12 April 2019: After seeming to peter out into a languid day for the longest time, the buzz of activity that hit Augusta National on Thursday was a spectacular way to finish the first round of the 83rd Masters. With a bunch of men sitting in the hut at 69 and the entire field past the bend, it felt like that much excepted low scores were to remain a mirage.
But without real notice, one after the other, Dustin Johnson (68), Ian Poulter (68) and Phil Mickelson (67) provided plenty of thrills as they brought the lead home one after the other. The grand finish though was reserved for Brooks Koepka (66) and Bryson DeChambeau (66) as they stamped their authority on the leaderboard with a finality.
Here are five takeaways from the first round of the Masters
- Tiger Woods is silken smooth and a big threat this week. He posted a 70 that had its share of memorable moments. “I felt like I played well and did all the things I needed to do to post a good number,” he said after his 2-under-par round, which he played with Jon Rahm of Spain and Haotong Li of China. “I drove it well, hit some good irons and my speed was good on the greens. It was tricky. The wind puffs up, it goes down, it switches directions. It just kind of swirls out there, and it is hard to get a bead on exactly what it is doing at all times,” he said. “I’ve improved a lot over the past 12, 14 months. But more than anything, I have proven that I can play at this level again. I’ve worked my way back into being one of the players that can win events.”
- Bogeys at 10 & 11 threatened to derail Phil Mickelson. But at 48 years and nine months, Mickelson showed why he was such a major threat with a composed 67 that put him right up the order, just one off the pace. “It was a lot of fun today,” said Mickelson, who last went this low on an opening round in 2010, the year he won this Tournament for the third time. “And fun to finish off the round. It’s fun to make a good par save on 17 and a birdie on the last. It’s fun to finish a good round off rather than leak one here or there coming in.”
- A magical back nine is how DeChambeau described his finish to a 66. It included five birdies in the last six holes. Between Koepka (three victories in his last six major-championship starts) and DeChambeau (five PGA Tour titles since the summer of 2017) they share a one-stroke advantage. More importantly, they used the first round of the Masters to remind everyone that the golfing elite is about to evolve and take a new face in the months and years to come.
- 28 of the 87 golfers broke par on opening day at the Masters. It was a tough grind for most of them as they were challenged by intriguing pin positions that demanded accuracy with the irons and touch around the tricky green complexes that call Augusta National their home. Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Francesco Molinari were among 10 players who shot 70. Justin Harding and Kiradech Aphibarnrat with tied in sixth with Kevin Kisner, Jon Rahm and Adam Scott.
- It wasn’t fun for a lot of the golfers. Justin Thomas (73), who is averaging 74.00in four first rounds in the Masters, endured another bruising start. Jordan Spieth had to play extremely well at the end to secure a 75. In fact, Thomas, Rose, Spieth and Casey produced six birdies in all. DeChambeau had nine on his card alone. Koepka had the only bogey-free round of the day