Key lessons from the tough opening day round at The Masters

  • April 9, 2021
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Plenty of lessons were served yesterday as the 85th edition of The Masters teed off at the Augusta National Golf Course. As expected, the 72-rounds invite-only event with a purse of close to Kshs 1.3 billion featuring elite 88 players did not disappoint:

The course is playing tough 

It was a spectacle to behold as the elite players seemed to struggle with some routine shots! It was not uncommon to see most of the players fail to reach the greens on regulation while three-putts were the order of the day on some greens. Why? The greens are firm and fast and the fickle wind is stretching the players to the limit.  Sample some comments from the players at the end of the first round…“There’s not much grass on a couple of those greens.” “It’s so hard to read that wind.” “ Guys are going to shoot themselves out of the golf tournament on Day One.” “You really have to use the slopes”.  During last year’s Masters which was held in November due to the delay occasioned by the onset of coronavirus, nine players shot 67 or lower in the opening round. Yesterday, Justin Rose was the only player to manage the feat. In fact, only three players managed to post a sub 70 round compared to 24 in November last year when the course was softer. In response to the challenging conditions, all the players, apart from Rose, seem to have opted for a cautious, defensive approach in the opening round. Today’s round will serve a different challenge as the players go flat out to make the cut and proceed to the lucrative weekend rounds.

Justin means business

Justin who? In the run up to the Masters, the only Justin that featured on the pundits’ radar was Justin Thomas. Many had long written off Justin Rose, justifiably so, granted the circumstances surrounding his preparations. The 40 year old English man hasn’t had a top-15 finish on the PGA Tour this season. Last month, he withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational due to back spasms. History, too, has not favoured him at Augusta. This is his 16th Masters appearance, having finished runner-up in 2015 and 2017. After a bad start yesterday where he was two over par in the opening seven holes, Rose played nine under par in the last 11 holes for a four stroke overnight lead.  This is the fourth time Rose is heading into the second round with the lead or co-lead at Augusta. Sadly, it has never counted for anything in the past but going by his aggressive and confident display in the opening round, this may just be Justin’s year of roses.

Forget World Ranking, form is everything

Only two players- Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson- in the top 10 of the World Golf Ranking, OWGR, managed to secure a top 10 finish at yesterday’s opening round. In fact, apart from the two, none of the big guns shot under par. Based on the OWGR, defending champion and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, John Rahm, Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau are heavily tipped to win the title at Augusta this week. However they all struggled yesterday and are currently more than seven shots behind the leader. Interestingly, overnight leader Rose is currently ranked 41st  in the world. Don’t expect the heavyweights to take it lying down…a feisty fight is on the cards today as they seek to charge up the leaderboard.

Jordan Spieth lines his putt- Courtesy Supersport

There’s life after a triple bogey

In one of the opening day’s bizarre occurrences, Jordan Spieth made a triple-bogey at the par four hole number nine! Blame it on an error of judgement or simply a rush of blood, Spieth almost got himself out of the tournament thanks to some dodgy putting after he had recovered well from a disastrous tee shot. Dropping to two over par, the 2015 Masters champion went on to birdie the 10th hole and chipped in for eagle on the 15th to finish one under par, six shots behind the overnight leader. A master of comebacks and a “veteran” of Augusta, the triple bogey could well be the turning point in Spieth’s quest for a second Green Jacket.

Forget distance, just plan well

In the run-up to The Masters, there was talk of how Bryson DeChambeau would tame the Augusta course. Specifically in his aggressive game plan aided by a new driver, the par fives were going to be child-play. “I’m looking at it as a par-67 for me,” he boasted in an interview last year. He was wrong. Yesterday, by the time DeChambeau was reaching the 12th hole, he was already five over par. Thanks to a late rally in the last six holes which saw him play one under for a four over 76, the US Open champion was staring a disaster on the opening day. Curiously, DeChambeau on most occasions was guilty of overshooting, going 10 to 12 yards beyond the flag. Simply, he failed to master the yardage well his wayward long tee shots notwithstanding. Starting the second round 11 shots behind the leader, will DeChambeau stick to his aggressive game plan which has failed him at Augusta on the last four occasions?

Catch all The Masters 2021 action live on DStv or stream matches on the DStv App.

The Masters broadcast details

Friday 9 April

16:15 EAT: Day 2, 2nd feed – LIVE on SuperSport Grandstand, SuperSport Golf and SuperSport Action

22:00 EAT: Main feed – LIVE on SuperSport Grandstand and SuperSport Golf

Saturday 10 April

17:15 EAT: Day 3, 2nd feed – LIVE on SuperSport Golf and SuperSport Variety 2

22:00 EAT: Main feed – LIVE on SuperSport Grandstand and SuperSport Golf

Sunday 11 April

17:15 EAT: Day 4, 2nd feed – LIVE on SuperSport Golf and SuperSport Action

22:00 EAT: Main feed – LIVE on SuperSport Grandstand and SuperSport Golf

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