After the ceremonies and the smiles of the previous days, Thursdays at the Masters always bring us back to reality. And reality says that Augusta greens are no longer green, that they have a speed that is at the limit of legality and a hardness that would allow a truck to stop without leaving a single mark. This is achieved with very little water and shaving them with the trimmers flush. The margin of error is very small and the numbers show it. Only 12 players dropped par from the court. There were 29 players who could not make less than 76 strokes.
Reality struck for example Viktor Hovland, just a few minutes after the “starter” said his name. It took him seven strokes to finish the first hole. He also hit Rory McIlroy, and his hopes of completing the Grand Slam in his career, when his approach to hole 7 ended up hitting his father’s leg on the way to his third consecutive bogey. Not to mention Bryson De Chambeau, who never hit the distance with his irons. Also to Spieth when he made three putts from two meters on the 9th hole. It was a day of frustrations and anger for the best players in the world. Or perhaps it is normal to see a player who with the putt in hand sends his ball to swim in a lagoon, as happened to Bernd Weisberger in 15.
But it is strange to say that a court is too difficult when a Martian appears and makes 65 strokes (-7). In this case, Englishman Justin Rose turned on the lights on hole 8, when he was going +2, and from then on he did magic. Eagle, birdie, birdie, pair, birdie, birdie, pair, birdie, birdie, birdie, pair. Incidentally, he gave the organizers a good reason to continue on this path. The one to demand that the players who intend to compete for the prize, especially courage. Because it is clear that this Masters is not for cowards. But in addition to that, any aspiring to the green bag must exhibit great success in the exits, a supreme game of irons in the shots to the green, an absolute control of the chips and from the bunkers, and the subtlety and precision of a neurosurgeon on the devilish greens.
Opinions come and go but the Masters is supposed to be an extreme test of a player’s skills. At the end of the day the court ended up rewarding good shots and punishing bad ones a lot. Nobody can feel surprised, from the first day of practice they were like this. Flag positions, in the only Major ever played on the same court, are well known and are practiced extensively.
Kevin Kisner played the Amen Corner (Holes 11, 12 and 13) with three different wind directions. He did triple bogey, bogey and eagle. “Today I hit the ball as I rarely did in my career and I ended up doing par on the court.” He said exhausted after finishing. Only five months have passed since that week in which records were made at Augusta that will be maintained, almost certainly, forever. If you ask around here, you find many injured egos blaming the wind.
The four Latin Americans also suffered on this opening day of the 85th edition of the Masters. Perhaps the one who did it the most, and not so much because of his game, was the Mexican Abraham Ancer. He was penalized, after signing his card, with two strokes for having inadvertently touched the sand in the bunker on the 15th hole. With that fine, his 73 strokes on the court became 75 on the board.
The Chilean Joaquín Niemann started with a very long and very good drive on the first hole, which just got into the tall grass. Despite putting her on the green with second, she took three bogey putts. Not under par 5 on hole 2. The joy of the birdie on hole 9 lasted a sigh when he made a triple bogey on a difficult par 4 on hole 10. Another two bogeys and 2 birdies also left him at 75 (+3).
The Colombian Sebastián Muñoz fought as he usually does and alternated five bogeys and three birdies to finish in 74 (+2), and become the best of the group, located in position 31.
Finally it was the Mexican Carlos Ortíz who took the worst part. Four double bogeys and a total of 82 strokes (+10) are the example of a day that does not do justice to his talent or his history. Bad days have all the players.
The second round has already started. Will Rose be able to maintain such a level and that difference with the rest. It seems difficult. Among the mortals that follow him are, four strokes with -3, the left-hander Brian Harman and the Japanese Hideki Matsuyama. At five strokes at -2, he is followed by Americans Will Zalatoris, Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed, and South African Chritiaan Bezuidenhout.
A cloudy Friday weather awaits the players. I anticipate difficulties on a court that may play more difficult than yesterday. The cut is expected in a very high number. The 50 best scores and ties will pass. We will see what happens in a Masters that, for those who look from the outside, is very interesting.