By Ann Liguori
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Despite several lead changes throughout the first round and several former champs knocking at the door, it's 33-year-old Bill Haas who shot the best round on Thursday. His 4-under-68 also happens to be his best score ever in five appearances at Augusta National.
Haas made a statement with his birdie on 18, and then watched from the clubhouse as Bubba Watson put on a clinic, despite the wind picking up in the afternoon, making conditions trickier.
Watson, who was excited about his bogey-free, 3-under-69, had several opportunities to grab a share of the lead. He missed an 8-foot birdie opportunity on 16 and a 14-foot birdie opportunity on 17.
"My whole goal is to hit greens," said the 2012 Masters champ.
Earlier, defending champ Adam Scott shot a 3-under-69. His tee shot on the 12th hole found Rae's Creek but he recovered from the double bogey there to close to within one. Louis Oosthuizen shot a 3-under-69 as well.
First timers Kevin Stadler, Jonas Blixt and Jimmy Walker carded 2-under-70 to join a group, two back.
Phil Mickelson struggled, shooting a plus-4 76. The three-time Masters champ tripled-bogied the 7th hole, drained a long birdie putt on 10, birdied 13, bogeyed 14 and double-bogeyed 15.
Haas, whose first top ten showing this year was a T6 finish at the Humana Challenge, comes from a long line of golfers who have ties to the Masters.
"My great uncle, my Dad's uncle, Bob Goalby, won the Masters in 1968," says Haas, "and it's been a very special place in our family since then."
Bill's father, Jay Haas, has played here 22 times.
"He said it was 20 years ago he finished third and it does not seem that long ago. I remember a lot of shots he hit coming down the stretch. I was starting to play golf and so I think I enjoyed it more."
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