Apr 07, 2017: Thomas Pieters got off to a hot start on Thursday with birdies on Nos. 2, 4, 5, 8 and 10, but the Belgian gave those shots back on the final eight holes, including a double bogey on No. 18, to finish the opening round at even-par 72.
Pieters, however, did not make excuses for his play on the second nine. In fact, he saw no reason to.
“I didn’t miss a shot the first 10 holes, and I feel like I didn’t really miss any today,” Pieters said. “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. I missed a couple of putts, but everybody’s going to miss a couple.
“I know I’m hitting it well, I just have to stay really, really patient. And I think did I a good job with that.”
Nowhere at Augusta National do gusting, swirling winds wreak havoc more than at the par-3 No. 12. Given the fronting Rae’s Creek, players are loath to under-club. The hole, at 155 yards and the shortest on the course, ranked fifth in difficulty in Thursday’s opening round, playing to an average of 3.312 strokes. It yielded only six birdies all day.
“Twelve’s dicey,” said Rickie Fowler, who hit his tee shot just over the right portion of the green and got up-and-down for par en route to shooting 1-over-par 73. The wind, he said, was “kind of just quartering enough off the right where there’s some hurt, but if you ride the wind it almost starts helping. So you will see some guys long, some guys short.”
Phil Mickelson shared that sentiment. “Twelve’s going to be a big one,” he said, adding, that “the wind was switching while I was standing over it.” Like Fowler, Mickelson played safely past the flag. He two-putted from 34 feet for par and went on to shoot 1-under 71, to place him in a tie for fourth.
Thirty years after his stirring Masters playoff victory, Larry Mize shot a 2-over-par 74 in blustery conditions to earn a share of 26th place. The 58-year-old Augusta native bogeyed Nos. 1 and 6 to turn at 38 before playing the second nine in even par. His lone birdie of the day came at the par-3 170-yard 16th, where he hit a 5-iron to 15 feet and sank the hard-breaking right-to-left putt.
“I’m pleased with it,” Mize said of his round. He said the competitor in him knew he could have saved a few strokes, “but all in all it was a solid round.”
Mize has made the cut in two of the past three Masters. Last year he finished tied for 52nd place.
Andy Sullivan had four birdies on Thursday to turn in a solid 1-under-par 71 in the first round. One of those birdies came under duress on the tough 18th hole, as the Englishman was hurrying to reach the Clubhouse.
“I felt like I played well enough to shoot under par today, and it just felt like it capped the day off there to hole one in the last,” Sullivan said. “But I was literally trying to run up the hill there to go to the restroom real quick. I was literally bursting. It was horrible. (Playing partner Adam Scott) was taking his time, and I was like, man, come on, hurry up. It was brutal. Brutal.”