AUGUSTA -- It doesn't take long to note the names absent from the top of the Masters leaderboard after the first day.
The scheduled showdown between the rising star of Rory McIlroy and the returning Tiger Woods didn't show up. Phil Mickelson's charge for a fourth green jacket will need a few more birdies.
McIlroy, back at Augusta after last year's Sunday collapse, did the best of the three, shooting a 1-under 71. But that left him well off the pace set by Lee Westwood's 5-under 67. And just to get to 1-under, the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland needed birdies on 17 and 18.
"It'll make dinner taste a lot better tonight," McIlroy said. "Definitely happy coming off the course in red numbers.
The same is not true for Woods or Mickelson.
Woods finished even par, finishing bogey-bogey after playing the first 16 holes 2-under. But Woods putted well to help salvage a round where he said he didn't hit the ball well from the start.
"Warmed up bad, too, and it continued on the golf course," he said. "I just felt my way around today."
And even five shots back, Woods said he likes his position.
"This golf course is playing too difficult to go super low on," he said. "No one was tearing it up."
Like McIlroy, Mickelson finished his round with a birdie, but his battle for another Masters win is much tougher. Lefty labored through his front nine 1-over par, but then took a 3-over 7 on No. 10 and needed three birdies to finish with a 2-over 74.
"I made some execution mistakes and then I made a very poor swing on 10," Mickelson said.
But Mickelson understands it's a long tournament and going 2-under over the final eight holes gives him hope for another run at a win.
"As poorly as I played and some of the poor shots I hit and the mishaps, missing on the wrong spot, I am right there," he said. "And with a hot round tomorrow, I'll get right back in it for the weekend. I know that heading in I've been playing well. So, I'm going to fire at it tomorrow and see if I can do that."
Four birdies, four bogies for defending champ
Last year's surprise champion Charl Schwartzel got to watch his friend and fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen climb toward the top of the Masters leaderboard, while his green jacket defense lingered at even par.
Every birdie was followed by a bogie in the next two holes as Schwartzel struggled to get any rhythm going.
"I wish I played like Sunday last year," said Schwartzel, who birdied the final four holes in last year's win. "I actually think it should have been a little bit better. I felt comfortable. I felt good."
One bad hole for confident Cink
A double-bogey on the par 3 12th is all that kept Stewart Cink from joining the big group of golfers at 3-under par.
The Duluth resident turned in a solid first round in his 15th Masters, finishing 1-under par and four strokes off of Westwood's 5-under.
"I had a lot of really good shots today," the 2009 British Open champion said. "There's not a lot of guys in the field that hit better than I did today."
There was just that 5. Cink took a two-stroke penalty after putting his drive in the water.
"I tried to get a little too cute with it and didn't execute really well," he said.
Cink has been working on making tweaks to his swing so hitting the ball well was the most important result of Thursday's opening round. That and his round keeping him in contention.
"I'm working toward trying to be the best player that I have ever been," Cink said. "I really felt good out there. I felt strong. I was hitting the ball in the middle of the club face. I am pleased."