 minutes -- that he had just polished off his best round at Augusta National. Best by 10 shots.
As in a 7-under-par 65, which just happened to slide him into a tie for the 18-hole lead with Rory McIlroy.
"I was talking with my caddie about it, walking the 18th hole,'' he said. "It looks like I was playing in the Sunday afternoon in the leading group. I mean, it was a very nice feeling. Because normally, I'm watching this situation through the TV sitting on my sofa.''
He paused while everyone laughed. "But it was a very special moment I have to recognize."
Special? Try fabulous. Try amazing. Try unbelievable.
Wasn't this the same guy who, when asked if he could follow in Seve Ballesteros' footsteps and win here, he replied, "Seve had the hands of an artist while I have the hands of a bricklayer?” The guy who relies on bombs off the tee because "everybody knows I'm not the most skillful guy with a 58 in the hands."
He smiled. "At the opposite situation, that's Seve. He was obviously one of the best ones in general, but especially with the short game.''
The engaging, gregarious and highly-entertaining Quiros had a little bit of everything Thursday afternoon. Length off the tee; soft shots around the greens. The ability to escape tough situations. Touch with the putter. Brilliant quips and perfect timing on their delivery.
And, oh, a new attitude.
Which explains how his previous Masters rounds -- 78-75 in 2009 and 75-75 in 2010 -- were a distant memory.
"The two previous years, I came to the Masters thinking that I can play well, shoot low,'' said Quiros, who won the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year. " And this one was my main mistake. My main mistake, because it's a golf course ‑‑ it's too tough. Every single situation has to be measured. I mean, the risk, the reward; and today, I was very happy making pars. This is why probably shoot 65.
"If I push myself to shoot 65 from the first tee, I tell you, probably it will be the same, 75, 76, like the previous years.''
Thursday he enjoyed the moment. And the pairing with Gary Woodland and Jhonattan Vegas. All are bombers. Quiros birdied the last two holes to get to 7-under; Woodland the last four to get to 3-under. He also got credit for an assist at 17.
"Just before me, Gary Woodland holed the same putt almost on the same line, so I just have to follow the leader,'' Quiros grinned. "Follow the line."
Quiros couldn't have asked for a better pairing or a better first-tournament round with new caddie Gareth Bryn Lord, who used to caddie for Robert Karlsson. They chattered all day, which was by design.
"He's a completely new caddie,'' Quiros said. "So we have to talk a lot of things. We need to improve. We need to figure out how we are going to do it. And this is why we are talking as much as you see me. And at the same time, when you are playing well, everything is happiness."
Why the change? He grinned again.
"I changed ‑‑ well, I know that it's difficult to believe ‑‑ well, no, it's not difficult,'' he said. "Somebody who knows about golf will understand perfectly.
"But it's like in soccer, or in football: When a team is playing bad, you cannot change the 22 players. The only thing that you can change is the coach, isn't it? ''
He paused again for the chuckles. Impeccable delivery and timing, huh?
" In my case, it's the same,'' he said. "You know, I cannot change myself. Well, I'm trying to change myself but it doesn't work.
So probably the only decent way I can change the cut is I change something.''
As for the next few days?
"As I said, 65 is my best score by 10 shots, as the people said every single moment,'' he said, delivering yet another perfect line.
"But my target will still be the same. Tomorrow, a drive on the first hole and make the cut. I will be very pleased to make my cut in my third appearance in the Masters.”