Australians make good start at Masters
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2014 US Masters | Round One | 11 Apr 2014
Day one at the 2014 Masters is done and dusted and while the overhead conditions early on the opening day were near perfect, the demanding pin positions and increasing breezes later in the day made for a testing first round and although nineteen players are under par only 4 under 68 holds the lead.
That score was put together by Bill Haas, playing the Masters for the 5th occasion and for the very time he has broken 70. He leads by one over Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson.
Haas took full advantage of his relatively early start although for the latter part of his round he too experienced the afternoon breezes.
Haas’s round was made even the more meritorious given he bogeyed his opening hole. By the turn however he was at 2 under and then added further birdies at the 13th, 14th and 18th and although he bogeyed the 17th he would claim the lead when he finished and retained it for the remainder of the day.
It was a bit messy early for Haas but he salvaged well before steadying and capitalising on much better play over the closing 12 holes. After flirting with the trees at the last he hit an iron virtually dead and converted for a closing birdie and he had the outright lead.
Earlier in the day it appeared defending Adam Scott might blow the field apart when, playing 30 minutes after Haas, he opened with a birdie, made the turn in 33 and when he added another at the 10th to move to 4 under it appeared a very low start might be on the cards.
He successfully negotiated the dangerous 11th but a mistake at the 12th, where he hit his tee shot in the water, brought him back to earth. He missed his chance to capitalise at the 13th then hole a curling 12 footer at the 14th. A three putt par at the 15th was followed by three pars for his round of 69 and a very solid start.
“I was very happy how I played tee to green today it was really how you hope to come out and play at any major,” said Scott. "I am very pleased to get off to a good start and there is no doubt that winning the Masters last year had me a little more comfortable on the first tee than I have been in the past.
“Having won last year has taken a little pressure off me as I felt like what is the worst that can happen (laughing). I am still a Masters champion.”
“I am not going to complain about my round but I was disappointed to three putt both of the par fives. I would have accepted one and a two putt on the other. I feel like I am playing very well and important was the par save on the 18th. I felt like I played well enough to shoot in the 60’s today so that was a nice way to end the day and not walk of shooting 70.”
“It was the only weak shot of the day,” he said referring to his 9 iron to the 12th which found the water. “I will put that behind me and move on tomorrow.”
Bubba Watson has been playing very well this season and as the 2012 champion he probably deserved more consideration than he had been given leading into the event. He never dropped a shot in his round of 69 and has made a very good start. The two most recent champions, Scott and Watson, therefore, are threatening after day one.
Oosthuizen, too, has been performed well at Augusta National of late having finished runner-up to Watson after a playoff in 2012. He too started slowly with a bogey at his opening hole but worked his way back into contention. He bogeyed the 12th when finding the water and the 17th but a birdie at the last has him at 3 under 69.
Jonas Blixt, Gary Woodland, K.J. Choi, Brandt Snedker and Marc Leishman are at 2 under, Leishman’s round made all the more meritorious given his late tee time.
Leishman displayed an uncanny liking for Augusta National when tied for 4th in his second appearance last year and once again appears to have found an immediate comfort zone. After an early birdie he found himself 1 over through 7 holes before eventually finishing with 70.
The other pre tournament favourites experienced mixed fortunes. Jason Day birdied the par five second but five dropped shots in four holes from the 8th threatened a major blowout. Day steadied the ship however and although he was unable to birdie either of the two par fives on the back nine his birdie at the 17th has given him some hope of working his way back into it tomorrow.
Rory McIlroy made a good start with a round of 71, a bogey at the last perhaps disappointing but he is well placed to improve dramatically on his previous best of 15th at Augusta National.
Other Australians generally fared well. John Senden confirmed his growing comfort zone with Augusta National and perhaps his current form with a round of 72, while Matthew Jones and Steve Bowditch (74) and Oliver Goss (76) can all be satisfied with their competitive debuts at Augusta National.