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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Masters is underway with three shots right down the middle of the fairway. Just not terribly far. Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus hit the ceremonial tee shots Thursday morning with fans already lining both sides of the first fairway. Still competitive even after all these years, Nicklaus went last and hit a drive that went about a yard past Players shot. The "Big Three" combined to win 13 green jackets, including seven in a row at the start of the 1960s. This Masters is far less predictable. Without Tiger Woods or a dominant figure, its seen as the most wide-open Masters in years. A bunch of brash Augusta rookies are eager to fill Woods shoes. And the last two dozen majors have been divvied up among 21 winners. Early Thursday, Stewart Cink, Ian Woosnam and Jonas Blixt were all 1-under-par, leading among the early starters. Ryan Moore, who won the Par 3 contest Wednesday, thinks it might be time to break the curse of that winner never winning the tournament. "You never know," he said. "Someone has got to break that (Par 3) curse at some point in time, so hopefully its me. Who knows? I might go shoot 8 under or something, make a couple of hole-in-ones." As unlikely as that sounds, pretty much everything else is up for grabs at this Masters. Recovering from back surgery, Woods is sitting out the opening major of the year for the first time since turning pro. Even as his dominance waned in recent years, he was always the clear-cut favourite coming into Augusta, where he has won four times. Now, as Moore said, who knows? Jason Day, Sergio Garcia and former Masters champion Zach Johnson are the only players from the top 10 who have won anywhere in the world this year. Only one of the past seven winners on the PGA Tour was ranked in the top 75. "I think if youre outside the top 50 in the world this week, youve got a great chance," U.S. Open champion Justin Rose said with a laugh. Woods is out of golf until the summer, but the show goes on at a tournament that rarely fails to deliver plenty of drama. "We miss Tiger, as does the entire golf world," Masters chairman Billy Payne said. "Nevertheless, this is the Masters. This is what we hope is the best tournament in the world, one of the greatest sporting events. And I think we will have a very impressive audience and have another great champion to crown this year." That could be Phil Mickelson, who last year won the British Open at age 42 and now has a chance to join Woods and Arnold Palmer with a fourth green jacket. It could be Adam Scott, trying to take over as the worlds No. 1 player and join Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus as the only back-to-back winners. While Woods last won a green jacket in 2005, he had finished out of the top six only once since then. Thats what made him such a compelling figure at Augusta. He always seemed to be there. "Its a huge loss," Scott said. "But, as every year here, this event produces something special no matter what. It just has a way of doing it. Its not going to involve Tiger this year, but it will involve someone else and it will be a memorable event anyway." Rose falls on the side of experience -- knowing where to miss, knowing where you cant afford to miss, where the hole locations tend to be on the contoured greens and using the slope to get the ball close. "Always you can have the unknowns," he said. "But I would say 15 guys are pretty strong favourites." Fuzzy Zoeller was the last Augusta rookie to claim the green jacket in 1979, and the only other ones to do it were the first two: Horton Smith and Gene Sarazen. Then again, there are 24 first-timers in the 98-player field, a record (except for the first tournament), and none of them will concede an insurmountable learning curve. Besides, no one is dominating golf at the moment. Jimmy Walker has the most PGA Tour wins (three) this season, but this is his first Masters. Scott had a chance to go to No. 1 three weeks ago at Bay Hill, but he lost a three-shot lead in the final round to Matt Every, who had never won in his career. "Doesnt matter if youve played here once or if youve played here 50 times," said Patrick Reed, who has won three times in the past eight months. "When it comes down to it, its just going to be that whoever is playing the best is going to walk away with the trophy." Who knows? Maybe it will be Moore. Hes certainly not fretting over a supposed curse. "Im not afraid of it," he said. A.J. Brown Womens Jersey . Two-time Olympic bronze medallists Savchenko and Szolkowy received 79.02 points to finish ahead of world bronze medallists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada, who had 77.01 points. Nate Davis Jersey . Toronto ended an 0-4-0 skid with Sundays shootout win over visiting New Jersey, but the club could have a difficult time making it two victories in a row tonight. The Maple Leafs have dropped three straight and 11 of the last 12 regular- season meetings against Boston overall and the Bruins have claimed six straight in Beantown. http://www.authentictitanspro.com/Derrick-henry-titans-jersey/ . Numbers Game looks into the Wild getting Matt Moulson from Buffalo. The Wild Get: LW Matt Moulson and LW Cody McCormick. A.J. Brown Jersey . -- Stacy Lewis shot 7-under 65 to lead the LPGA Tour team to the championship of the 3Tour Challenge on Tuesday. Steve McNair Titans Jersey . Hamilton signed offensive linemen Mike Filer, Joel Reinders, Landon Rice and Carson Rockhill.“We just didn’t get the bounce of the ball.” “Some of the decisions just didn’t go in our favour.” “We just didn’t capitalize on our chances.” These are all common excuses that are offered up by losing teams. Whether general managers, coaches or players voice them, they always sound like hollow clichés; attempts to find meaning in a failed season without ever addressing the real problem. Contrast these excuses with what you hear from winning teams. “Every player on this team is behind the manager and what he is trying to do at the club.” “We have an incredible spirit in this group; there are no bad characters in our locker room.” “When one of us is beaten on the pitch, the others dig him out of trouble and pick up the slack.” Do you see the difference? Losing teams make excuses about bad luck, about being cheated by the referee or about failing to execute in decisive moments. Winning teams talk about the strength of the relationships they have between their players. The strength of those relationships is often referred to as team chemistry. Winning teams have it and losing ones don’t. Signing new players can often disrupt a team’s chemistry because doing so introduces new variables into the team dynamics. There is a hierarchy in every locker room; there are leaders and there are followers, there are big personalities and there are quiet ones. When new personalities come into the group in the form of new signings, it can often upset the equilibrium that has been carefully crafted by the manager. It makes midseason signings even more precarious, because the team has already established its own hierarchy. It is one reason why midseason signings often need a full preseason with their new team to fully settle; they need to find their place within the team’s hierarchy, and this is often done over the course of preseason. This makes it a real challenge for any manager to integrate new players into his team during the season. Which makes the Vancouver Whitecaps’ midseason additions of both Kendall Waston and Mauro Rosales even more impressive. Both players have settled into the Whitecaps’ team very quickly and have played vital roles in Vancouver’s push to the MLS playoffs. Waston scored the only goal of the game in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids, while Rosales has added genuine pedigree to the Whitecaps’ midfield alongside Pedro Morales. Their value on the field is the easiest thing to assess. When Waston won everything in the air in the final 15 minutes of the Whitecaps’ 1-0 victory in Seattle over the league-leading Sounders two weeks ago, fans could see the importance of finally having a dominantt central defender in the team.dddddddddddd When Rosales set up both of Sebastian Fernandez’s goals in Vancouver’s 2-0 win over FC Dallas the week prior, fans could see the importance of getting quality service from wide areas in the team. Their value off the field is much more difficult for fans to quantify. Fans often don’t get to see what goes on behind the scenes, so making that assessment is largely down to guesswork. But there are clues to be seen if one looks closely enough. Waston is a gentle giant who walks around with a perpetual grin on his face. He has a huge personality, which comes across in his interviews and promotional appearances. But on the field he is not to be messed with, and he has brought a considerable physical presence to the Whitecaps’ lineup. When he scored on Saturday, he was mobbed by his teammates – all of them appreciative of what the “big man” has brought to the team. When Kekuta Manneh came into Saturday’s game as a substitute, he brought energy and urgency to the Whitecaps’ play. He forced Colorado onto the back foot and gave their defenders fits with his direct running. After Waston scored the go-ahead goal, Manneh continued to drive forward looking for another goal. In one sequence, after taking on three defenders, Manneh was sent sprawling to the turf but no foul was called. The Rapids immediately took possession and looked to hit Vancouver on the counter attack. Yet who was the first Whitecap to sprint 40 yards to put pressure on the ball with Manneh caught out of position? 33-year old Rosales. Given Rosales’ background in the game – he has played for storied sides like Dutch club Ajax and Argentina’s River Plate and Newell’s Old Boys – it would be easy for him to rest on his laurels and let his teammates carry the workload. But Rosales has done the opposite. He has knuckled down and worked his socks off since arriving in Vancouver, often leading the charge in games when possession needs to be recovered. His technical ability is superb, but it is his work-rate and professionalism that has been most impressive to his teammates. He routinely works with Vancouver’s younger players, passing along the years of knowledge he has gained to the next generation. That attitude is infectious, and it is one reason why the Whitecaps clinched a playoff berth in Carl Robinson’s first year in charge of the club. With four wins and 13 points from their last five games, Vancouver is one of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer heading into the playoffs. The Whitecaps travel to Texas on Monday to prepare for their MLS Playoff Knockout Match against FC Dallas, live on TSN on Wednesday night. ' ' '
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