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Masters notebook

Thursday, April 05, 2007

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PLAYED UP: Twenty-six-year-old Australian Aaron Baddeley will get an early test to see whether he can live up to some high expectations at this week's Masters Tournament.

In the Masters preview edition of Sports Illustrated, an anonymous PGA Tour professional picked Baddeley as the No. 1 contender to win the tournament. Tiger Woods was ranked No. 2.

Baddeley is paired with Woods and Paul Casey in today's first round. Their tee time is 1:52 p.m.

"A friend told me about (the article). I didn't read it, but I looked it up online. I guess I was surprised by it," he said. "But at the same time, with the way I'm playing, I do feel like I will have a good chance on Sunday."

Baddeley has played at the Masters with Woods before, and he said he'll relish today's round - and he won't be intimidated.

"It's perfect. If you'd asked me at the start of the week who I'd want to play with in the first round, it would be Tiger," Baddeley said. "Tiger's a human being, he's just a golfer. He's the best golfer in the world, but why would I have any reason to be in awe?

"He's playing his game, and I'm playing mine."

Baddeley has additional reason to be confident. He has a good history on Easter week.

"I won my first PGA tournament (the 2006 Heritage at Harbor Town) on Easter Sunday, so to win my first major on Easter would be great," he said.

LILLIAN SAGE AUGUSTA QUIGLEY: Brett Quigley's wife, Amy, gave birth to their first child Wednesday at 2:55 a.m., a 7-pound, 2-ounce girl named Lillian Sage Augusta Quigley.

Quigley, a Masters rookie, flew home to Jupiter, Fla., on Tuesday afternoon.

He is scheduled to tee off today at 2:03 p.m. with Vijay Singh and Hideto Tanihara.

"It's going to be hard to leave tonight, but Amy wants me to go," Quigley said. "That's the only reason I'm going. She and the baby are healthy, and she wants me to play."

Quigley said he's already had a taste of fatherhood.

"I've already changed two diapers, so I feel like a real veteran," Quigley said.

WEIR TO WILSON: Mike Weir, winner of the 2003 Masters, said he remembers playing practice rounds with Jack Nicklaus and Fred Couples, who were more than eager to share knowledge of the course.

So when Weir got the chance Wednesday to play with former Brigham Young teammate Dean Wilson, a first-year Masters invitee, he passed the good will forward.

"That's one of the things that's so unique about the Masters. You get a lot of the veteran guys who are willing to share info on how to play the course," Weir said. "I remember guys like Jack and Freddie talking about how certain putts break and things like that.

"I definitely was showing (Wilson) a lot of the little subtleties. I've messed up enough around here to know."

BACK AT IT: Couples said after the Par-3 Contest that his goal this week has changed a bit since he threatened to win his second Masters last year.

Couples has completed only two rounds this year because of trouble with his back.

"This year, hopefully, I'll make the cut and finish all four rounds," Couples said. "I played today, and I feel pretty good. I just haven't played all year.

"I've been struggling for close to a year with different back problems, but I've gotten a lot of rest, and when it feels good, it feels good."

HI TO DRY? Steve Stricker is making his first Masters appearance since 2002. The course has been lengthened by 175 yards since then.

Stricker, who hits the ball on average seven yards longer than Chris DiMarco, the 2005 runner-up, said he's looking forward to dry weather.

"I don't need any rain," said Stricker, who is paired with DiMarco for the first two rounds. "I'm going to have to do other things well, because I don't hit the ball a long way. If I putt and chip well, I can do OK."

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