Augusta National had its revenge on the players and the Australians – save for Marc Leishman — suffered like everyone as The Masters began today.
None of the five Australians broke par although Leishman cobbled together a solid start with an even-par 72 that left him tied-13th on a day dominated by Englishman Justin Rose.
Leishman was four under par and in a share of the lead with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama through six holes of his opening round, having made a bomb for birdie at the sixth and a bump chip-in from behind the green at the fourth. “I’ve got this little five iron bump, and I pulled that one out of the bag,” he said later.
But he gave all those shots back later in conditions that American Kevin Kisner called “a super-stressful grind”. Leishman ended up content, despite bogeys at nine, 10, 11 and 14. “It wasn’t the finish I was after but I also didn’t throw it away either,” he said.
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Meanwhile Rose, seemingly playing a different course, ran white hot on the back nine, carding a seven-under par 65 that was four shots better than the rest of the field and only one shy of the biggest opening round lead in Masters history.
At three under par, Matsuyama and American Brian Harman are the closest to him after the first day.
Jason Day was utterly devastated by his “terrible” opening 77 while Matt Jones (74), Cameron Smith (74) and Adam Scott (74) are back in the pack.
Smith came in as the fancied Aussie but struggled on the front nine before a tap-in eagle at the 15th pushed him back into the mix. But a wayward drive at the 18th cost him a shot. Still, 74s were not disastrous on such a difficult day, and four of the five Australians sit inside the cut-line which will be drawn at the top 50 and ties tomorrow.
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Just more than four months ago at the 2020 Masters, played for the first time in the fall, Dustin Johnson won with a record total of 268, 20 under par, in soft conditions. Augusta National was nothing of the sort today, with the greens a different hue and lightning fast.
Only a dozen players broke par.
Rory McIlroy hit his father Gerry on the leg with a wayward approach to the seventh, giving his old man a chance at the quote of the day: “I should get an autograph.”
Bernd Wiesberger had an eagle putt on the par-five 15th which he promptly putted into the pond in front of the green. “It was tough all day,” said Leishman.
Day’s performance after a period of change and searching for answers left him annoyed.
“I mean, it’s just frustrating,” he said. “I did absolutely nothing right today, which is unfortunate. So I’ve got to go back to the range, work on some stuff, go to the putting green and work on that as well.
“I’ll tell you it’s been extremely frustrating over the last year and a half, two years. Sometimes I get discouraged out there, but it is what it is. I’ve just got to focus on trying to stay patient.” The low point came at the par-five 15th where he hit a good drive leaving him in range of the green. With six iron into the shallow green, he found the water.
“All I can do is just work,” he said. “I think I’ve been working very, very hard on my game, and I’ve got absolutely nothing out of it. So I’ve just got to keep working. If that’s the case — I’ve got three weeks off after this. I can take some time off and clear my head, but that’s thoroughly frustrating today.”
Matt Jones enjoyed himself in what turned out to be a solid opening round of two over par.
“It’s great,” said Jones, who is playing his second Masters. “I’ve got a couple of friends from Jersey. My brother flew over from Australia, and then friends from Scottsdale came in, and I’ve got a different crew coming in tomorrow. So it’s great.
“Last time (in 2014) everyone came in, but it was a bit muddled and didn’t really know what was going on. It’s a little bit more comfortable and relaxed this year.”