AUGUSTA, Ga. — That is the Augusta Nationwide that leaves you respiration fireplace reasonably than soaking in its magnificence, spewing expletives reasonably than hosannas, and strolling off bewildered.
Aside from Justin Rose, who by some means shot 7-under-par 65 after not enjoying for greater than a month, most of those that traversed the hallowed floor Thursday through the opening spherical of the Masters left battered, with egos bruised.
“I fought onerous, however I really feel like I simply got here out of the ring with Evander Holyfield, like a 12-round match,” mentioned 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who shot 75. “I have to go dwelling and relaxation.”
The Masters may not be fairly again to regular — there are nonetheless COVID-19 restrictions and fewer patrons on web site — however the course certain confirmed itself to be the difficult, beguiling beast that at occasions offers the very best on the earth matches.
And as anticipated, it was a far totally different take a look at than the one offered in November, when gentle circumstances led to Dustin Johnson taking pictures 20 beneath, a event file.
In November, no participant failed to interrupt 80 through the opening spherical; there have been 5 scores within the 80s on Thursday.
One other scoring clue? There have been 12 scores of triple bogey or worse, together with a 7 on the par-4 ninth gap by Jordan Spieth. (To Spieth’s credit score, he performed the again 9 in 3 beneath to shoot 71.)
Making a rating of seven on the Masters sometimes doesn’t translate to a inexperienced jacket. The final participant to take action was Craig Stadler in 1982. Solely 4 Masters winners in 84 earlier tournaments have written a 7 on their card and picked up the trophy.
Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama needed to be feeling fairly good about themselves after taking pictures 69s. They nonetheless ought to. However it makes you marvel how Rose blew proper by them to face 4 strokes in entrance after a single spherical. There have been 12 gamers beneath par, however simply three posted scores within the 60s.
Amongst those that struggled have been Johnson, who doubled-bogeyed the final gap for a 74; Rory McIlroy, who hit his personal father, Gerry, with an errant shot on the best way to a 76; and Bryson DeChambeau, who made only one birdie in a spherical of 76.
The scoring common of 74.5 is the best within the opening spherical of the Masters since 2017 and among the many seven highest prior to now 21 years.
“I feel it has been 5 years, no less than, from the final time I bear in mind it being this agency,” mentioned Webb Simpson, who shot 70. “However it’s enjoyable. I feel this golf course is extra enjoyable this manner since you actually must assume, you actually have to make use of the slopes. You’ll be able to put your self in some actually unhealthy spots.”
Simpson’s concept of enjoyable is just not for everyone. Bernd Wiesberger had 40 ft for eagle on the par-5 fifteenth, hit a putt towards the outlet, then noticed it path off … and roll into the water fronting the inexperienced. He dropped in the identical spot and two-putted for bogey. Shane Lowry additionally noticed the problem of the fifteenth, chipping into the water from over the inexperienced. That gap sometimes performs as one of many best at Augusta Nationwide — it did yield three eagles and 30 birdies. However there have been additionally 4 scores of double bogey or worse and 16 bogeys.
“It is my tenth yr right here, however I’ve by no means seen the greens so agency and quick,” Matsuyama, who shot 69, mentioned by way of an interpreter. “So it was like a brand new course enjoying for me [on Thursday]. I used to be lucky to get it round properly.”
Requested if he felt the greens have been too extreme, or if maybe these in cost wanted to do one thing to rein them in a bit, Matsuyama chuckled.
“That is a tricky query,” he mentioned. “Please ask all people else.”
Brooks Koepka did not maintain again.
“It could actually get fairly dicey out right here when you put it within the incorrect spot the best way these greens are,” mentioned Koepka, who shot 74. “Possibly late Sunday afternoon you see them this agency. Monday [during practice] it form of regarded like what it does usually on a Saturday, late Saturday afternoon, Sunday.
“There’s not a lot grass on a few these greens. On the again of [No.] 6, there is no grass. And [No.] 9, I do not know if there may be grass.”
Koepka would not say it has gone too far. He additionally acknowledged there may be some rain within the forecast and that might assist.
“However I do not assume grass goes to develop on No. 9 in a single day,” he mentioned.
It’s miles totally different from how issues have been in November, when the circumstances have been virtually too gentle. Most gamers mentioned you can throw out what they realized that week; that is how a lot the change in seasons means.
Augusta has additionally seen a superb little bit of dry climate of late. It has not rained in additional than every week, with cool, windy circumstances over the weekend adopted by heat, sunny days contributing to the crisp course the gamers have skilled throughout apply and the primary spherical.
Grounds crew personnel have been seen hand-watering a number of greens on Wednesday. Even that didn’t appear to have a lot influence.
Phil Mickelson talked about iron photographs plugged into greens in November, which he known as the course’s principal protection. When the greens are usually not agency, the course loses its “respect,” he mentioned.
That was definitely again on Thursday.
“It is powerful,” mentioned Gary Woodland, who received the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Seaside and shot 73 on Thursday. “I felt like I simply obtained out of the ring with Mike Tyson, or someone. It was brutal on the market.”