Henrik Stenson gets behind the 8-ball on No. 18

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Henrik Stenson didn’t break any clubs after making a quadruple-bogey eight on No. 18.

“I’ve got a temper,” he said, “but it’s easier to walk away without changing the bag. I need my clubs.”

Stenson was having the round of the day, celebrating his 36th birthday by making eagles on both front-nine par-fives. The Swede was five under par through 17, two shots clear of the field.

Then he stepped to the tee at the 465-yard 18th and began stumbling.

He hooked his tee shot well left of the tree line, and his recovery shot did not reach the fairway. His third shot was a grounder off the pine straw, and he slammed his club after that. His fourth was a pitching wedge from 136 yards that sailed over the green. No. 5 was a chip that didn’t reach the green. He putted downhill to four feet, burned the right edge and knocked in a two-footer for eight.

“You make a little mistake and compound it with another one,” Stenson said after his 71. “It keeps on snowballing, and I got the snowman in the end.”

First things first

A few years ago, a van transporting the St. John’s golf team pulled into Magnolia Lane, expecting the day of a lifetime. But a gatekeeper delivered the bad news: Sorry, you can’t go in.

Keegan Bradley was in the van. Asked later by his father, Mark, whether he was disappointed, the young Bradley told him: “It was not my time to play there.”

Father and son played a practice round at Augusta National two months ago. And Bradley, who won the 2011 PGA Championship, showed a comfort level on the course Thursday. He double-bogeyed the first hole but managed to shoot a one-under 71.

“I had a wicked mud ball and made a mess of the first,” he said, “and played really well after that.”

Long and strong

Gary Player said he’d been working out — as if he needed another excuse to hit the gym. But the competitor in his 76-year-old bones came out as he outdrove Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus to get the 76th Masters underway. All three legends hit the middle of the fairway.

It marked the first time the “Big Three” — so named from their competitions in the 1960s — had been united as Masters starters. Palmer, 82, took the role in 2007, with Nicklaus, 72, joining three years later. Player got his invitation last spring. They combined for 13 Masters titles.

“We have played golf all our lives together,” Palmer said. “So today was very appropriate for the start of the tournament, and I hope it continues for a while.”