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April 5 2012

5:00 PM

Conditions soft, mud sometimes a factor

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The early reports are in from the opening round of the Masters and as expected Augusta National is playing “soft.”

That’s not to be confused with easy, however.

“The greens are soft but the pins are in some tough positions,” said Brendan Steele, who was in the first group off at 7:50 a.m. ET.

Steele struggled in the first round of his first Masters, shooting a 4-over 76 that included a stretch of four straight birdies on the back nine. He went out in even par but closed in 40.

“It’s really easy for the round to get away from you,” said Steele, who turned 29 Thursday. “I don’t even really know what happened.”

Steele added that mud could be an issue and noted two mud balls he had, including on the par-5 13th, where after a good drive he decided to lay up because mud was on his ball. He went on to make bogey.

Tim Clark, meanwhile, is playing in his first Masters since 2010 after undergoing season-ending wrist surgery last year.

Likewise, Clark, who shot 73, thought Augusta National was playing soft and would favor the long hitters.

“I almost spun one in the water on 15, which I wasn’t expecting,” Clark said. “It’s going to play tough for the guys who lay up.”

As for Clark’s wrist, he said he feels good in what is just his fourth start of the season.

Clark, who missed the cut  in his first two and was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard at Bay Hill two weeks ago, said he’s finally able to practice full time.

“Today was the first time I hit some decent shots and made some good putts,” Clark said. “Coming here is going to bring out the best in you.”

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