The conditions in the first round of The Masters were less than ideal. It was cold (high of low 60s) and the 20-30mph winds — with gusts up to 40mph — swirled around Augusta National. It was a bit tamer for the players who teed off in the morning wave and it was at its worst when the guys in the afternoon draw were starting their rounds.
We saw tons of guys backing off shots (things moved at a very slow pace, but that’s expected with such difficult conditions), misjudging the sneaky whirling winds and gusts, and making a a couple big numbers on holes — the most significant, of course, was Jordan Spieth’s quadruple-bogey 9 on no. 15 — but we also witnessed some pretty impressive play when Augusta National bore all of its teeth as the afternoon rolled around and the wind picked up notably.
It’s almost unfathomable that Charley Hoffman managed to post a seven-under 65, except that we witnessed almost every shot (at least on the back nine). I can’t get over that he even had two bogeys. Yes, if you can do math, that means he had NINE birdies. Crazy. He golfed his ball really, really well. It’ll be interesting to see if he can back it up Friday.
If you missed any of it, Masters.com has a highlights video of Hoffman’s round (which unfortunately is not embeddable, but of course), showing all you need to see in under three minutes.
“For lack of any better words, it was a dream,” said Hoffman in his post-round presser, describing his play Thursday afternoon. “I mean, you hit the shots that you’re sort of looking at, and then the hardest part is to convert the putts and I was able to do that and I got some good numbers coming down the stretch and I was able to do that.
“A few weeks back, I sort of sat back on a week off and asked some people what I needed to do better, and asked myself what I needed to do better, and I just needed to believe a little bit more. I think I’m just starting to believe. This game’s tough and I’m starting to believe and obviously seeing putts go in and seeing shots where you want them to go helps the belief process a little bit.”
Mid-afternoon, I exchanged messages with The Augusta Chronicle’s Scott Michaux, who has covered every Masters since 1997, and he said, “Worst wind I’ve ever experienced here in the last couple hours. Way easier this morning. 2007 had some rough days, but nothing like this.”
However, the scoring average for Thursday equaled 75.071, the highest since 76.19 in the first round during the 2007 Masters, infamous for the poor weather that week and tough conditions. It’s arguable that Augusta National sets up and plays easier than it used to back in the day, according to some, including the likes of some guy named Tiger Woods.
Well, naturally, every single player that was stopped for quotes was asked about the grueling conditions, so that seems like the best way to get a sense of the difficulty players faced in the first round. And expect more of the same on Friday — the forecast appears to be similar, but possibly slightly less windy. Good news is the wave of crappy weather is supposed to change over the weekend, with warmer temperatures and much less wind.
OK. Let’s take it to quotes from the players! And we’re starting with Phil because Phil. Duh.
Phil Mickelson (71):
“Man, I love (the conditions). I thought anything at par or better was going to be a great score and it is. But because the greens are receptive, you can make birdies and you can stop balls on the greens and make easy pars on a lot of holes.
“The problem is there’s a lot of holes out here that you can have a big number and you just have to be careful of that.
“I love it.I love it around here especially because the wind is going to magnify your misses and a lot of the guys that aren’t familiar with this course and where you can go to on certain holes for certain pins will miss in the wrong spot and end up making big numbers.And because it’s, because I played here so many times and just kind of know where to go.
“I might miss it big, but I’ll miss it in the right spot and I’ll have a good chance to salvage par.
“I remember the year Vijay won, (the wind) was brutal Thursday Friday and it was a lot tougher than this because simply the greens were firm. And when the greens were firm in this wind, you had to be even, they were a fraction the size that they are now.
“But if you landed on the green here, they will hold and they will receive and I thought that it was a great job, because it’s very playable, even in these challenging wind conditions.”
“I thought if anyone broke 70 today that would’ve been an unbelievable score. … That’s some golf. I’m walking off there, after my start, ecstatic with a 72, and he’s posting 65.”
Charley Hoffman (65):
“Obviously it was a tough day with the wind. The opening stretch, 1 is about as hard as it get. I was able to knock in about a 15‑footer for par there. And I made a decent par on 2, and then a 3‑putt on 3, which is a little unfortunate. Then I made a good long putt there on 4 for a birdie, and then a 3‑putt on 5. And then I sort of got it going there after that. Hit a good shot on 6. Then a good shot on 8 and 9, was able to convert for some birdies.
“Then actually hit a good one right underneath the hole on 10. A little disappointed I missed that one, a good spot to make a birdie. Then 11, I made a par. 12 was able to make a birdie which was nice. 13 was sort of a momentum saver, hit it in the water in two and made it up‑and‑down for par to keep the round going, which was one of the bigger keys of the round.
“After that, got the putter going. Made nice long putts on 14 and 15, then I hit it close on 16, 17, and had a look on 18 to make it five in a row but lacked a little steam and obviously very happy with the 7‑under.
“A little bit lucky (referring to shooting 65). Fortunate I put myself in spots to be able to make putts. Doesn’t mean you’re going to make them out here. I was able to make some longer putts, which you’re just trying to die it up there close to the hole, and they were able to go in.
“It blew all day. I don’t think it laid down any. The wind definitely affected the three‑putts. The putt on 3 was up over the hill and downwind and once you get it going toward the front of the green, it tends not to stop. I had a good look. Hit a good putt for par, but it didn’t go in.
“I was up and over the hill on 5, and just I thought it was going to race downhill, downwind a little bit more than it did, and it sort of came up short about 10, 12 feet and wasn’t able to convert that. The wind did play a role in those putts.”
Fred Couples (73), who played in his first Masters in 1983:
“It was hard. It was windy. I’ve never seen it like this. You have to putt well. To shoot even par was a really good score. It was really, really difficult. I was telling him that what I did well was I judged the shots into the wind exceptionally well today. And that was just getting the ball up around the greens, you know…
“I may have had a good score and it was really, really windy. And personally, I don’t want it to be like this for four days, if I’m here four days. But it was good to have it really blowing hard for me, because I felt like I’m not hitting it great. And if it was calm and nice, a 73 or 4 would be not a very good score. I don’t feel I’m capable of shooting ‑‑ I’m now learning, this is a long, hard course for me. It’s coming fast, these driver, 5‑irons and 4‑irons and the holes, they’re a lot harder than 7‑irons.”
Ernie Els (72):
“I played good golf on the back nine and I got to keep doing what I did. We are going to be absolutely exhausted by the end of this week, if this weather keeps up. This is some of the toughest conditions I’ve ever played in…
“I’m kind of a linksy, I wouldn’t say a specialist, but I like to play linksy golf and I kind of played the same shots today. The greens were quite receptive because of the rain, so you could play that low shot. Normally, Augusta National doesn’t receive that low shot, but today it did.
I just kept doing that and got my driver in the fairway a lot of times, so just kind of played solid on the back nine. “
Bubba Watson (74):
“Obviously Charley Hoffman played (in) better conditions than us. He played the member tee…
“It was tough. I would say right offhand there was probably three times that I’ve misjudged the wind. Three‑putt on the first hole doesn’t help. And then misjudged the wind with clubs at least three times, could have been four. I remember three in my head.
“But, no, it’s not really adjusting. You know it’s going to be difficult, so it’s just guessing right on the putts, if the wind is going to affect the putt. If it’s into us ‑‑ if it’s a crosswind, is it really a crosswind or is it into the wind a yard or two or down and a yard or two? That changes everything on a 180‑yard shot. It makes it tough. It wasn’t really adjusting, it was just getting lucky, I guess you’d say.”
Justin Rose (71):
“It was certainly very, very tough out there. I haven’t played this course in a heavy wind like this before, or certainly nothing this heavy. And there’s no respite out there. Even simple tap‑ins aren’t simple. I found that was the toughest thing for me.
“The first 12 holes I didn’t miss a shot tee to green, but just making putts I found incredibly difficult. When the greens are this fast, the wind has a significant affect on them.
“I mean, the third hole, for example, had a putt that was just left‑to‑right, across the slope, and a gust of wind hit it mid putt and then it caught like a little down slope four foot past the hole and then went 10 feet by.
“So little things like that, they can unnerve you early in your round, but to me, I managed to get the putting going a little bit and made some good putts around the turn. But, yeah, everything was a challenge today.”
Kevin Kisner (74):
“The gusts was what was incredible. Scotty had a 2‑footer on 14 that blew to 12 feet. And just like the wedge shot on 15, who knows what’s going to happen.
“You’re trying to hit these small targets and the wind’s going from 15 to 20 to 40. It’s just incredible trying to hit those numbers.
“Through nine holes it was like, you know, it’s not terrible, you can still make birdies. But then when I was on about 14, I thought they might pull us off. Because his ball’s rolling, I noticed guys in front of us, their ball was rolling.
“Those gusts an hour ago were as big as I’ve ever played in. Felt like British Open gusts. So hopefully it keeps gusting like hell.”
Jon Rahm (73):
“It’s not easy to make putts, that’s the main thing. And when the wind blows, it’s really, really hard, it’s a tough golf course. I didn’t know what to expect coming out today, because there’s not many days where the wind blows as hard as it’s been blowing today. And to have my first Masters appearance and having played only three rounds before, like I said, I had no idea what to expect, which was kind of nice, right? I had nothing on my mind, I just went out there and played golf.
“I hit a horrible first tee shot, the greatest second shot I probably will ever hit on this golf course and then that had the round going. I played great golf, just a couple misses towards the end and a couple of missed putts early makes it a little worse score than what I feel like. So that’s always good if you feel like you’re playing better than what you shoot.”
Thomas Pieters (72 — but was five-under until he reached Amen Corner…):
“I didn’t miss a shot the first 10 holes.And I feel like I didn’t really miss any today.It might look like it on the back nine, but I feel like I really didn’t.I’m very happy with the way I’m striking the ball…
“The last eight, nine holes were ‑‑ right now the wind’s picking up and it’s not really consistent. If you catch the wrong gust at the wrong time, then you look stupid. Like I did on 12. But that’s just Augusta, I guess.”
Adam Scott (75):
“I did a lot of good stuff out there considering conditions are really tough. But two three‑putts to finish kind of sour’s the day’s work.
“It’s getting very, very difficult. The gusts are very hard. You can’t predict them and they can be very damaging for any shot.
“So, you know, I don’t think ‑‑ it could have been worse for me today. I would have liked to have putt better from six to ten feet, but it’s very difficult when the wind is blowing really hard and you don’t have complete control over the golf ball.
“(It’s) very difficult on some of the slopey areas of the greens or on long putts. My putt on the last ‑‑ I’m putting from 45 feet up the hill straight downwind. And once it was on top it was just rolling like it was flying. It’s very hard. You’ve got to hit it hard enough to get up the hill but then very hard to judge how to hit it. And putts lose speed and break a lot here, and you add a gust of 30 miles an hour into it, you’re really not controlling the ball.
“I had a ball that was three feet from the hole. I’d marked it, put it back, and it rolled to 12 feet. So it’s very difficult conditions and borderline today.
“It’s up there (of the most difficult conditions he’s played in at Augusta National). I can remember Friday of ’07 with the cold and that stands out to me as the hardest day here. I think we’re really lucky we had a little rain overnight because if the greens were firm like they were in ’07, I don’t know how we would have played today. Like I said, it was borderline, anyway, all swirling around. And that’s when you know it’s very difficult.”
Jordan Spieth (75):
“The tough part here is that a lot of it’s shielded. And so trusting how much is up there when obviously if you’re five yards off on this golf course you could be in a very, very bad location. That’s the toughest part.
“So we have another day of it tomorrow. I think I learned a lot about the golf course today and the expectation for where to take advantage and where not to.
“And the weekend it looks like there’s going to be no wind. It looks something like single digits might win this tournament. And I certainly can post single digit under par at this point ‑‑ got three rounds to go.”
Matt Fitzpatrick (71):
“It was tough. There’s no one going out there shooting an unbelievably low score. Obviously Thomas Pieters had it going early, but it sort of went away on the back. But I think that that’s the thing around here, you just got to be so patient and every shot you got to think about it. You got to think about how you’re hitting it and how far you’re hitting it and you got to always be switched on, so…”
Fitzpatrick teed off in the morning wave and clearly turned out to be wrong since Hoffman pulled off a 65, but many probably assumed or thought the same. Which also speaks again to how well Hoffman played.
More fun in the wind Friday!
I’m sure you know by now, but Rory McIlroy managed to grind out an even-par 72 after a frustratingly slow start. He turned it up a notch and got *that* look in his eyes, like, watch out, world. He was three-over through 12 and thanks to a bit of luck on 13, he went on to make three birdies coming in and a big par save on the 18th. In the past, we’re more used to seeing Rory turn what could’ve been a 68 into a 72 or a 72 into a 75, but he did the opposite on Thursday, which is a promising sign. And at even-par he’s right where he needs to be — in the mix.
“They don’t give out green jackets on Thursdays,” said McIlroy.
P.P.S. Thanks to the 420 or so people for joining the WUP Masters Pool! Thrilled with how many of you guys signed up on such short notice — like less than 12 hours before the first tee time. And special shout-out to all those for the contributions/donations. Very much appreciated!
You can check the standings in real time (or very close to it) throughout the day here. After Day 1, Deanosaurus and Andrew77 are tied for the lead at -3. Good job, but refer to above Rory quote. Ha. Just kidding. If you missed it, I announced another cool product that will go to one of the lucky winners. And holy crap, I really am good at talking and rambling for a very long time. I’m so sorry to everyone who has to deal with that in real life. Well, it was a great reminder and reality check re: self-awareness, and something to work on.
Thanks to those for participating and magnifying my ADHD with the comments. Keep them coming. That’s something else I need to learn how to ignore better and stay on-topic. So, hey guys, appreciate the help reminding me of my weaknesses! Big self-esteem boost!
You can watch the reply here.