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Tiger 1 over after nine holes at 2007 Masters

    AUGUSTA — Swirling, blustery winds kept scores high in the first round Thursday and threatened to blow Ernie Els and defending champion Phil Mickelson out of the Masters early.

            Mickelson bogeyed the first hole, flubbed a chip for a double bogey on No. 5 and struggled to 4-over par through 16 holes.

            Els finished at 6-over 78, seven strokes behind a group of clubhouse leaders at 1-under 71, including three of last year’s Ryder Cup rookies — Vaughn Taylor, Zach Johnson and J.J. Henry.

            ‘‘It was a difficult day,’’ Els said. ‘‘A very tough day. I played some better stuff on the back nine and will try to work ourselves back into it. I don’t quite know how, but we’re going to give it a try.’’

            Also in the clubhouse lead were Tim Clark and 2002 PGA Championship winner Rich Beem, whose birdie-eagle on 12 and 13 brought some of the very few loud cheers from a subdued gallery at Augusta National.

            ‘‘The green speed and the wind — those combinations make it that much tougher,’’ Beem said. ‘‘Factor in the windy conditions with these big slopes and it gets tough real quick.’’

            Another Ryder Cup player, Brett Wetterich, was 2 under through 12 holes. Justin Rose led everyone at 3 under through 16.

            Tiger Woods, in search of his fifth green jacket and third straight major, teed off early in the afternoon and knocked his first shot long down the middle on the way to the first of six straight pars to start the day.

            His first bogey came on No. 7 after driving the ball far to the right into a trampled area in the gallery — a shot so bad that he dropped his driver in disgust after he hit it.

            He was still better off than Mickelson, who will have his work cut out to avoid becoming the first defending champion to miss the cut since 2003 winner Mike Weir.

            Mickelson got off to an inauspicious start, hitting his opening drive into the pine straw and his second shot into the sand en route to a bogey. Things got worse from there. He missed a short putt for par on No. 4 and mishit the chip on No. 5 for a double bogey. On No. 9, with the wind whipping at the bottom of the hill, he debated with caddie Jim Mackay, switched clubs and then left his approach shot 45 feet short of the pin.

            He made a long putt for birdie on No. 16, but that only brought him back to 4 over.

            Taylor, a native of Augusta, said he felt at home competing in this, his second Masters. But he knows the deal. Bad weather only exacerbates the problems that were created when the powers at Augusta added more length last year to bring the course to 7,445 yards.

            ‘‘It’s very tough out there,’’ Taylor said. ‘‘There aren’t too many pins you can go at, and the ones you can, it’s probably a par 5, and it’s probably your third shot.’’

            Others who uncharacteristically struggled included U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, who three-putted from five feet for a triple-bogey 8 on the second hole and finished at 3-over 75.

            Fred Funk started the back nine with two double bogeys and added an 8 on No. 15 on his way to 82.

            Sergio Garcia hit his first drive into the gallery on the right side. He finished at 76.

            Jim Furyk, ranked second in the world behind Woods, was 4 over through 14.

            Given the conditions, a surprising number of past champions were doing well.

            Tom Watson kept things reasonable all day, until two bogeys at the end pushed his score to 75.

            Craig Stadler was on the leaderboard, 1 under through 11, and Fuzzy Zoeller made the turn at even.

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