AUGUSTA, Ga. – This is the Augusta National where you spit fire instead of indulging in its beauty, spit explosives instead of hosannas and walk away confused.
Except Justin got upwho somehow shot 7-under-par 65 after not playing for more than a month, most of those who crossed the sacred ground on Thursday during the opening round master Left struck, with battered egos.
“I fought hard, but I feel like I just came out of the ring with Evander Holyfield, like in a 12-round match,” said the 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garciawho shot 75. “I have to go home and rest.”
The Masters may not be entirely normal – there are still COVID-19 restrictions and fewer on-site customers – but the course has proven to be a challenging, beguiling beast that sometimes offers the best fits in the world.
EPO / JUSTIN LANE
And as expected, it was a very different test than the one presented in November when soft conditions led to it Dustin Johnson Shooting 20 under, a tournament record.
In November, no player could break 80 in the opening round. In the 80s there were five points on Thursday.
Another hint? There were 12 points from triple bogey or worse, including a 7 on the ninth hole of par 4 Jordan Spieth. (To Spieth’s credit, he played the back nine in 3 under to score 71.)
A score of 7 on the Masters usually doesn’t mean a green jacket. The last player to do this was Craig Stadler Only four Masters winners in 84 previous tournaments have written a 7 on their card and collected the trophy.
Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama had to feel pretty good after shooting the 69s. You still should. But one wonders how Rose blew right past them to be 4 strokes ahead after a single round. There were 12 players under par, but only three achieved results in the 1960s.
Among those who fought were Johnson, who doubled the final hole for a 74; Rory McIlroywho hit his own father, Gerry, with a faulty shot on the way to a 76; and Bryson DeChambeauwho only made one birdie in a round of 76.
The scoring average of 74.5 is the highest in the Masters opening round since 2017 and one of the seven highest in the past 21 years.
“I think it’s been at least five years since I last remembered it was this company,” he said Webb Simpsonwho shot 70. “But it’s fun. I think this golf course is more fun that way because you really have to think, you really have to use the slopes. You can get in some really bad places.”
Simpson’s idea of fun isn’t for everyone. Bernd Wiesberger had 40 feet for eagles on par-5 15th, hit a putt towards the hole, then saw it fall off … and rolled into the water in front of the green. He dropped in the same place and putted twice for bogey. Shane Lowry also saw the difficulty of the 15th in chopping into the water over the green. This hole is usually one of the easiest in Augusta National – it produced three eagles and 30 birdies. But there were also four points double bogey or worse and 16 bogeys.
“It’s my tenth year here, but I’ve never seen the greens so tight and fast,” said Matsuyama, who shot 69, through an interpreter. “So it was like a new place for me [on Thursday]. I was lucky enough to do well. “
When asked if he thought the greens were too strict or if those responsible might have to do something to curb them a bit, Matsuyama giggled.
“That’s a tough question,” he said. “Please ask everyone else.”
Brooks Koepka did not hold back.
“It can get pretty tricky out here if you put it in the wrong place like these greens are,” said Koepka, who shot 74. “You might see her so firmly on late Sunday afternoon. Monday [during practice] it sort of looked the way it normally works on a Saturday, a late Saturday afternoon, and a Sunday.
“There isn’t a lot of grass on a couple of these greens. On the back of [No.] 6, there is no grass. And [No.] 9, I don’t know if there is grass. “
Koepka wouldn’t say it went too far. He also admitted that it was raining some in the forecast and that might help.
“But I don’t think grass will grow to number 9 overnight,” he said.
It’s very different from November when the conditions were almost too soft. Most of the players said they could throw away what they learned this week. That is how much the change of the seasons means.
Augusta has seen a fair bit of dry weather lately as well. It hasn’t rained in more than a week, with cool, windy conditions over the weekend followed by warm, sunny days adding to the crisp course players experienced during practice and the first round.
Ground crew personnel were seen hand watering several greens on Wednesday. That didn’t seem to make much difference either.
Phil Mickelson He talked about iron shots plugged into greens in November, which he described as the main defense of the place. If the greens are not firm, the course loses its “respect,” he said.
That was definitely on Thursday again.
“It’s tough,” said Gary Woodland, who won the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach, shooting 73 on Thursday. “I felt like I just got out of the ring with Mike Tyson or someone. It was brutal out there.”