• The Season Ticket

Masters 2018 | Round 1: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

2015 champion Jordan Spieth leads the 82nd Masters at Augusta by two shots after a fine 66 in Round 2. But the chasing pack includes the likes of Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, and Matt Kuchar. Here is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from Round 1 of the Masters.

THE GOOD

- Jordan Spieth’s record at Augusta.

Jordan Spieth has only played in 17 rounds at Augusta, and he has led after 9 of them. That is a pretty incredible record, and it definitely seems to be a case of horses for courses when it comes to the American at Augusta.

Spieth had no form to speak for much of this year, although a time out with mono hardly helped things. But the 24-year-old showed just enough last week in posting a T3 at the Houston Open, his first top 10 since January. https://twitter.com/TheMasters/status/982071059435286528

Two-time winner Bernhard Langer has often said that Augusta National is a second shot golf course, and there are few better players in the world than Spieth at putting his irons on the right places on greens. While his putting is famous, his pitching and chipping are truly exceptional, as demonstrated by a fantastic up-and-down at the last to save bogey and stay two clear.

This Masters is far from over, at least until Spieth faces 12 on Sunday, and his driving is still suspect under pressure. Yet, the field know already that Spieth is the man to beat.

- Rory McIlroy’s makes confident start

One of the positive things to come from Rory McIlroy’s collapse at the 2011 Masters is that he has become an accomplished front-runner. Anyone who has won over 20 times on the PGA and European Tours and four major championships knows how to win, but part of the problem for McIlroy is that he has not been in the position to do so.

That is why his start to the 2018 Masters has been so positive. His three-under-par 69 was the first time he has shot in the 60s in the first round of the Masters in seven years. That year, he led by four heading into the final round. A more mature McIlroy would not make the same mistakes.

This tweet from Justin Ray highlights how important a good start is for Rory: https://twitter.com/JustinRayGC/status/982069272959647746

While there would be some worry over some of the short iron shots the Northern Irishman played, he made some solid putts, and drove it a country mile. He is right where he needs to be.

- Tony Finau’s masterclass following ankle dislocation

One of the downsides of Tony Finau being in contention is not anything to do with him personally. It is that should he win the Masters, the video of his injury will be played until the end of time.

Not one for the faint-hearted, the American nastily dislocated his ankle when celebrating a hole-in-one at the par 3 contest. Not perturbed, Finau just popped it back in place. https://twitter.com/LukeDonald/status/982016218306678784

He showed no ill-effects on Thursday, shooting a comfortable four-under-par 68, to lie only two off the lead.

Rookies generally don’t win the Masters, but Finau has a lot of talent, and is the longest hitter on the PGA Tour.

Tony described it as “nothing short of a miracle”, and Augusta loves a miracle story.

THE BAD

- Tiger Woods’ driving

It is often said that the Masters does not get going until the back 9 on Sunday, but it is also vitally important to put yourself in a good position. The last 10 winners of the Masters have been in the top 10 after the opening day, but if there is any player who can overcome that, it is Tiger Woods.

After all, he was T-29 after the opening day in 2005 after Day 1, and ended up winning the tournament. If you are a big Tiger Woods fan, then there was plenty to ponder from the opening round. https://twitter.com/CBSSports/status/981905876591132672

In terms of winning the tournament, it is hard to see Tiger not making some more mistakes with the driver, which was costly on Thursday. He hit his drive way left on the first, another wayward one cost him a bogey at 11, and his driving prevented him from taking advantage of the par 5s on the back 9, as he played the par 5s in +1 for the round.

There were positives too, his putting looks rock solid, and you can see the fighter in him returning, the competitive juices are flowing. It is just that giving Jordan Spieth a seven-shot advantage after one round may be even too much for a great like Tiger.

- Rahm’s temperament

Jon Rahm has had an exceptional start to his professional career, rising to a high of World Number 2, and winning a number of high-quality events, including the Irish Open.

Yet, his position as World Number 2 got criticism in some corners considering his major record, unlike Thomas, Spieth and Johnson around him, Rahm is not only yet to win a major, but yet to finish higher than T23, which he achieved as an amateur in the 2016 US Open.

That is bound to change soon, but it is highly unlikely that he will be contending here, after a disappointing 75 in Round 1. Rahm was finely placed after 9 holes, before coming home in 39 shots to finish +3.

In comparison, Spieth took only 32 shots, Kuchar took 31, and playing partner McIlroy took 34 shots, and it left Rahm well adrift in the tournament.

Hitting the water twice on the back 9, it inspired a typically hostile reaction from the Spaniard, and called into question his temperament in majors again. Still only 23 years old, Rahm has plenty more opportunities to come though.

- Justin Thomas fails to fire

Nobody was in better form than Justin Thomas before The Masters, as he won the Honda Classic in February, as well as finishing 2nd and 4th in two World Golf Championships in March. Over a longer period of time, Thomas has won six times on the PGA Tour since the start of 2017, including the last major, the PGA Championship.

Thomas had a reasonable start here, and after birdieing the 12th, he was 1 under for the day, poised to attack the par 5s and post a great score. Thomas then bogeyed the 13th, giving a few shots back to the field, failed to birdie the 15th, and doubled the 16th, leaving him with a disappointing two-over-par 74.

Arguably nobody in the game can go on scoring runs like Thomas, at the recent WGC-Mexico, he came from nowhere to shoot 62-64 at the weekend to make a playoff. He has shot 59 on the PGA Tour, and 63 in the US Open, so he has the firepower to get back into it. But it is an uphill battle from here.

THE UGLY

- Sergio Garcia’s 13

A truly bizarre hole from Sergio Garcia ensures that he will almost certainly not play over the weekend at the 2018 Masters. The 15th hole was the scene of such joy last year, as his approach there led to a terrific eagle in the final round, as he went onto win. https://twitter.com/CBSSports/status/981975391941246977

One year later, he shot 10 shots more, as he tied the highest score ever on a single hole at Augusta, with a 13 on the par 5. Garcia put an amazing five balls in the water. The first shot was very unlucky, and could have set up an eagle chance, but landed on the false edge and rolled in.

Like a chronic gambler, who was trying to win back his lost money, Garcia then tried to play the perfect shot four more times, failing each time as the ball spinned back into the drink. This was not the average hacker’s 13, but it was a meltdown to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

Had Sergio lost the Masters last year, everybody would be ready with their ‘typical Sergio’ takes, but given the year that he has had, I am sure he will get over it.

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