Pars for Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau up the last, and the pair sign for highly decent opening rounds of 69. That’s the end of the Thursday action. Hope to see you tomorrow afternoon for the (potentially soggy, thundery and delayed) second round. Nighty night!
-7: Hovland, Rahm, Koepka
-5: Young, Day
-4: Lowry, Schauffele, Scott, Woodland, Scheffler, Bennett (a), Burns
-3: Rose, Morikawa, Spieth, Finau
It looks as though the disappointment is beginning to consume McIlroy already. He gives up on his chip, leaving it a good ten feet short, and flushes red as he sizes up his par saver. Before he can putt, Tom Kim makes his par and signs for a 70. But then Rory gathers himself and rolls in his par putt. A level-par 72. One better than last year’s opening round, if nothing else. He smiles grimly. Par for Sam Burns, too, and the Match Play champion signs for a fine 68 that, for a while, promised more.
Rory’s struggles continue. He finds Sandy Lyle’s bunker on 18, only to leave his second short of the green, the ball spinning back down the fairway. He’ll have to get up and down for a level-par 72. He doesn’t look particularly happy as he marches towards his ball. He’ll need to go low tomorrow, else the realisation of that career-slam dream can wait another year.
Leader board? Leader board.
-7: Hovland (F), Rahm (F), Koepka (F)
-5: Young (F), Day (F)
-4: Lowry (F), Schauffele (F), Scott (F), Woodland (F), Scheffler (F), Bennett -a- (F), Burns (17)
Par for the amateur Sam Bennett at the last. A little punch of the air as the 22-year-old Texan rolls in his final putt, and that’s a stunning round of 68. He’ll finish the day in a tie for sixth, which means he becomes the first amateur to finish in the top ten after the first round since Ryan Moore in 2005. His front nine of 32 is a Masters record.
Rory McIlroy splashes out of the sand at 17 to seven feet, but lets the par putt slide by on the right. He’s really not been on it today. That bogey goes a long way to nixing the renewed optimism that came with the birdies at 15 and 16. Back to level par. Meanwhile up on 18, Scottie Scheffler misses yet another putt to the left, and it’s a par that gives him a total of 68. Not bad given his putting was seriously off. Title defence still on!
Another birdie for Jordan Spieth! This one comes at 16 after guiding his tee shot to eight feet, and he’s back to -3 and looking very much happier with the world. There’s no way through the trees at 17 for Rory McIlroy, though, and he’s forced to punch into the bunker at the front of the green, from where he’ll take his chances of getting up and down from sand.
Matt Fitzpatrick has ended the day with a two-under 70. That’s a fine performance after finding himself +2 after 5. Meanwhile there was a staunch finish to the round by 18-year-old amateur Aldrich Potgieter. An unfortunate experience at 13 involved visits to Rhododendron Country at the back of the green, then Rae’s Creek at the front, and ended in a triple-bogey eight. But the young South African, who won the 2022 Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham, kept his head and clipped his approach at 18 to ten feet to set up a closing birdie. He ended the day at +5.
Another green, another putt missed to the left by Scottie Scheffler. Par, and he’s -4 through 17. Back on the tee, Rory McIlroy, having done so much good work to get to -1, hooks into the trees down the side of the penultimate hole. According to Rich Beem on Sky Sports, there is a route to the green from there; it just depends whether McIlroy has been fortunate enough to find it stretching out in front of him. We’ll soon see.
Tiger Woods! Andy Bull! You want them? We got them.
Par for Collin Morikawa at the 18th, and the two-time major winner signs for a 69. Birdies at 13 and 15 for Tony Finau, meanwhile, and the big man, who has yet to miss a cut in five appearances at Augusta, moves to -3.
Jordan Spieth zings his second into the heart of 15, then nearly teases in the 20-foot left-to-right curler for eagle. Just the birdie, but he’s back moving in the right direction at -2. See also Rory McIlroy, who uses the tilt of the green at 16 to bring his ball to ten feet, then curls in the birdie putt. Suddenly he’s in red figures at -1, and while it’s far from ideal, things are looking a whole lot better for him than they were 20 minutes ago.
A fine par at the last for Justin Rose, who gets up and down from the swale to the right of the green. He signs for a three-under 69. He went round today with 2020 champion Dustin Johnson, who shot a one-under 71 without too much interest from the cameras. Tell you what, apart from the unavoidable Brooks Koepka, and occasional snatches of Phil the Thrill, the LIV contingent haven’t had much of an airing. A deliberate snub? You decide, though to be fair, apart from Patrick Reed, they’re the only two to have put anything worthwhile together.
Sam Burns has been quiet since his dropped shot at 10. A row of pars. That’s brought to an end by birdie at 15, though he was only one turn away from making eagle. He rises to -5. Rory McIlroy rolls in his birdie putt to get back to level par. But it’s a double-bogey seven for Tom Kim, caused by underhitting a bunker shot, his ball breaking weakly to the left before disappearing down the bank and into the drink. He’s -2. Meanwhile on 16, Scottie Scheffler nearly misses another short putt high on the left, but the hole grabs the ball and sucks it in. Just. The defending champion really doesn’t look confident on the greens today, but he’s still -4 regardless.
Jason Day makes his tricky downhill ten-footer on 18 for par, and he signs for a blemish-free 67. He’s back, baby! Meanwhile back on 15, Rory McIlroy lays up in front of the water, before wedging from 90 yards to ten feet. What he’d give to drain the birdie putt he’s left himself.
Scottie Scheffler is good. Facing a treacherous chip up the swale and down the green, with water on the other side, he lobs up from 40 yards to four feet, and knocks in the birdie putt. He’s -4 and moving in the right direction again thanks to the two par-fives on the back nine.
Matt Fitzpatrick follows up another birdie at 15 by lipping out unluckily on 16. That could so easily have been a fourth birdie in five holes. As it is, he’s happy enough at -2, having salvaged his round after a slow start. Meanwhile it’s back-to-back birdies for his playing partner Collin Morikawa at 15 and 16. He’s -3 – and while found guilty in the court of social media over an alleged ball-placement violation on the 6th green, the authorities are more than happy with his actions. His ball had rolled backwards as he addressed it and he was replacing it.
Trouble for Jason Day on 18. He’s not dropped a shot yet, but is in serious danger of stumbling at the last. He pulls his drive into the trees down the left. There’s a window through the branches, and he shoots his way through it, but doesn’t quite reach the green. He fails to get any spin with his chip up, and he’ll be left with a testing ten-footer coming back. Meanwhile back on 15, a rush of blood for Scottie Scheffler, who blooters his second through the green and down the slope at the back. That’ll give him a puzzle to solve.
Tom Kim very nearly drains a 40-footer from the fringe at the back of 14 for par. Not quite. He remains at -4. Meanwhile back on 13, Jordan Spieth’s poor course management costs him dearly with double bogey. He slips to -1. But up on 16, Justin Rose uses the slope of the green to gather his ball to four feet, then rolls in the birdie putt. He’s -3, having picked up four shots over the last five holes! Hartley Wintney’s finest in very good nick.
Jordan Spieth likes a gamble, and having sent his tee shot at 13 into the pine straw down the right, goes for the green in two. It’s the sort of Hail Mary most would only throw when a couple of shots adrift on Sunday afternoon, but Spieth is made of different stuff. However, this roll of the dice doesn’t pay off, and he carves a long iron into Rae’s Creek. That’s his second wet ball in three holes. He has the good grace to look slightly sheepish as his Titleist bounces around the rocks before plopping into the drink. He’s always watchable, you have to give him that.
Another birdie for Jason Day! This one comes at 17, his second in a row and his third in five holes. Reward for knocking his second pin high to 20 feet, then pouring in the putt. He’s -5. Meanwhile back on 13, as Rory faffs, Tom Kim arrows his second from 220 yards to ten feet, and makes an eagle that brings him all the way up the leaderboard and into a tie for sixth!
-7: Hovland (F), Rahm (F), Koepjka (F)
-5: Young (F), Day (17)
-4: Lowry (F), Schauffele (F), Scott (F), Woodland (F), Bennett -a- (13), Kim (13), Burns (13)
-3: Scheffler (13), Spieth (12)
Rory McIlroy clatters a monster drive down the middle of 13, only to pull his second into the bunkers by the flowers at the back of the green, then decelerate as he hits his sand shot. His ball only just squirts onto the green. Two putts from distance salvages his par, but at +1 it’s still not happening for the career-slam-hunting 33-year-old. He looks thoroughly miserable as he slopes off to the next tee.
Phil Mickelson is back in the clubhouse with a one-under 71. Sepp Straka couldn’t keep that birdie run going, but five-in-a-row isn’t half bad, and it means the Austrian is signing for a two-under 70. And the par-three contest winner Tom Hoge cards 74, so it’s not looking particularly likely that the curse of that particular prize is going to be lifted this year.
Birdie for Jason Day at 16. There’d be few more popular winners than the amiable Aussie, who moves to -4. His 2023 renaissance continues. Meanwhile back on 13, Scottie Scheffler misses his ten-foot eagle putt. The birdie takes him to -3, but he doesn’t look happy on the greens, and on Sky Sports, Sir Nick Faldo notes that he’s missing all of his putts high on the left. That’s golf for you: even the world number one can’t complete the puzzle. Golf!
One of the shots of the day by Scottie Scheffler on the par-five 13th. He whips his second from 216 yards into the heart of the green, using the left-to-right camber to gather his ball to ten feet. He’ll have a great look at an eagle that would catapult him back into the thick of it. Meanwhile on 11, Jordan Spieth rattles in his 12-footer to limit the sodden damage to bogey. He walks off looking happy enough, all told, even if he does drop back to -3.
Jordan Spieth gets a bit too aggressive at 11. In going for the flag with his second, he sends his ball into the drink. He briefly considers sitting on his club to break the shaft, but thinks better of it. From the drop zone, he wedges to 12 feet, so he’ll have half a chance of saving his bogey. Meanwhile on 13, Matt Fitzpatrick follows up the near-ace on 12 with another birdie, and suddenly the reigning US Open champ is in red figures at -1.
Brooks Koepka shoots 65
Koepka becomes the third player to shoot a seven-under round today, following up his birdie on 17 with a textbook no-fuss birdie at the last. Out in 32, back in 33, with just the one blemish coming at the par-five 13th, a hole you’d normally expect him to pick up a shot or two. He smiles contentedly. VAR stories ahoy! Meanwhile his playing partner Gary Woodland, the 2019 US Open champion, also birdies 18 without fuss and scribbles his name at the bottom of a 68.
-7: Hovland (F), Rahm (F), Koepka (F)
-5: Young (F)
-4: Lowry (F), Schauffele (F), Scott (F), Woodland (F), Bennett -a- (12), Burns (11), Spieth (10)
-3: Day (15)
Rory leaves his long birdie putt 15 feet short. It was from the best part of 100 feet, to be fair, but he can’t make the par saver and smiles wryly as he topples back into debit at +1. Better news for Europhiles comes courtesy of Justin Rose, the 2017 runner-up following birdie at 12 with eagle at 13, reward for a brave second arrowed straight at the flag, an approach where the risk of getting wet is much higher. He’s -2, and if nothing else it illustrates that McIlroy isn’t out of this yet providing he gets a wriggle on soon.
Rory McIlroy tests his luck on 11. He shoves his tee shot into the trees down the right, then nearly sends his second into the water guarding the front-left of the green. The ball squirms onto the dancefloor, from where he’ll have a chance to save his par from distance with two putts. He kind of doesn’t deserve the break, but then again everyone needs a bit of luck if you’re going to win the Masters.
Scottie Scheffler finds the safe, meaty portion of the 11th green, well away from the water on the left. But he leaves his long birdie putt four feet short, then tugs at the par putt. It horseshoes out, and the reigning champ slips back to -2. It’s not easy to defend the Masters: that’s why it’s only ever been achieved by Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods.
Brooks Koepka fires a dart into the centre of the 17th green, then rolls in the birdie putt to move to -6, one shot off the lead. Meanwhile back on 10, Rory McIlroy drains his birdie effort to return to level par. He’ll feel a lot better after two birdies in three holes. Perhaps he should ring up CBS mid-round more often.
Sam Burns finds himself stuck up the side of a grassy hill to the side of 10. He doesn’t commit to his chip down, and only just reaches the fringe. That results in a bogey that sends him back to -4. Meanwhile how about this from Sepp Straka?! Birdies at 12, 13, 14, 15 and now 16, and the 29-year-old Austrian is suddenly -2 for his round. He needs two more to match the record set by Steve Pate in 1999 and matched by Tiger in 2005, both of whom made seven in a row from hole 7.
A quiet day for Matt Fitzpatrick. He takes to the 12th tee at +1 … then pitches inches from the cup and nearly spins in for an ace! A tap-in birdie will take the reigning US Open champion back to level par.
Scottie Scheffler sends his second at 10 over the flag, setting up a glorious birdie chance. But it’s downhill, and he tickles the treacherous eight-footer wide right. Overly tentative, if that’s possible. He remains at -3. Coming behind, Rory McIlroy lands his approach to 12 feet, and will have his own look at birdie. Meanwhile in the very last group, Jordan Spieth pars 9 and hits the turn in 32.
Jon Rahm is asked by Sky Sports about that four-putt farce. “If we forget about what happened on the green on 1, that felt about as comfortable as I’ve felt all year … I was a lot less frustrated than people will think … I hit every putt on the line I wanted … obviously three were not at the speed I wanted … but that sometimes happens … every single putt, the stroke was good … if you can get over that, if you put in good strokes, they’re eventually going to go in … I hit another good putt on 2 and another on 3 and that kinda got me going.”
Jordan Spieth larrups his second at the par-five 8th wide right of the green. No matter! He whips his chip to five feet, and walks the birdie putt in. He’s now -4, having made just two pars in the first eight holes, and this leaderboard is studded with star names. Look!
-7: Hovland (F), Rahm (F)
-5: Young (F), Koepka (15), Burns (9)
-4: Lowry (F), Schauffele (F), Scott (F), Bennett -a- (9), Spieth (8)
-3: Woodland (15), Day (13), Niemann (12), Scheffler (9)
Birdies for a couple of the in-form big hitters. Scottie Scheffler at 9, the champion turning in 33, almost with cat-like stealth. Brooks Koepka at 15, moving to within a couple of the leaders. Then back on 9, Rory McIlroy leaves his approach well short of the flag, and is remotely pestered by the CBS commentators again! “Aw, I eased off on it,” is his disappointed analysis. Hats off to him for not telling them to chip off, though to be fair he seems more than content to have broken new Masters ground. “Pleasure! Happy to be the first one to do it!” It’s then pointed out that there’s “an amazing record” regarding the players who have done this in previous tournaments: almost all of them went on to win. “I think that’s why I wanted to do it!” he laughs, before leaving his long birdie putt short. Par, and he turns in 35.
CBS engage Rory McIlroy in a mid-round walk’n’talk as he makes his way down 9! “It’s been a little bit of a struggle … it’s still pretty receptive … you’re seeing guys go after it … hopefully I can do the same on the back nine … I’ll stick to the gameplan … I just want to be as patient as possible … we’ve still got 64 more holes left … plenty of time to make some birdies … I’m just going to play golf until they tell us not to … it’s spitting a bit right now … the weather is going to be a little dicy … you have to adapt the best as you possibly can.”
You don’t need a time machine to know what Clifford Roberts would have thought about this particular innovation, do you.
Say what you will about Phil Mickelson, but the man’s a showman. Having turned in 34, the 52-year-old LIVeteran dunked his approach at 11 into the drink, running up a double bogey in the process. He’s since followed that up with birdie at 12, and an eagle putt on 13 that turned right on its last turn and shaved the side of the cup. All of which mean the three-time champ is back to -2, and he couldn’t, could he? No, he won’t, don’t be daft. But he could!
It’s that usual first-day-of-a-major mantra: Rory McIlroy needs something to happen quicksmart. He draws a fine approach at the par-five 8th around the trees and into the heart of the green, then the eagle putt from 20 feet shaves the side of the cup. Birdie is better than nothing, and he’s moving the right way, back up to +1. Birdie meanwhile for his playing partner Sam Burns as well, and he moves to -5.
Cam Smith plays the 18th in textbook fashion. A drive down the middle. An iron into the heart of the green. A 15-footer rolled across it and in. A birdie that gives the Open champion an opening round of 70. He’s -2.
Joaquin Niemann has won a couple of times on the PGA Tour, but never threatened to come close at a major championship. The 24-year-old Chilean is threatening to right that wrong this week. Birdies at 2, 7, 8 and 9 means he’s turning in 32 strokes. He’s -4. Also very much heading in the right direction: Jordan Spieth, who arrows his approach at 7 over the bunker guarding the front of the green before pouring in from ten feet. He’s -3. Meanwhile on the par-five 8th, a disappointing par for the defending champ Scottie Scheffler, who remains at -2.
Jon Rahm shoots 65
Par for Cameron Young at 18. He signs for a five-under 67. Playing partner Justin Thomas, who has never quite been on it this afternoon – his birdie effort from 12 feet never looks like dropping, a microcosm of his round - nevertheless signs for a two-under 70. But the third member of the group, Jon Rahm, having stuck his second to three feet, tidies up for his birdie, and walks off wearing a huge smile. A round of 65. Having doubled the opening hole, where he took four putts, he played the remainder of the course in nine under! That’s one of the great Augusta performances, because Rahm, a notorious hot-head, could easily have careered off the rails after that farcical start. Now he’s joint leader!
-7: Hovland (F), Rahm (F)
-5: Young (F)
Rory McIlroy makes a complete hash of 7. He flubs his chip from behind the bunker into the trap, then after splashing out to give himself a chance to limit the damage from four feet, horseshoes the bogey putt. A double that drops him to +2, and not for the first time at Augusta National, he’s started cold. Last year he was always behind the eight-ball after opening with two rounds of 73. They eventually cost him dear as he finished three behind Scottie Scheffler. History is threatening to repeat itself already.
A downbeat finish to Adam Scott’s round. He slices his drive into the trees down the right of 18, and is forced to take his medicine, chipping out sideways. In the end, he does well to limit the damage to bogey. The 2013 champion signs for a four-under 68. Meanwhile on 13, Brooks Koepka can’t get up and down from distance to save his par, even though he gives it a good go by wedging to 12 feet and shaving the cup with his putt. He slips back to -4.
A fast start for the 2015 winner Jordan Spieth. Birdies at 2 and 3, a bogey at 5, and now a 20-foot putt drained from the fringe on 6 that brings him back up to -2. The 2021 champion Hideki Matsuyama has been going along without fuss: he’s -2 through 16 after birdies at 2 and 9. And the former PGA and Open champion Collin Morikawa has just added birdie at 7 to the one picked up at 2; he’s -2 as well. A lot of big names edging up the leader board … but Rory McIlroy isn’t one of them, and he’s once again out of position, this time at 7, having sent his tee shot into trees on the left, then whistled his next one over a bunker at the back of the green. Good luck getting up and down from there.
Jason Day has been coming back into form after a couple of quiet years. He turns up the volume with a glorious iron over the flag at 9 to set up his second birdie of the front nine, following a two at 4. He turns in 34. Meanwhile some trouble for Brooks Koepka on 13, as he hooks deep into the woods down the left. He’s forced to take his medicine, chipping back out, then laying up on the elongated par-five. He’ll need to get up and down from 110 yards if he’s to salvage his par.
Viktor Hovland shoots 65!
Par for Xander Schauffele at 18, and he signs for a very acceptable opening round of 68. Tiger can only splash out from the bunker to 22 feet, and can’t make the par saver. The bogey means he’s carding a first round of 74; he’s +2. But Viktor Hovland, hitting from the same bunker as Woods, swishes a much more delicate escape to six feet, and tidies up for his par. A blemish-free round of 65 for the 25-year-old Norwegian!
-7: Hovland (F)
-6: Rahm (17)
-5: Scott (17), Young (16), Koepka (12)
-4: Lowry (F), Schauffele (F), Bennett -a- (6), Burns (6)
News of Sergio, who for a while threatened to barge his way into the mix after birdies at 6 and 8 took him to -2. Well, that dream wasn’t destined to last. Bogeys at 10, 13, 14 and 15 meant he came back in 40, and the 2017 winner ended the day with a two-over 74.
Tiger sends his tee shot at 18 just short of Sandy Lyle’s bunker. He’s got to hit his second with his right foot in the sand, supporting most of his body weight; it’s the right ankle that causes him so much bother post-crash. He can only flay the ball into the bunker before hopping around in pain. Not easy to watch. Meanwhile back on 12, Brooks Koepka swishes his tee shot to eight feet, and makes the birdie putt. He joins Scott and Young at -5.
It’s three birdies in four holes for Jon Rahm, who has been on a tear around Augusta National since finding himself +2 on the 2nd tee. The latest comes at 16, reward for knocking his tee shot to ten feet. Rahm is going around with Cameron Young, who also birdies the par-three to keep hot on Hovland’s heels. Xander Schauffele drops back though, with bogey at 17.
-7: Hovland (17)
-6: Rahm (16)
-5: Scott (17), Young (16)
Another big save for Rory McIlroy, who leaves himself a ten-footer for par on 5. In it goes, and he remains at level par, albeit not firing on all cylinders. Doing rather better, the LIV rebel and three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson. Lefty has been struggling to break 70 on the LIV tour of late, but back-to-back birdies at 8 and 9 see him turn in 34. He’s -2 and in the sort of nick nobody predicted or even bothered dreaming about!
An unhappy story. Carl Jackson, the legendary Augusta National caddie who was on the bag for Ben Crenshaw’s 1984 and 1995 wins, says he no longer feels “welcomed” at the event after not being granted a pass for this week’s major. Ewan Murray reports.
Jon Rahm’s performance, given the four-putt fiasco on the 1st, has been little short of outrageously good. Birdies at 2, 3, 7 and 13, eagle at 8, and now another birdie at 15, having found the green in two before nearly making a 60-foot putt from the fringe. We’re barely halfway through Thursday, and already we’ve got a stellar leader board. This, weather permitting, could shape up to be a classic!
-7: Hovland (16)
-5: Schauffele (16), Scott (16), Rahm (15)
-4: Lowry (F), Young (15), Koepka (10), Burns (4)
-3: Kirk (17), Bennett -a (4)
A bit of bother for Rory McIlroy, who sends his tee shot at the par-three 4th up onto a bank back-right of the green. He’s not got a lot of green to play with, the flag nearby, but bumps a cute chip down to kick-in distance, and that scramble could prove incredibly important in terms of momentum. A second birdie in a row for Tiger on 16, meanwhile, and while he’s visibly limping, he’s back in the mix to make the weekend at +1. Things weren’t looking so great 30 minutes ago.
A word on the Belfast amateur Matthew McClean, who for a few minutes early this morning led the Masters by two strokes at -2. He was +2 through 15, before bogey at 16 and a double at 17 sullied an otherwise impressive round. He finished with 77 and goes into Friday at +5. Meanwhile the 1987 and 1988 winners Larry Mize and Sandy Lyle prop up the leader board having shot 79 and 81 respectively. It’s their last competitive outing here, but whatever happens, Mize will always have that chip-in on 11, Sandy that bunker shot at 18. Thanks for everything, chaps.
The 2013 champion Adam Scott has been quiet since his early birdies at 2 and 3. A string of pars up until another birdie at 14, then he only just gets over the water at 15. His anxious face soon turns into a broad smile as his ball rolls to ten feet. In goes the eagle putt, and suddenly – with the aforementioned Chris Kirk following up that near-albatross on 13 with birdies at 15 and 16 – the leaderboard has a fresh new look!
-7: Hovland (16)
-5: Schauffele (16), Scott (15)
-4: Lowry (F), Rahm (14), Koepka (10), Burns (3)
-3: Kirk (16), Young (14), Bennett -a- (4)
Rory is going around with Sam Burns, and the new Match Play champion has fair flown out of the traps. He makes no mistake chipping up the bank at 3, knocking his ball to four feet and making another birdie. His start: birdie-eagle-birdie, and he’s already four shots clear of McIlroy. Par for Tom Kim, just to complete news of the group; he remains at -2.
A fine finish to a fine round for Shane Lowry! He rolls in a 15-footer for birdie on the last, and signs for an excellent four-under 68. But elsewhere the Irish charge suffers a couple of blows. From the second cut on 3, Rory McIlroy can’t bundle his ball up onto the dancefloor, a mistake leading to a bogey that cancels out the shot he picked up at 2. He’s back to level par. Meanwhile a painful double on 16 for Seamus Power, the result of hooking his drive behind trees down the left of 17. That topples him back to -1.
Xander Schauffele finds the 15th green in two big hoicks. He’s left with a 50-footer for eagle, and doesn’t hit it, leaving himself a tricky downhill five-footer for his birdie. No bother, in it goes. He moves to within two of the leader Hovland, who, on in three after his wayward tee shot, settles for par. That’s probably done for his dream of breaking the course record of 63; he’ll need three birdies on the closing three holes to break it. He remains at -7. The third member of the group, a certain Tiger Woods, steers in a 30-footer with a huge left-to-right break for a birdie that brings him back to +2.
-7: Hovland (15)
-5: Schauffele (15)
-4: Rahm (13), Koepka (9)
The small margins demonstrated on the short par-three 3rd. Scottie Scheffler nearly holes out from exactly the same spot he did on Sunday last year, for the birdie that set his procession going in the right direction. This time the chip, from the bottom of the swale front-left of the green, shaves the flag. No eagle, and he then misses the five-footer for birdie. Just the par this time. He remains at -2.
A careful two putts from the back of 2 by Rory McIlroy, and that’s the pre-tournament second favourite’s first birdie of the week. He’s -1. His playing partner Tom Kim meanwhile has started birdie-birdie, no doubt fuelled by the delicious fare on offer at Augusta National. He’s -2. But the best start in the penultimate group has been made by Sam Burns, the Match Play champion following birdie at the opening hole with eagle. It’s not taken Burns long to insert himself into this tournament.
-7: Hovland (14)
-4: Schauffele (14), Rahm (13), Koepka (8)
-3: Lowry (17), Power (16), Scott (14), Young (13), Bennett -a- (2), Burns (2)
Viktor Hovland hooks deep into the trees down the left of 15. Safe to say he’ll be laying up with his second. Back on 13, Cameron Young, having missed a par tiddler on 12, makes up for it by holing a 20-foot left-to-right swinger for a birdie that takes him back to -3. An up and down meanwhile for his partner Jon Rahm, from the bunker at the back of the green. He’s -4. And on 2, Rory McIlroy finds the back of the green with his second and will have a look at eagle from 30 feet.
Xander Schauffele peppers the pin at 14, and follows up his birdie at 12 with a second in three holes. His playing partner Viktor Hovland finds himself in trouble up a greenside bank yet again, but just like back on 10, tickles a chip down to a couple of feet and scrambles his par. Meanwhile on 8, a ten-foot Brooks Koepka eagle putt shaves the left-hand side of the hole, and LIV’s finest has to settle for a birdie. He’s right in the mix now, and that mix looks exactly like this …
-7: Hovland (14)
-4: Schauffele (14), Koepka (8)
-3: Lowry (16), Power (15), Rahm (12), Bennett -a- (2)
An absolute dream start for the 22-year-old US Amateur champion Sam Bennett. An opening birdie, followed by a chip-in at 2 for eagle! He’s -3 in the blink of an eye. He’s going round with the reigning champion Scottie Scheffler, who also eagles 2, creaming his second from 200 yards to three feet. He’s -2. And it’s a shaky, if ultimately satisfying, start for Rory McIlroy, who sends his opening tee shot into the trees down the left of 1, then his second down a swale to the right of the green, only to gently bump his chip up to four feet. He tidies up for a par that will feel like a birdie the way he played the hole.
Thanks Bryan. Now then, a couple of near misses to report. On 16, Sahith Theegala nearly aces, but has to settle for a kick-in birdie that brings the 24-year-old US debutant back to +1. But there were even greater scenes elsewhere, as local hero Chris Kirk came within a hair’s breadth of making only the second albatross on 13 in Masters history, creaming a fairway wood over the creek to a couple of feet, the ball rolling apologetically inches to the left of the hole. Jeff Maggert remains the only man to make a double-eagle, as the Americans like it, on Azalea, which he did in 1994. Kirk tidies up for just an eagle – just an eagle! – and having been +4 after five holes, he’s clambered all the way back to -1.
Hovland misses the eagle putt from about 25 feet, but taps in for another birdie. He’s -7 through 13 and four shots clear of the field. A remarkable start for the Norwegian, who can do no wrong today.
-7: Hovland (13)
-3: Lowry (15), Schauffele (12), Rahm (11), Young (11), Koepka (7)
-2: Stallings (F), Reed (16), Power (14), Scott (12), Matsuyama (10)
… and with that, I’ll hand things back to Scott Murray. Bye for now!
Viktor Hovland is dialed in! He’s just reached the green of the par-five 13th in two with an iron, leaving him a reasonably good look at an eagle for -8.
Fred Couples has finished his opening round with a one-under 71. The 63-year-old becomes the oldest player to break par at Augusta since Tom Watson’s 71 at the 2015 tournament, when he was 65. Heady stuff.
Will Zalatoris, the 2021 runner-up at Augusta, has withdrawn due to injury before the start of his first round today. The 26-year-old has been battling injury and illness over the past few weeks including a nasty stomach bug at the WGC-Dell Match Play that saw him lose about seven pounds in a week.
Viktor Hovland is racing away from the field. He’s just birded 11 to go three clear of second. This is Hovland’s fourth career start at the Masters and he’s yet to record a score in the 60s at Augusta in 12 prior rounds. That’s clearly on course to change today.
-6: Hovland (11)
-3: Rahm (10), Young (10)
-2: Stallings (18), Couples (17), Lowry (13), Schauffele (11), Scott (10), Matsuyama (9), Smith (9), Koepka (6)
Fred Couples, a 63-year-old playing in his 38th Masters, was +2 through 11. But he’s birded 12, 13, 15 and 17 and is now tied for third at -2. Normal stuff!
Viktor Hovland is a magician. Facing the hole side on, he swings hard but lobs high, landing his ball softly on the fringe to the right of the bunker and rolling it out to four feet. That is absurd! Anything within 20 feet was a result from there.
-5: Hovland (10)
-3: Rahm (8)
-2: Lowry (12), Schauffele (10), Scott (9), Young (8), Koepka (4)
… and with that, I’ll hand over to Bryan Armen Graham, who’ll give you the view from Stateside for the next hour. See you again soon!
A groan from the leader Viktor Hovland, who shoves his second into 10 towards the bank to the right of the green. He’s up on a mound, shortsided with a bunker in between his ball and the hole. Oh dear. God speed from there. Meanwhile Scott Stallings finishes strongly, following up birdie at 15 with another on 18, and the 37-year-old journeyman – who has no record to speak of at Augusta – posts an opening round of 70. He finishes the day at -2.
An outrageous second shot at the par-five 8th for Jon Rahm! From the centre of the fairway, 250 yards out, he creams his approach into the green, using the camber on the right to gather his ball to four feet. He tidies up for eagle, and this is simply astonishing given the four-putt shenanigans of the 1st green. Five shots picked up in eight holes, and now look!
-5: Hovland (9)
-3: Rahm (8)
-2: Meronk (14), Lowry (11), Schauffele (9), Scott (8), Young (8), Koepka (3)
Shane Lowry needed to get up and down from 40 yards on 10 to save par. He’s not been able to escape from a similar position on 11, having found himself out of position off the tee, down the right of the hole. He drops back to -2 alongside Adrian Meronk, who chipped in for birdie on 14. Also dropping back: Patrick Reed, who overhit a chip from the back of 12 and nearly sent his ball into the water. It clung on, but he couldn’t make the long putt coming back, and he’s -1.
Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele take turns to screech their approaches at 9 to six feet. Schauffele up first, with an uphill putt. He pours it into the middle of the cup and he’s out in 34, -2 for his round. Hovland is pin high and rattles his birdie putt home. He’s out in 31 and leads this tournament by two. And it’s just a par for Tiger, but it’s a decent scramble from the side of the green, and of course it’s met with the biggest cheer. He turns in 38 and remains +2.
-5: Hovland (9)
-3: Lowry (10)
-2: Meronk (14), Reed (11), Schauffele (9), Scott (8), Young (7)
Oh yes, I forgot, Bryson DeChambeau. He three-putted from the fringe at 2, and had to settle for par. He’s +2 through 3. A reminder that some of these LIV lads may not be tournament sharp. Having said that, look at Patrick Reed, and now Brooks Koepka, who birdies 2 and moves into red figures in short order. He’s -1.
Tiger’s playing partner Viktor Hovland also makes birdie from the bottom of the swale at 8! The 25-year-old Norwegian had also hit a poor second towards the trees only to get away with it; he takes advantage of his good fortune to hit the top. Meanwhile back on 7, another birdie for Jon Rahm, who moves into red figures at -1, a magnificent effort given the four-putt double on the opening hole. It’s all happening!
-4: Hovland (8)
-3: Lowry (9)
-2: Reed (10), Scott (7), Young (6)
A first birdie of the day for Tiger, in slightly wild circumstances. His second into the par-five 8th dices with the trees down the left. He’s lucky to get over them all, and finds himself at the bottom of a huge swale … from which he bundles a chip up to kick-in distance. So close to an eagle that would have really put a new complexion on his round. He’s +2.
You’ll have noticed Patrick Reed back up at -2. That’s the result of a tramliner whistled into the cup across 10 for birdie. He’s one of three LIV players in red figures at the moment, along with Garcia (-1) and Cameron Smith (-1). Meanwhile news of Fred Couples, who is not exactly a LIV fanboy. The 1992 champion, now 63 years old, is going along great guns, as he so nearly always does at Augusta National. Having hit the turn in 38, he’s hauled himself back to level par with back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13.
Shane Lowry hits the lead! He wedges from 154 yards on 9, over the flag to six feet. In pops the putt for a third consecutive birdie. The 2019 Open winner, who tied here for third with Cameron Smith last year, is -3. Speaking of Camerons, namesake Young only just finds the front of the big green at the par-three 6th, then hits a dismal putt from 40 feet that topples back down the slope, leaving himself with a 30-footer for par. He can’t make it, and two men are still sharing the lead of the Masters, but he’s no longer one of them.
-3: Lowry (9), Hovland (7)
-2: Reed (10), Scott (6), Young (6)
Sergio makes a meal of 10. His drive finds the pine straw down the left, forcing a lay-up. His third goes into the bunker guarding the front right. He does well to limit the damage to bogey by getting up and down from the sand, but he’s back to -1. Meanwhile a three-putt for Adrian Meronk from the fringe at the back of 12, and the Pole slips back to -1 as well.
A huge break for Cameron Young on 5. Having pulled his drive towards danger down the left, he finds lush turf between a couple of bunkers, from where he can make the green in regulation. Two putts later, and he’s out of Dodge with a par. He remains at -3. His playing partner Justin Thomas, having hit a similarly poor drive, doesn’t get the break. He’s forced to lay up from a bunker and the mistake leads to his first bogey; he drops to -1. And it’s another three-putt bogey for Tiger, this time on 7. He’s +3, and a repeat of his 2019 heroics already begins to look like a pipe dream.
An eventful, if not particularly welcome, start for Bryson DeChambeau. From the centre of the 1st fairway, he flies the green, underhits a chip from the bottom of the swale behind, nearly holes out for par only for the ball to traverse the circumference of the cup and slingshot 20 feet past the hole. Two putts to come back and that’s a double to start for one of LIV’s great hopes. He is, however, on the par-five 2nd in two, with a chance for a Rahm-esque response. More when we have it.
Shane Lowry nearly drains a 70-foot eagle putt on 8! The ball dies to the left, one turn short of the hole, and he taps in for another birdie with a wry smile. He’s -2 and the 2019 Open champ has a spring in his step. Adrian Meronk scramble a fine par on 11 after lashing his tee shot into the trees down the right, an up and down from the fringe doing the trick there. He remains -2. Meanwhile the 2003 champion Mike Weir, who hit the first shot of this year’s tournament, is in the clubhouse with a level-par 72.
Victor Hovland joins Cameron Young at the top of the leader board at -3. He clips his tee shot at 6 into the heart of the green, before draining a relatively straight 15-footer for his first birdie of the day (to go along with that eagle on 2). There’s a chance he’ll have the lead all to himself soon, because Young looks to have driven into a bit of trouble down the left of 5. Meanwhile birdie at 7 for Shane Lowry, who hasn’t been in particularly great form this season, but will gain succour from memories of his third-place finish here last year. He’s -1.
Patrick Reed isn’t too far away from draining a monster eagle putt up the slope at 8. He settles for a birdie that brings the 2018 champion to -2. Birdie meanwhile for Hideki Matsuyama at 2; the 2021 champion is going around with the reigning Open champion Cameron Smith, who also birdies the downhill par-five. They’re both -1 early doors.
Sighs around the 5th green as Tiger takes three putts for bogey and slips further back to +2. He’s sweating quite a bit, feeling the heat both literally and figuratively. Meanwhile fine pars for his partners Schauffele and Hovland, the former getting up and down from a swale at the back of the green, the latter creaming his second onto the dancefloor from pine straw, 200 yards out, and only just missing the birdie putt. Meanwhile eagle-eyed leader-board enthusiasts will have noticed a bounceback birdie for Adrian Meronk at 10, reward for a stunning second from 200 yards to kick-in distance. He rejoins the group just one off Cam Young’s lead at -2.
This is a brilliant response by Jon Rahm to that farce on 1. He chips up at the short par-four 3rd to six feet, then rolls in the birdie putt to return to level par. He’s going round with Cameron Young and Justin Thomas, who both make their birdie as well. That’s back-to-back birdies for JT, but three in a row to start for Cam Young. The Match Play runner-up becomes the first player to reach the -3 mark and leads the Masters!
-3: Young (3)
-2: Meronk (10), Garcia (8), Hovland (5), Schauffele (5), Scott (4), Thomas (3)
Birdie for Sergio at the par-five 8th! There weren’t too many folk talking about Garcia earlier this week, the Spanish veteran and LIV defector having long given the impression that he doesn’t really care any more. Then again, Seve won two green jackets, Jose Maria Olazabal won two green jackets, and perhaps with expectations low and the pressure off, he fancies his chances of joining his countrymen as a multiple winner on the Augusta National boards. Let’s not get too excited yet, but then look at Tiger in 2019, or Phil at the PGA last year. Or Sergio here in 2017 come to that. He’s -2.
A lot of smart money will be on Cameron Young this week. A tie for third at last year’s PGA, then runner-up finishes at the Open and last month’s Match Play, and the 25-year-old Floridian is edging ever closer to his first PGA Tour win. He’s opened with a pair of birdies to join the leaders at -2 … and he’s alongside the 2013 winner Adam Scott, who’s made back-to-back birdies of his own at 2 and 3. Birdie too for Xander Schauffele at 4, a fine eight-foot par saver for his playing partner Victor Hovland after a woeful misread left him in trouble, and bogey at 9 for Adriam Meronk, means there’s a new look to the toppermost of the puttermost.
-2: Hovland (4), Schauffele (4), Scott (3), Young (2)
-1: Stallings (12), Meronk (9), Garcia (7), Higa (7), Reed (7), Power (6), Bradley (5), Cantlay (3), Thomas (2)
Of course, slow starts needn’t necessarily put an end to one’s dreams. Tiger played the front nine in 40 strokes on the Thursday of 1997, before coming back in 30, going on to set a tournament record of -18 that was only beaten by Dustin Johnson at the soft-playing November Masters of 2020. Rahm will do well to keep that in mind, and the lid on top of his simmering head. He looks to have repaired the damage of that four-putt on 1 in one fell swoop at the par-five 2nd, dicing with the trees down the left, before whipping his second from 200 yards to 15 feet. But he can’t quite make the eagle putt, rolling it five feet past. He’s left himself a real knee-knocker given what went before, but he does well to tidy up and make a birdie. He’s +1 and will be feeling a little better about himself now.
The notoriously emotional Rahm will be in a hot funk after that fiasco. Also running a little hot: Tiger Woods, who fails to chip up the bank from the front of the short par-four 3rd and pays with a bogey. He’s +1.
Rahm four-putts the 1st!
A disastrous start to the round by Jon Rahm. He finds the centre of the 1st green in two, then races a 40-foot putt 12 feet past. The next one goes four feet past. The next one doesn’t drop. A four-putt double bogey, and while that’s not quite as bad as Ernie Els’ start to his tilt for the title in 2016 – a six-putt quintuple – that’s a hammer blow for one of the pre-tournament favourites. Rahm is already +2 in the blink of an eye.
The 1987 winner Sandy Lyle, making his 42nd and final Masters appearance, opened with an eventful bogey: a pushed drive into trees followed by a left-handed second shot that resulted in a broken club and his ball hitting a nearby cameraman. More bogeys at 4, 5 and 9 mean the great man hits the turn in 40. He’s +4 and is propped up on the leader board only by Alex Noren, out in 41 after taking seven on the par-five 2nd, flaying his drive into filth down the left. Noren is +5.
A sensational eagle for Viktor Hovland at 2! He creams a 350-yard drive down the middle of the fairway, then whips a 5-iron to 15 feet. Tiger, on in three after finding sand from the tee, gives Hovland a read with his birdie effort (which doesn’t drop). Hovland curls in a glorious right-to-left breaker, and like Seamus Power before him, will be in receipt of some Masters crystal for his efforts. Birdie for Schauffele and just the par for Woods.
-2: Meronk (7), Hovland (2)
-1: Stallings (10), Henley (8), Garcia (6), Higa (7), Reed (5), Theegala (5), Power (4), Bradley (3), Schauffele (2)
Sergio Garcia joins the group at -1 with birdie at 6. The 2017 champion is going around with the 27-year-old Japanese debutant Kazuki Higa, who also cards a two to join him at -1. The diminutive Higa – just five foot two – made his major championship debut at the Open at St Andrews last year, but didn’t survive the cut.
Adrian Meronk became the first Polish player to win on the European Tour last year, with his victory at the Irish Open. He’s subsequently won the Australian Open, and now breaks more new ground as the first player to represent Poland at Augusta … and therefore the first from his country to lead the tournament outright. Pole position, if you will. You can have that for free. Meronk’s round so far has been quite the rollercoaster: two runs of bogey-birdie-birdie sandwiched by a solitary par. His latest birdie comes at 7, where he knocks his approach from 135 yards to seven feet, then pours in the putt.
-2: Meronk (7)
-1: Stallings (9), Henley (8), Reed (4), Theegala (4), Power (3), Bradley (2)
Tiger, Xander and Viktor all find the heart of the 1st with their second shots, then make no fuss of making two-putt pars. A steady start for the group with the loudest gallery. At the other end of the bedlam scale, it’s 2003 champion Mike Weir. He was paired with Kevin Na, but is now playing the back nine on his own after Na withdrew at the turn. He was +4 at the time. Weir is currently level par, after firing his tee shot at the famous par-three 12th to ten feet and rolling in the uphill putt for birdie.
As if making two holes-in-one on consecutive holes in yesterday’s par-three contest wasn’t achievement enough, Seamus Power nearly emulates Louis Oosthuizen’s 2012 albatross on 2. He creams his second downhill from 239 yards to five feet, and tidies up for the first eagle of the week. He’ll be given some lovely crystal by the committee for that; more importantly, having started with a bogey, he’s also now got a share of the lead at -1.
Meanwhile, apropos the aforementioned CBS theme, here’s Dan O: “Just making sure you’re aware of this. It’s pretty awful but also kind of cool? I only just heard it last year and still can’t really believe there’s a version with lyrics.” It is difficult to believe, yes. Nevertheless, all together everyone, you know the words: ♬ It’s the legions of Arnie’s Army and the Golden Bear’s throngs / and the wooden-shafted legend of Bobby Jones♯🎶
Here comes Tiger! The five-time living legend is going round with Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele today. Schauffele finished just the one shot behind Woods in 2019 and, while he missed the cut here last year for the first time in his career, is one of the favourites to win this week; he’s also got a tie for third (2021) on his CV. All three split the fairway.
Let’s bring everything right up to date, then, with the latest leader board … and for once, there’s some good news at Augusta for Greg Norman. The LIV bigwig will be pleased to see 2012 runner-up Louis Oosthuizen and 2018 winner Patrick Reed up there in the early standings. Sergio is level par through 3 as well. Norman has promised that, should one of the 18 LIV golfers playing here prevail at the end of the week, the other 17 will join him in celebration at the 18th green. Good luck organising that group hug should, say, to pick a couple of random names from a hat, Brooks or Bryson win.
-1: Stallings (7), Kisner (5), Oosthuizen (5), Reed (3), Theegala (3)
The final part of our Stuff Not Taking Long trilogy considers how quickly things can unravel at Augusta, as players from the days of Ken Venturi through Ed Sneed to Jordan Spieth can attest. Matthew McClean went on to birdie 4, hitting the heights of -2, at one point leading the Masters by two strokes. Not bad for an amateur debutant. But he immediately bogeyed 5, then made a hash of 7, slicing his drive deep into the trees down the right, then three-putting en route to a double-bogey 7. He drops back to +1 but will always have Augusta National, Thursday Morning.
It didn’t take long for someone to register the first birdie of the week, either. The 29-year-old amateur Matthew McClean, an optometrist from Belfast, won the US Mid-Amateur last year, and with it trips to this Masters and the US Open at Los Angeles Country Club in June. He’s made the dream start to his major-championship career by sticking his second from 180 yards to five feet and rolling in the putt. Let’s do the leader board thing again, if only to state for the record that McClean once led the Masters …
-1: McClean -a- (1)
E: Weir (2), Stallings (1)
Augusta National didn’t take long to claim its first victim. The 2003 champion Mike Weir hit the first shot in anger this year, and sliced it onto the 9th fairway. No matter! A wedge over the trees, followed by another from 86 yards to seven feet, saw him save his par. No such luck for partner Kevin Na, though: the 39-year-old Korean-Californian tugged his tee shot behind a tree down the left, then after chipping back out, flew the green and only just held it when chipping back up. A double to start, and there’s ten minutes of his life he’d like to have back. For what it’s worth – absolutely nothing, just to be clear – let’s do this …
E: Weir (1)
+2: Na (1)
The par-three contest was won yesterday afternoon by Tom Hoge. The 33-year-old North Carolinian is a late bloomer: a first PGA Tour win at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am last year, followed by a top-ten finish at the PGA Championship and a tie for third at last month’s Players. He made a hole-in-one at the 8th yesterday en route to a winning mark of -6, though in terms of sheer wow factor he was somewhat upstaged by Seamus Power’s back-to-back aces (!) on 8 and 9, and Scottie Scheffler’s slam-dunk ace on the final hole. Hoge also now has to go into serious battle with the knowledge that no player has followed up victory at the par-three contest with a Masters win in the same year, though Ray Floyd went close in 1990, eventually losing the main prize to Nick Faldo in a play-off.
If it makes Hoge feel any better, a dozen players have both the par-three contest and the Masters on their CV. While it’s true that only two of those won the Masters in a year subsequent to their par-three victory - Ben Crenshaw and Vijay Singh - that’s got to count for something, right?
The ceremonial opening tee shots were hit by Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. Just the 243 years and 11 Masters wins between them. It’s exactly six decades since the Golden Bear pulled on a green coat for the first time; in lieu of that tale, here’s the story of how he slipped into it for a third.
Weather report … and it’s going to be …
It’ll be warm today, albeit with the outside possibility of some thunderstorms in the afternoon. Hopefully they’ll swerve Augusta National. What appears to be swirling Augusta National is the wind, so low scores today may come at a premium.
There are more serious threats of thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon, plus a smattering of rain. Saturday is when things get serious: although the thunderstorm threat is low, the rain is expected to tip down in large enough quantities to put a stop to play. The wind will be up as well, so it’ll be a real Open-style scene. And then there’s Sunday, which isn’t expected to be so bad, but still a bit wet nonetheless. All good news for the longer hitters, mind you.
Should the worst happen, and the conclusion of the Masters is delayed until a fifth day for the first time since 1983, the forecast for Monday looks good. But here’s to that not being a factor whatsoever.
One thing worth pointing out to those fretting about any disruption to the natural rhythms of the Masters: the committee at Augusta National are a great bunch of lads, and are past masters at crowbarring the tournament into any manner of gaps so it can finish on Sunday as planned. There was a two-tee start on Sunday in 2019 to avoid thunderstorms late in the day; the 2003 edition was played over three days after rain washed out Thursday in its entirety. But of course we’ll see how things pan out. Bugger off, thunder! Do one, lightning!
Hello friends, and welcome to our live hole-by-hole coverage of the 87th edition of the Masters Tournament. There’s only one way to begin, isn’t there.
So many questions! Not enough answers! Can pre-tournament favourite Scottie Scheffler, the new Players champion, become only the fourth man to win consecutive Masters? He’ll join an elite club if he does: Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Tiger Woods. Or can Rory McIlroy, who shot 64 on Sunday last year to finish second, go one better this year and finally complete the holy grail of career grand slam? Again, exclusive club: Jack, Tiger, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen (and Augusta National co-founder Bobby Jones if you factor in the career slam in its original form).
Could Jon Rahm become the fourth Spaniard to pull on a green coat, after Seve, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia? Or will the true heir to Seve’s throne in Jordan Spieth – the lunacy of the driving, the heatseeking ability to find trouble, the other-worldly ability to escape from it in ever-entertaining fashion; it’s all there, don’t let the Mom’s-apple-pie image throw you off the scent – win a second Masters on a course of which he knows every inch?
The USA prevails more often than not, with 63 wins out of 86 to date. So who makes it 64? The reigning PGA champ Justin Thomas? Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa? Cameron Young, who had two top-three finishes in the majors last season, and just finished runner-up at the Match Play? Sam Burns, who won that Match Play? One of the major-championship nearly men such as Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau or Will Zalatoris, all of whom have finished strong at Augusta in the past?
Jason Day, runner-up in 2011, has been working his way back into form and loves this place. Im Sung-jae, runner-up in 2020, has three top-six finishes this calendar year. Justin Rose, runner-up in 2017, has been back in the winner’s circle this season and finished high at the Players. Hideki Matsuyama, the 2021 winner and fifth at Sawgrass? Reigning US Open champ Matt Fitzpatrick? Everyone’s new favourite Tom Kim? Amateur sensation Gordon Sargent? Any of those?
Or what about one of the crazy LIV kids? Open champion Cam Smith? The 2020 winner Dustin Johnson? Four-time major winner and Netflix brooder Brooks Koepka? The 2018 champion and festive-subpoena enthusiast Patrick Reed? No doubt a lot will be written about their presence, and Greg Norman’s lack of it, but unless Reed and Rory start throwing hands halfway down the 15th on Sunday afternoon, we promise to do our best to ignore the extraneous noise, concentrate on how everyone’s actually playing, and generally feel and spread the love.
Or what about Tiger? Well, y’know. But really. We’ve already learned to put nothing past him.
All those words, then, and still a fair chance that we’ve forgotten to mention the eventual winner. Ah well. We could go on for ever – Bryson! Bubba!! Sergio!!! - but what would be the point? There aren’t too many no-hopers in this field. So unwrap the green paper from a pimento cheese sandwich, pour yourself a long cool glass of iced tea, suck absent mindedly on a Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich, and settle down on the porch. We’ll get going here at 3pm BST, which translates as 10am in Georgia. Until then, we refer you back to the CBS theme, which you can find here on a one-hour loop.