FROM AUGUSTA, GA. — As the tiny white missile sailed from deep in the fairway shadows toward the 18th green, a woman in a green sweater boldly shouted, "In the hole!"
How was Tiger Woods' day?
His shot bounced over the green, into the gallery, and appeared to hit that same woman in the foot.
"I let a couple of shots slip away at the end there," he said with a wince.
On a Masters opening day that featured blue skies and red scores, the world's greatest golfer let more than shots slip.
He let an iron slip, firing it to the ground in anger. He let a deep knee-bend slip, folding himself up in frustration. He let a giant shrug slip, and a violent head shake slip, and who knows how many naughty words slip.
He has never been a brilliant first-day player here, but he has never squandered such a brilliant first-day opportunity, shooting a two-under-par 70 on a day when 20 others shot better.
He is five strokes behind leader Chad Campbell, and his green jacket is in a twist over it.
"I knew it could be had with good shots," he said of conditions that turned Bobby Jones' southern dreamscape into just another hillbilly pitch-and-putt. "[I] just didn't get it done."
Some of his problems seemed to come with the increased testing of his surgically repaired left knee -- occasionally it looked as if he were favoring the knee.
"It feels great, thank you," he said sharply.
Another problem is that he just never starts well here, as if he uses Thursdays to surgically examine the course. His 70 was his best first-round score here in seven years, during which time his final round score has been almost two strokes lower.
When asked about first-round troubles, he said, "Yeah, that's how I won it four times too."
When Tiger Woods feels a need to publicly recite the most decorated resume in sports, you know he's upset.
If it wasn't for three consecutive birdies on the back nine, it could have been worse. Then again, after he hit that ball into the crowd, he chipped it back about 50 feet beyond the pin, and ended the round with a bogey, so maybe it couldn't have been worse.
"Basically I was in position to shoot four under par," he said.
Having shown a bit of intolerance, he then did a bit of taunting.
"Well, you know, it's a loooong week," he said. "And the weather is going to start changing a little bit here, and you've just got to be patient."
In other words, he can wait while the guys ahead of him wilt, and there's no indication that they won't.
Take leader Campbell, a burly Texan who has shown an affinity for spitting in public.
Yes, he became the first golfer in Masters history to birdie the first five holes. But, yes, he also became the umpteenth golfer in Masters history to collapse at the end of the round, mental exhaustion leading to two closing bogeys.
"You do get a little mentally tired," he said.
One stroke behind him is Jim Furyk, who has finished in the top 10 here only three times in a dozen years, and Hunter Mahan, a kid whose one professional appearance here resulted in a missed cut.
Watching Mahan play, with giant sunglasses shadowing a scraggly goatee, you notice his affinity for squirming.
"You feel like you're walking through a museum," Mahan said.
On Thursday the most notable of dinosaurs was Greg Norman, who equaled Woods' score in his first appearance here in seven years.
The crowds cheered him wildly. . . . or were they actually cheering his wife and constant companion Chris Evert?
"Hey, everybody loves me," Norman said. "Nothing wrong with that, is there?"
It was such a pleasant day, besides Woods, about the only person grumbling was the anti-Tiger, a guy named Steve Wilson.
He is a 39-year-old Mississippi gas station owner who stumbled into a U.S. Mid-Amateur victory that dropped him into Augusta.
His station is a BP. His round was P-U.
His first hole was a bogey. His last hole was a double-bogey.
He shot a 79 that looked like 179, putting him in 93rd place among 96 golfers.
Even Gary Player whipped him, and he's older than most of these trees.
"I thought the nerves might let up after the first couple holes," Wilson said. "But they never did."
Wilson didn't just talk about nerves, he illustrated them.
"It's like your hands are shaking," he said. "You're standing there trying to hit and your hands are shaking and you really don't want everybody to see that, so you just kind of hurry up and hit before you're comfortable."
The first-hole problems? He said he was distracted by a conversation with a buddy on the way from the putting green.
"I actually was caught up talking to somebody, and so I was hurried over and I thought, 'Oh no, what am I doing!' . . . So I was running to the first tee," he said.
The 18th-hole problems?
"Disaster," he said. "I was actually thinking in my head, 'I haven't made a double today.' The deadly thought finally got me."
Today's deadly thoughts should fill the heads of everyone being chased by Woods, those five strokes not likely to last long under the wrath of a guy not accustomed to bogeying finales and bruising patrons.
A small window. A loooong week.
Follow Plaschke on Twitter at twitter.com/latbillplaschke.
Augusta National Golf Club
Augusta, Ga. -- Par 72
Chad Campbell: 31-34--65 -7
Hunter Mahan: 32-34--66 -6
Jim Furyk: 34-32--66 -6
S. Katayama: 34-33--67 -5
Larry Mize: 34-33--67 -5
P. Harrington: 35-34--69 -3
Tiger Woods: 36-34--70 -2
Greg Norman: 34-36--70 -2
Phil Mickelson: 35-38--73 +1