Apr
5
2012
Westwood leads, Tiger and Rory looming despite mediocre play (by their standards)
By Stephanie Wei under The Masters

Ugh, seriously?

Crazy first round, eh?

Lee Westwood fired a stellar five-under 67 to take a one-shot lead over Louis Oosthuizen and Peter Hanson. Tiger Woods “hit some of the worst golf swings ever today,” but he hung in there, stayed patient and shot an even-par 72 (T29).

 

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy opened with a double-bogey, knocked it in Rae’s Creek on on No. 13, and drove the ball as poorly as I’ve ever seen (I mean, I’m talking Phil Mickelson-esque and Rory’s nickname is “BMW, the Ultimate Driving Machine”), yet bounced back and closed with two consecutive birdies to card a one-under 71 (T14). Oh, he also parred the par-4 No. 10, the site of his legendary meltdown last year when he knocked it 40 yards left near the cabins that no one knew existed ’til then, so it was a relief to get that out of the way.

“There were a couple of tee shots out there that I wasn’t quite that comfortable with,” said the 22-year-old reigning U.S. Open champ. “But yeah, I mean, I was just missing a few out to the right and just not committing to aiming it down the right and releasing it and hitting a draw down there…

“I think just my patience paid off.  I stayed very patient out there and didn’t try and force things.  That paid off with two birdies at the end, which was nice.  I’m coming off the golf course a lot more pleased about my round than maybe I had have been if I would have just made two 4s.”

He said the two closing birdies would “make dinner taste a lot better tonight.”

Phil drove it everywhere but the fairway and lost a ball for the first time in his career at Augusta on No. 10, which ended up in a triple-bogey.  This week’s special contributor Brendan Prunty was on the scene, so check out his story. Despite the bumpy ride — I mean, he probably played the worst he could have for Phil here — he shot two-over 74.

Henrik Stenson, one of the funniest, genuinely good guys out here (probably in my top five favorites), was off to a fast start. He BOMBS the ball with his 3-wood (he also can’t really keep the ball in play with his driver), which he hits longer than most others with their drivers. Stenson eagled both par-5s on the front. Going into No. 18, he was five-under. Then, disaster struck — well, let’s just say a quadruple-bogey isn’t exactly the best way to end the day. How did he do that?!

“I hit it way left off the tee, a low hook, and the ball was playable in the bushes, so I went in there and got a small gap and didn’t manage to get it out, gets stuck, and then it’s like in a pretty worn spot in the pine needles where everybody has walked, and carved it up the fairway,” said Stenson, who is always a good sport regardless of his score. “The worst part of 18 was really over‑hitting the wedge and hitting it up in the crowds behind the green and then it took me four to get down from there.

“The fifth shot that I played is a foot from being stiff really.  Small margins, and obviously with hacking a few earlier, that just made it worse.  Finishing with an 8, I don’t think I’ve ever done that.”

Bleh, I was happy to see him play well, but he hasn’t been the most consistent guy in the last two years. Still, it would have been good momentum for him to hold the first-round lead (or a share of it).  Well, onwards!

As predicted the course played long and tough on Thursday, with lots of mud balls in fairways, not to mention some of the most difficult pin placements on the greens, which are usually reserved for Sunday. The higher the pin, the tougher the approach shot in the soft conditions at Augusta. The green coats were likely controlling scores, so they can let ’em go this weekend, which should lead to an exciting finish.

Well, let’s hope so. It’s already shaping up to be a good one…uh oh, there’s the Wei jinx!

 

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)