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Through one round, Jordan Spieth leads the Masters after shooting a 6-under 66. Spieth teed off in the afternoon wave, which drew calm conditions and low scores. As one would expect, Spieth dominated with his iron play and putting. The 2015 Masters champion gained 3.8 shots on the greens and 2.4 shots approaching the green. Spieth has now taken the lead during the first round in three of the last four Masters and will look to extend his two-shot lead this morning at 10:53 AM EST.
Spieth's nearest competitors are Tony Finau and Matt Kuchar at 4-under. Finau suffered a freak dislocated ankle injury after making a hole-in-one during Wednesday's par 3 contest. Miraculously, Finau popped his ankle back into place without breaking any bones or suffering any ligament damage. Finau was unsure if he'd be able to tee it up, let alone contend, on the bum ankle and even told Scott Van Pelt after the round that there was no way he would have ever thought he’d be in this situation.
Kuchar put together five birdies on the back nine to shoot 31 and surge into the mix. Much like Spieth, Kooch sports a stellar short game that limits bogeys, a key to success at Augusta. In his 11 appearances at the Masters, Kuchar has only missed 1 cut and has finished in the top 5 three of the last six years.
The grand slam
Rory McIlroy played a strong opening round, shooting a 3-under-par 69 to sit in a tie for fourth. McIlroy was in top form, cutting corners with towering drives and jarring momentum saving putts. Justin Ray pointed out that Rory has ended up winning the last four majors where he made it into the top 5 after the first round. Rory will look to back up his opening 69 at 10:42 AM EST today.
Others at 3-under
Over the past decade, no player outside t10th after the first round has won the Masters. Players 3-under or better are within the top 10 and in the hunt given that trend. Here’s a rundown of each.
Henrik Stenson shot an opening round in the 60s for the first time in his 13 appearances at the Masters. The 2016 Open champion has never finished better than 14th at Augusta, a puzzling record for one of the world's greatest iron players.
Last year's first-round leader, Charley Hoffman, is at it again. The opening round positions the San Diego native to contend again on the weekend. Hoffman made the cut in all four appearances at the Masters and finished t9th last year.
22-year-old China native and Masters rookie Haotong Li held the lead for portions of his first round. Here's a cool stat from Paulie:
Patrick Reed has a spotty track record with only two made cuts in four appearances at the Masters but finds himself in position to contend. Reed finished in the top ten in each of his past three starts and has shown an improved ability to work the ball left-to-right in 2018, a skill that has held him back in major championships.
Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello birdied four of the back nine's first seven holes to get to 3-under and in the mix. RCB's best major finish is a t4th at last year's Open Championship.
Canadian Adam Hadwin made the cut in last year's Masters as an Augusta rookie. He will look to continue his hot iron play, which gained him 3 strokes on the field on Thursday.
The other big names
Former Masters champions Phil Mickelson and Zach Johnson are lurking in a tie for 11th at 2-under. Mickelson's in striking distance to capture his fourth green jacket and become the oldest Masters champion of all time.
Marc Leishman and Rickie Fowler both seek their first major championship, opening with 2-under-par 70s. Leishman made the cut in his last seven major championship starts.
Last year's runner-up, Justin Rose, is in a tie for 21st after shooting even par.
A series of big names find themselves at +1, including Tiger Woods, world number one Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama and Bubba Watson.
Tiger was solid in his opening round but failed to take advantage of the par 5s. Woods' had irons into the 2nd, 8th and 13th and failed to convert any of them for birdies. Par 5 performance has been a hallmark of Woods' success at Augusta National, and he will need to score well on the remaining 12 to have a chance on Sunday. Woods was the last player to shoot an over-par opening round and still win the Masters ('05). A strong afternoon round today is pivotal for his chances to contend on the weekend. Watch Tiger's round in under 3 minutes.
Justin Thomas played his last six holes 3 over par to finish at 2-over. Much like Woods, Thomas will need to play near-perfect golf over the next 54 holes to capture the Green Jacket.
Jason Day and Jon Rahm both opened with disappointing 3-over 75's.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia entered the par-5 15th 2 over par and left the hole 10-over after recording a 13 on the hole. Garcia hit four straight shots into the water short of the green. It was agonizing to watch. Each of Garcia's wedges were close to being perfect but carried just a bit too much spin. Garcia bounced back with a birdie on the 16th but shot the worst first round by a defending champion in Masters history, an 81.
Another top performer
Of the amateurs in the field, Chicago native Doug Ghim led the charge shooting an even-par 72. Ghim's back nine included eagles on the par-5 13th and the par-4 18th, where he holed out his shot from the fairway. The University of Texas star earned a spot via his runner-up finish in the U.S. Amateur. The next best amateur performance came from Joaquin Niemann and Doc Redman, who each fired 76.
On Thursday, the short par-4 3rd played as one of the easier holes. It can also be one of the tougher, depending on the pin position. Read our deep dive into the hole’s architecture and the different options it presents players.
The new Chairman
Fred Ridley gave his first press conference as the new Chairman of Augusta National. He made big news by announcing the new Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship, which will be hosted at nearby Champion's Retreat and Augusta National. The top 72 women amateurs will be invited to play 54 holes of medal play, the first 36 occuring at Champions Retreat. After a cut, the top 30 will play the final 18 at Augusta National the Saturday before the Masters and the day before the Drive, Chip and Putt.
The second takeaway from Ridley's press conference came by the Chairman not ruling out a tournament ball. Ridley remarked, "We will always do what's necessary to maintain the integrity of our golf course." Ridley went on to say he was "confident that there's going to be a solution that's going to work for everyone."
Read Geoff Shackelford's full commentary.
Never forget, Payne Stewart’s tuxedo outfit for the par-3 competition.
A couple things to watch tomorrow
Will Jordan Spieth runaway?
We saw it happen in 2015 when Jordan Spieth opened up a 5-shot lead after opening the tournament 64-66.
Can it continue?
Tony Finau put on an incredible display of toughness today playing on a dislocated ankle and shooting a 68. The performance came from remarkable putting. He gained over five shots on the field on the greens. The weakest part of Finau's game is typically his putter, so don't expect the putts to keep dropping. Finau ranks in the top 15 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: approaching the green, and he lost 1.7 shots to the field on Thursday, a sign things might not be good with that ankle.
Rory's in the best form and appears to have a better mindset than in any other Masters in recent memory. With Rory three behind Spieth, one can only dream of a potential weekend showdown between the two.
Who will make a run?
It's tough to imagine anyone over 2-over having a chance to win. Players at even par or worse will need to play exceptional golf over the next 18 holes in order to catch Spieth.
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