Above the par of 2 after 7 holes, the Briton climbs with an eagle and 7 birdies and closes with 65 strokes
The Augusta National track for his Masters number 85 played his cards right from the start. And he did so by emphasizing that here it is not a question of power, that above all technique and strategy, feeling, good hands and a lot of patience are needed. You have to know how to think and place the ball for the next shot, “knowing how to attack but also being able to give up, bringing respect for this incredible track”, words of Tommy Fleetwood on the eve. Little rough, but hard and fast greens as not even Francesco Molinari remembers in the ten editions played. No backspin, difficult to stop the ball even with a short iron on the green.
What a Rose
Best of all was done by the forty-year-old Englishman Justin Rose, Olympic gold medalist at Rio 2016. In his 65, an uphill start, then an eagle at 8 and two birdies to follow; he also gained shots in the Amen Corner, then still growing at 15, 16 and 17. A clean game, great shots but without overdoing it, lots of woods off the tee and lots of holed putts. The longest drive? Only 270 meters. After all, with this match (he has played it 16 times) he has an account in the balance for having come close to winning on two occasions: the last in 2017 in the playoff against Sergio Garcia.
In the end, only 12 scores were below par, with Brian Harman (the American southpaw who was born and raised in Georgia) and the Japanese Hideki Matsuyama four shots behind the leader. Present Patrick Reed, Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton and Jordan Spieth. Not yet received, however, the super favorite Dustin Johnson (74 his score), who started the day by missing a beat and closed it by losing two at 18. But the Dustin Double is still within reach for a player who is in head of the world ranking, which in Augusta won less than five months ago (in the lead from the start and with five strokes of the margin), which of Masters has played ten. And who can count on solid play in all departments, with great finishes recently done around and on the green.
In 74, the expected Justin Thomas, Adam Scott, Brooks Koepka (with a recently operated knee), Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari also closed. Four bogeys, two birdies and many missed putts in the blue score. He had thrilled in 2019, in the lead after 54 perfect holes and again on Sunday after eleven; then two wrong holes and the disappointment of fifth place. “A shock” for him and his team, the comment of the player, which had compromised the performance of the following months. Then the forced stop of the pandemic, the change of life from London to Los Angeles and the missed cut at the autumn Masters. Poor some of the most respected players by bookmakers, 76 for Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau. The latter has a lot of credit among experts, especially Americans. Character of absolute importance who lives on numbers and statistics, who has given golf a new face, he invented sticks, swings and diets for great performances. Distances never seen before, but also pocketed putts and victories. Augusta, however, is not exactly made for him, here you often need good hands to work the ball around the trees, which he failed to do last November (he was the favorite, he finished 34th) and not even today. So everything is back as before at the Masters, which a year ago was forced to postpone the April edition to November. Low blow for the tournament of perfection, meticulously built year after year on a history and a ritual that have been repeated since 1934. Field and tournament were born together (opened twelve months before the track) to compete at the highest level, to fascinate, amaze, give a show and golf lesson, to involve its “patrons” (spectators who are as loyal as they are competent with many editions lived on the sidelines) as well as millions of people all over the world glued to the television. The November edition had been without an audience and without color.
The great absent
Tiger Woods, today’s big absentee, said after winning in 2019: “I’ve been playing this race for 22 years and I always see the same people around the tees and greens, with the badges of a lifetime of Masters. There are no such tournaments. Thanks to them the atmosphere is special, you hear the applause (only here cell phones are not allowed) and the roars of eagles and birdies, they are people who know golf and don’t clap just because you throw the ball up in the air. Here I have always felt, listened, it is exciting to be part of it ”. Everything speaks of him in Augusta, and his absence weighs heavily. So from Monday the Masters returned to its usual week (the second of April) it opened its doors to the public (albeit reduced) and fielded all its most beautiful flowers (it was a nursery before becoming the track of dreams ). And with the azaleas the deadly greens are back. The softer and more accommodating ground in November had in fact given the Masters and its champion Dustin Johnson the best score ever: 20 strokes under par. The previous record, minus 18, belonged to Jordan Spieth (2015) and Tiger Woods (1997). The highest score instead (even a shot above par), was signed by Zach Johnson in 2007, but also by Jack Burke Jr. (1956) and Sam Snead (1954). The highest gap from the second was inflicted by Tiger in 1997 (for him the first green jacket) to Tom Kite, twelve pitches behind. The big challenge started yesterday morning leaving behind the practice rounds, the expected Champions Dinner on Tuesday evening (only green jackets and a menu created and offered by defender Dustin Johnson), and then the opening ritual of each Masters from 1963. At 7.45 am the honor of the first shot entrusted to the golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player (nine titles in two in Augusta), this year together with Lee Elder, first black player of the tournament, 46 years ago. It was April 10, 1975 and getting on that tee opened up a world for future color champions. “It was a dream then like this morning, the same emotion,” he said. “And this invitation, received last November, allowed me to meet Tiger and exchange some thoughts with him, right here in front of the club house.”
T2 (69) Harman; Matsuyama
T4 (70) Zalatoris; Simpson; Bezuidenhout; Reed T8 (71) Kim; Kokrak; Lowry; Hatton; Spieth
T 13 (72) Thompson; Kisner; Champ; Shauffele; Rahm; Hughes; Leishman
T 20 (73) Swafford; Stenson; Todd; Conners; Ancer; Hovland; Casey; Woodland; Scheffler; Thomas; Morikawa ………
April 9, 2021 (change April 9, 2021 | 12:35)
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Golf, Rose stretches at the Augusta Masters. Molinari is 30th