Augusta (Georgia):Chad Campbell ran off five straight birdies, the best start ever in the Masters. Jim Furyk charged up the crowd with four straight birdies late in his round. Even that notoriously slow starter, Tiger Woods, got in on the action.
Anyone worried that Augusta National had lost its excitement only had to listen to the sweetest of sounds on Thursday.
The roars returned to the Masters. Campbell led an assault on the record book with nine birdies in 15 holes before two late mistakes made him settle for a 7-under 65 and a one-shot lead over Furyk and Hunter Mahan.
"It is nice to hear some noises again," Sandy Lyle said. Augusta National cooked up the perfect formula for record scoring - warm sunshine and only a gentle breeze, along with inviting hole locations and greens that were soft and smooth.
The cheers came from all corners for 11 hours of golf that produced six eagles and 354 birdies. There were 19 rounds in the 60s, the most ever for the first round, and only four fewer than the entire tournament last year.
It was so easy that Woods nearly broke 70 in the opening round for the first time in his career.
Playing in his first major since winning the US Open last summer, Woods ran off three straight birdies late in the afternoon and was poised to climb even farther up the leaderboard until he missed birdie putts of 8 feet and 4 feet, then hit a shot over the 18th green that led to a bogey and a 2-under 70.
Even so, it was his first time breaking par in the first round of the Masters since 2002, one of four years he's won a green jacket.
Masters chairman Billy Payne had said this year would be an important test to show that supersizing the golf course -it has been stretched more than 500 yards this decade - would not take the thrills out of the Masters.
The weather was ideal, yes, but the club did its part, too, with greens softer than they have been all week and hole locations that allowed players to attack the pins. The result was 38 rounds under par, another Masters record for the first round.
Greg Norman played for the first time since 2002, and the 54-year-old Shark was shocked by all the changes. Even more shocking was that he shot a 70 and was mildly disappointed. "Really could have shot a nice, mid-60s score today," Norman said. "I'm not complaining."
The average score was 72.25, nearly two shots easier than a year ago and the lowest since it was 72.06 in 1992.