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April 12 2013

9:00 AM

Morning groups to watch at Augusta

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The first round of the Masters always provides plenty of entertainment and storylines, and Thursday was no exception.

Whether it was 53-year-old Fred Couples turning back the clock (again), or 14-year-old Tianlang Guan shooting 73, or Sergio Garcia grabbing a share of the lead at a place where a year ago he said he didn't have it in him to win a major, there was a lot to soak up.

Friday, however, is more serious with players positioning for the weekend. With that in mind, here are a few groups to keep an eye on in the morning wave.

Tianlang Guan, Ben Crenshaw, Matteo Manassero, 9:06 a.m.: "Very, very impressive" is how Crenshaw described the teenager's performance in the opening round. A former phenom himself, that's not hyperbole from the former Masters champ. Guan had the best score of the six amateurs in the field and now has a chance to make it to the weekend.

Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Angel Cabrera, 9:39 a.m.: Garcia shot 66 in the opening round, matching his career low here, and recorded his first bogey-free round here since 2002. It's the first time he's led after any round of the Masters; now the question is can he keep it going? He's 1-for-9 in his career in converting first-round leads into wins on the PGA TOUR.

Dustin Johnson, Fred Couples, Branden Grace, 9:50 a.m.: Johnson said Thursday that Augusta National suits his eye. It looked like it. He shot 67 and is one off the lead entering the second round. The key for him: Putting. Johnson took just 26 putts in the first round. Meanwhile, for all of Couples' success here, Thursday was just the fifth time he's cracked 70 in the opening round. That bodes well for him the rest of week -- he has 11 career top 10s here and in each of the last three years has finished in the top 15. He always feels ageless here and fed off Johnson, a sort of younger version of himself. There's no reason to think he can't again.

Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, 10:23 a.m.: Mickelson admitted to being too "tentative" in his opening-round 71. Translation: With a wet and soft golf course, and 33 players breaking par in the opening round, Mickelson is going to be very aggressive on Friday.

Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Freddie Jacobson, 10:34 a.m.: McIlroy's opening round was a mess, but he held it together well enough to shoot even par. He'll have to clean up his putting, however, if he's going to get in contention for the weekend. Ditto Bradley, who had 30 putts and an up-and-down day but managed to scrape out a couple of birdies on his way to a 73.

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