AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Jonas Blixt gave the Masters an international presence on the leaderboard for most of the opening round.
The Swede was in the third group off the tee Thursday morning and shot a 2-under 70 at Augusta National.
"I just need to play smart and aggressive," said Blixt, a Masters rookie who now lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. "Augusta, the thing is you never know what's going to happen tomorrow. I feel like I can shoot really low out here, and I really like the golf course the way it sets up. But you could have a really awful day when you catch all the bad breaks."
Blixt is one of 52 international players from 17 countries in the Masters.
The tournament record for international players was set in 2009, when 55 players from 22 countries participated.
— Mark Long, https://twitter.com/APMarkLong
Nike chairman Phil Knight has high hopes for the World Cup in Brazil this summer.
His optimism has everything to do having the swoosh on the host country's famed soccer team.
Knight agreed to answer one question when approached by two reporters at the Masters on Thursday, and the upcoming World Cup was atop the list.
"Important, it's 10 out of 10," Knight said near the first fairway at Augusta National. "How excited am I and how optimistic am I? Twelve out of 10. We've been working hard. The players are really liking the product, and the product we have for the World Cup is great. We think in terms of public perception, this will be the one where they see that we're the leading soccer company," Knight said. "And all of those things are lining up for us."
Nike is outfitting 10 of the 32 qualifying teams, outdoing rival adidas for the first time.
— Mark Long
BREAK FROM BASEBALL: John Schuerholz stepped away from his duties as Atlanta Braves president to take in a little golf.
Schuerholz is frequently seen around Augusta National during Masters week, especially since he gave up the general manager job after the 2007 season. For the opening round, he was joined by his wife Karen.
"We're on our way (to Amen Corner) right now," he said, stopping briefly to chat.
With the Braves in the midst of a homestand — they had a game Thursday night against the New York Mets — Schuerholz said this would be his only day at the Masters. Atlanta is about a two-hour drive from Augusta.
— Paul Newberry, https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963
FAMOUS FOLLOWER: It's pretty hard for tennis star Caroline Wozniacki to just be a face in the crowd at the Masters.
Wozniacki is following her fiancé, golfer Rory McIlroy, around Augusta National for the opening round — and her bright pink hair stands out.
Wozniacki drew stares when she caddied for McIlroy in the Par 3 tournament Wednesday. He colorful locks were the talk of the famed course, and that was with them partially tucked beneath a ball cap. On Thursday, her hair wasn't covered a bit.
She may have been overdressed, though. Wozniacki wore tight-fitting jeans and a black jacket — hardly the perfect outfit as temperatures rose into the mid-70s.
— Mark Long
OPENING SHOTS: The tee shot is ceremonial, yet there was a sense that competition still exists between the "Big Three."
Or at least two of them.
Arnold Palmer, 84, hit the opening shot Thursday morning down the middle of the first fairway, barely up the hill. He was followed by 78-year-old Gary Player, who hit his tee shot some 40 yards past Palmer. Last to hit was Jack Nicklaus, the six-time Masters champion who turned 74 this year. Nicklaus hit a tee shot on the same line as Player, and it took once last bounce and rolled about a yard or two by Player.
"But it's not bad when you think he used to outdrive my by 50," Player said. "But he did hit on a sprinkler. You didn't see that?"
Palmer's drive was the most meaningful. He said at Bay Hill he would be having back surgery after the Masters that will help him enjoy the game more. Nicklaus said for Palmer to be an honorary starter "adds a year to his life."
"I've never seen a man who loves the game as much as Arnold Palmer," Nicklaus said.
— Doug Ferguson, https://twitter.com//dougferguson405
Masters Watch follows golf's first major of the year and all the activities surrounding the big event in Augusta, Ga., as seen by journalists from The Associated Press. It will be updated throughout the day.