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5 things we learned on Thursday at The Masters

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The first round of the 2018 Masters tournament played out under sunny skies, and the return of Tiger Woods to Augusta National was on every patron and viewer’s mind. The first-round script usually calls for the resurgence of an aging, former champion; a stellar showing by a few first-timers, and a statement by one or two favorites. And all of those happened today.

Here’s what we learned from an exciting Day 1.

1) The National giveth and taketh away

In 2017, an unlikely eagle provided the catalyst for Sergio Garcia’s comeback and ultimate victory. In 2018, four consecutive water balls brought the Spaniard to 10-over par on the day. His 13 on the hole was the highest ever recorded by a competitor, and brought him to a score of 81. Barring a low 60s score on Friday, Garcia’s weekend work will be restricted to putting the green jacket on the 2018 champion’s shoulders.

2) Holding the lead is a difficult proposition, no matter the round

At 5:00, six golfers were tied at 3-under par. Four of them came to the 18th tee at 4-under, only to walk off the final green with bogey. One of those fellows was Tony Finau, who gave the golf world a fright during the par three contest by dislocating his ankle during a hole-in-one celebration. A la Dustin Johnson and the Wednesday sockscapade of 2017, Finau wasn’t certain he’d be able to play this morning. He did, and ended up at 4-under par, tied for second place with Matt Kuchar after 18 holes. Not far behind are Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy (69), and Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson (70).

And the leader? Well, Jordan Spieth had birdied 5 consecutive holes (13-17) when he came to to the 18th tee box and hit wood. Not a wood, not a metal wood, but a tree. He had to pitch out to the beginning of the fairway, leaving 250 yards to the green for his third shot. The unflappable Texan (and 2015 Masters champion) smashed his ball greenside, then pitched brilliantly to a few inches to save bogey, and finish at 66 on the day.

3) An amateur made headlines, at just the right time

Doug Ghim was unable to preserve a late lead in last summer’s U.S. Amateur final match. He received an invitation to the Masters based on his runner-up finish, and ensured that he would not leave Augusta without some memorabilia. Ghim made two eagles on the inward nine, for which he will receive four crystal highball glasses. Perhaps now spellcheck everywhere will leave his last name alone, and refrain from adjusting it to GHIN.

4) Let’s talk about Spieth some more

As mentioned above, the 2015 champion and two-time runner-up was the talk of the town on Thursday. His numbers card read like this: 1 eagle, 7 birdies, 3 bogeys and 7 pars. The Texan reached 2-under at the third green, but gave two strokes back over the next four holes. On the 8th, the uphill par 5, a fortuitous carom off the left greenside mounds brought his ball to rest, some 15 feet from eagle. Spieth converted, and returned to red figures. The brilliant birdie run through the back nine was almost undone by his wretched drive at the last, but Spieth played a great pitch back into play, then two more wonderful shots to only lose one stroke in the process.

5) Oh, right, Tiger Woods played today

When a chap signs for 73, and that chap happens to be a four-time champion at Augusta, that plus-one doesn’t usually deserve much media attention. If someone had said back in 2005, “Tiger won’t win a single one of the next dozen Masters,” we’d have questioned the person’s capacity for rational thought. As that did come to pass, including two consecutive years (2016 and 2017) when Woods didn’t even participate in the tournament, today’s plus-one does deserve attention. As Woods himself explained, his sloppy play on the par-five holes accounted for his score. Even-par is sloppy for the game’s greatest player, when 2-under on those holes would have brought him into red figures. Does Woods really have a chance at a 5th green jacket? If he signs for a 66 tomorrow, we might just be convinced.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Clancy

    Apr 6, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    “Tiger won’t win a single one of the next dozen Masters,”

    I said it in 2007, and I said it again each and every year since then when the “Will Tiger…” stories come to light. He’s done. Sure, he might win a tourney here or there again, but he’ll never win another Major. Mark my words.

  2. Wysluxury

    Apr 6, 2018 at 8:05 am

    Who do you think will win 2018 The Masters tournament?

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 6, 2018 at 10:39 am

      Ask me after 36 holes. Anyone can have a great or poor first day. We’ll see if the “right/wrong side of the draw” has impact. Tomorrow’s weather for the 3rd round will impact the event tremendously.

  3. Man

    Apr 6, 2018 at 2:39 am

    That’s what you get for abandoning the company that finally helped you all this time to win a major, Sergio!

  4. Chris

    Apr 6, 2018 at 2:22 am

    Sergios shots were fine, I think the set-up of the course is just plain stupid

    • Keith

      Apr 6, 2018 at 10:29 am

      Have to be able to control your spin. Surprised he didn’t get a little closer with the drops to hit more of a 3/4 shot with less spin.

    • Ronald Montesano

      Apr 6, 2018 at 10:41 am

      Did anyone else see the ball that hung up between 15 green and the water? We saw it 4 times as Sergio’s balls passed it by. Those are the vagaries of the conditioning.

    • DaveJ

      Apr 6, 2018 at 11:22 am

      They were good swings for sure, but he did a poor job of controlling the spin. I wonder if the ball he uses now spins more than his previous ball did. Sounds good on paper until you back 5 up into the drink. He’ll learn from it. I predict he throws a low number out there this afternoon and flirts with the cut.

  5. Bryan

    Apr 6, 2018 at 1:29 am

    Tiger shot -2 70 in the first round of 1997. 40-30

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