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Manassero, 16, Watson, 60, defy their years

What is this, a Disney movie?

With clouds frowning darkly overhead and wind whipping the pines, the stage was set for some tooth-grinding drama in the opening round of the Masters Thursday, and there was plenty of that, but a senior citizen and the kid who mows your grass spread sunshine all over the place.

Tom Watson is 60 years old but doesn't know it. That's an age when a lot of guys, a whole lot of guys, sit around talking about their hip replacements and the price of the early bird special. He's sashaying around Augusta National in 67 to get his 36th Masters off to a lovely start. Sixty-seven! He's played 120 rounds in this place and that equals the best he's ever shot.

Matteo Manassero is 16 years old but doesn't know it. That's an age when most kids are walking around texting each other and bugging parents for a bigger allowance, but he's strolling around Augusta National shooting 71.

He's the youngest ever to tee it up in this championship, which should have made the driver feel like a leaf rake in his hands on the first tee, but he's been around some. He won the British Amateur last year and tied for 13th in the British Open. So he wasn't exactly shaking in his cleats. He smacked a couple of shots and made the putt for a birdie. Sixteen years old, first time at the Masters and he birdies the first hole.

Watson and the young Italian amateur, the odd couple, have a history. They played together in the first two rounds of the British Open last year. In one of the most remarkable performances the game has seen, Watson came breathtakingly close to winning that one, but his approach to the 72nd hole was long and he bogeyed, falling into a tie with Stewart Cink. In the playoff, Watson faltered and lost. Manassero, watching this on television, had tears in his eyes.

They played a Masters practice round together Monday, the aging Hall of Famer and the young prodigy.

Manassero, speaking English he picked up on his own, said he soaked up "advices" from the two-time champion, where to hit the ball, where not to hit it.

Watson characterized their relationship as sort of like a father and son thing, but it could be like a grandfather and grandson thing.

It's been a dreamy week all around for Watson. During a practice round last Sunday, his son Michael proposed marriage to his girlfriend on the 13th green. She said yes.

Thursday, Michael caddied for his dad.

Watson said, "I think a big part of my success today was having my son on the bag. He said, 'Dad, show me. Show me you can still play this golf course.' You know what. I wanted to show him I can still play the golf course."

What lies ahead this weekend?

Manassero's up for anything.

"I'm feeling great, playing good," he said. "I don't know if I have any expectations here. If I play good, I'll be happy. If I don't, I would be sad but not that much. I'm playing in the Masters."

Watson thinks the course was set up Thursday to encourage low scores and there's no question about that. There were plenty of them at day's end.

The course will be more difficult from here out, and he doubts that he can keep this up for 72 holes.

When he saw what Watson had shot, his young pal Manassero smiled and said, "Sixty-seven on this golf course. That's impressive. That's very impressive."

That it was.

If that's it for the week, well, he showed his son he can still play Augusta National - and he struck yet another blow for senior citizens everywhere.

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