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>The 1,000 Yard Group

>Day 1 of the Masters is in the books, and the lasting impression that’s going to stay with me is watching the group of Quiros, Woodland, and Vegas play the back nine Thursday afternoon.

Their distance is legendary, and I’m sure there were more than one hole where their combined drives measured 1,000 yards, but all of these mad bombers have a lot more depth to themselves and to their game.

Firstly, all three of them have won tournaments this year, so clearly their golf games are more complete than you may think. Vegas hit a tricky curling putt for eagle on 15, and then almost made another rainbow on 16. Woodland absolutely stuck iron shots on both 16 and 18 to where he just had a tap-in for birdie. My buddy John made the comment that Quiros’ tree-shot on 14 looked like something we would do, but it’s very unlikely that we would have gotten away with just a bogey like Alvaro did, sinking a key 20-footer to limit the damage.

Then there’s the way they played; talking the whole time, joking and laughing and taking their Body English and Body Spanish to new heights with every shot. The crowd really seemed to connect with them.

Of course, it’s easy to have fun on the golf course when you’re playing well, and they were definitely doing that. The three of them played the last six holes a combined twelve shots under par. Woodland alone was six under for his last six holes, and Quiros is obviously in the lead.

Credit also needs to go to the course. This is part of what’s magical about the Masters tournament, and about Augusta: While it’s extremely challenging, a player who gets hot has the opportunity to make up a LOT of ground at the very end of the tournament.

This is going to be fun.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

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>My 2011 Masters Picks

>I know the tournament is already underway, but here are my picks for the Masters this year. As usual I make four picks, and I force myself to be a little more creative than just picking four out of the top six players in the world. I pick one player from the top ten in the world, one from the next ten (11-20), one from the next ten (21-30) and one player ranked above 30 in the world.

GREAME MCDOWELL (#5) – Won the US Open, ruled the Ryder Cup, and swashbuckled with Tiger at the Chevron. Had a run of eight tournaments at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011 where his worst finish was T13, so his game appears to be in very good shape. He has already shown he won’t be intimidated by any venue, any situation, or any other player.

HUNTER MAHAN (#18) – Five top tens already this year, and a winner twice last year. T10 and T8 in the last two Masters.

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN (#22) – Already a winner this year, and two wins last year, including The Open. T18 and T16 in his last two tournaments here in the US shows that his game is in good shape. If he can get the driver dialed in the way he did at St. Andrews last year he’ll have a distinct advantage in approaching the greens.

ANTHONY KIM (#40) – I picked him to win the Masters at the beginning of the year, and I’ll stick with it. Played lights out last year until his injury, then never really recovered. Started out 2011 playing well with T19, T13, and 6:th place finishes, then hit a rough spell, but played well last week. I’d love to see him with a big Augusta logo on his belt buckle on Sunday.

Keep’em in the short stuff.

>Interesting Masters pairings

>With all due respect to the Shell Houston Open, the end of their tournament marks the beginning of one of the truly great periods in all of sports: Masters Week. This morning the pairings are out, and here are the groups I’ll be paying close attention to (all times are ET):

8:40 AM – Watney, Scott, and DJ. All young big hitters who have won recently. Other than Phil and Tiger, Dustin is probably getting as much press as just about anyone this week.

9:13 AM – VanPelt, Wilson, and Laird. Bo is a great ball striker who I’ve been a fan of for some time, and Wilson and Laird are winners this year.

9:24 AM – Day, McIlroy, and Fowler. For not having won yet, there sure is a lot of talk about Rickie. Rory’s game fits Augusta like a hand in glove.

10:19 AM – Kuchar, Kaymer, and Westwood. If you had to pick one group to bet money on to win, this might be it.

10:41 AM – Woods, McDowell, Allenby. There are a lot of questions about whether Tiger can win this event this year, with the way he’s been playing. In my mind he most definitely can! Having said that, McDowell is probably my favorite to win it all. He’s playing well, and he thrives under pressure.

12:53 PM – Stricker, Donald, Couples. Many are picking Luke to win, and Freddie is always going to be dangerous. If anyone’s going to “Pull a Jack” this year, he’s it.

1:59 PM – Woodland, Quiros, Vegas. Between the three of them they may average a combined 1,000 yards in driving distance.

Keep’em in the short stuff.