Heading into this year’s Masters, we all knew that it was going to be a tournament unlike any other that we had seen before. And that was just the off-course stuff. But today, the on-course stuff has set us up for what may be one of the most memorable tournaments of all-time, especially because of the stars that have aligned at the top of the leaderboard at the end of day one.
Some news and notes from round one at Augusta:
- Yes, 50-year-old Fred Couples is your leader heading into tomorrow, as he shot a 66 today, to sit at 6-under par for the championship. There’s a reason why a lot of people were picking Couples as a darkhorse this week. His Champions Tour success has certainly paid dividends thus far, and he’s put himself in great position heading into the second round.
- There’s a host of guys sitting one shot back at 5-under par, but the ones that stands out the most is Tom Watson. Watson gave us some memories unlike any other last year at the British Open, and it looks like he’s got the same idea this week at the Masters. He was in the lead by himself pretty much the entire day until Couples made his run late, but if Watson plays well again tomorrow, everyone better look out. The other players currently sitting at 5-under for the tournament: Phil Mickelson, Y.E. Yang, and Lee Westwood.
- Now let’s turn our attention to Tiger Woods. People were on different sides as to what to expect from Tiger, and to be honest, I didn’t expect him to play particularly well. However, Tiger came out and shot a 68, and sits only two shots back after day one. That noise you just heard was a loud “uh oh” from the rest of the field, as the world’s best player looked like he hadn’t missed a step after the long layoff. The golf course will undoubtedly get harder as the week progresses, but Tiger has to now be considered the favorite after his performance today.
- Ernie Els was a hot story heading into the Masters as well, and he had a decent round, shooting a 71. It could have been a whole lot better had he not double bogeyed the 18th, as he was 3-under heading into the final hole of the round. But given the fact that Ernie has missed the last three cuts at Augusta, I’d say this is a huge positive. I don’t see him missing the cut this time around.
- Anthony Kim looks to be playing with the confidence that he showed last week at the Shell Houston Open, and is only two shots off the lead right now after shooting a 68 in round number one. Kim had a wild back nine, with four bogeys, three birdies, and an eagle. Hey, doesn’t matter how you get that score, right?
- Aside from Couples and Watson, some other old-timers were out to make some noise as well. Sandy Lyle shot a 3-under, and is currently tied for 12th, while Bernhard Langer matched Els’ score of 71, and is at 1-under par. Langer got off to a quick start, which gave him a little room for error on the back nine, where he made four bogeys. All in all, it was a good day to have experience, as these guys are showing that they’ve still got what it takes to be in contention.
- Two recent Masters champions are off to good starts, as Trevor Immelman is trying to claim a second green jacket, and shot a 69 on the day. Zach Johnson also played well, and is only four shots off the lead.
- A few disappointments today, with the most surprising being Jim Furyk, who shot an 80. Yes, an 80, folks. There were some people picking him to win, and I had him as one of my ten favorites. Chad Campbell, who played so well here last year, shot a 79 which he couldn’t have been too happy with. And two major champions from 2009, Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink, both shot 76 on the day, which gives them a good hill to climb if they want to get back in this thing.
- As for my picks for the tournament, things aren’t too bad right now. My pick to win this week, Steve Stricker, struggled a little en route to a 73, but isn’t out of it by any means. However, Nick Watney is making me look really good right now as my sleeper pick, as he’s only two shots off the lead at 4-under. My other two sleeper picks: Adam Scott (-3) and Ryan Moore (E).
This first day at Augusta pretty much surpassed my expectations, as there are so many different storylines to look at as we head into the second round tomorrow. Surprised to see Tiger play so well, but even though he’s in contention right now, I’m officially on the Tom Watson bandwagon.
I hope he can have a solid round tomorrow, so that he can be in the running as we head into the weekend.