Date: April 06, 2018
Author: Martin Blake

WRAP: Spieth surges to Masters lead


Tony Finau made a remarkable recovery from his bung ankle, and Sergio Garcia imploded at the water on the 15th, while Tiger Woods began steadily. But it was the relentless Jordan Spieth who ended up on top of the leaderboard after day one of the Masters.

Spieth caught fire on the back nine with five consecutive birdies from the 13th to the 17th before an errant tee shot cost him a shot at the 18th. Ultimately he hit a gorgeous chip from beside the last green to take bogey and card a six-under 66.

The American, who won the Masters in 2015 at just 21 years of age, but threw the tournament away the following year with a calamitous back nine, leads by two shots.

He was even par through seven holes but an eagle at the par-five eighth hole set the tone for the rest of the day, and he carved up the back nine beginning with a two-putt birdie at the par-five 13th, short birdie putts and the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th to record five consecutive birdies for the first time in majors.

Spieth said a change of glove on the 13th, after his hand had slipped a few times, made the difference.

 “I started pin-seeking from there,’’ he said. “I had good numbers though, numbers where I could hit nice full shots and that makes a difference.’’

Finau is on the second line after a four-under 68 that surprised even him, having spectacularly rolled his left ankle while celebrating a hole-in-one during Wednesday’s par-three competition, a piece of footage that went around the world and left the American feeling “embarrassed’’.

It is his first Masters but he needed clearance from a doctor this morning after an MRI to ensure that his ankle was not broken. “The way I felt this morning wasn’t great,’’ he said. “There’s no way I would’ve thought I’d be in this position.’’

Matt Kucher also is at four-under while those in the chasing pack include Rory McIlroy (69) and Phil Mickelson (70). World No. 1 Dustin Johnson started with a one-over 73  while Justin Thomas had a slightly underwhelming 74 and Jason Day struggled to a 75.

Marc Leishman is the nearest Australian at 70, just outside the top 10.

Garcia’s troubles were a headline-grabber, the Spaniard who won the green jacket in 2017 self-destructing with an astonishing 13 shots at the par-five 15th hole, where he hit his six-iron second shot into the pond in front of the green, then consecutively pumped five more wedges into the water, most of them spinning back from the putting surface.

 “The ball just wouldn’t stop,’’ he said later after carding an 81 that ruins his chances of defending the championship. His 13 is the equal-highest score on any hole in Masters history, and the highest-ever by two at the 15th hole.

Woods was steady in his one-over 73, saying later it felt “awesome’’ to be back at Augusta National after a two-year absence. The former world No. 1 said his failure to birdie any of the four par-fives cost him.

 “I definitely didn’t score as well as I played. I hit the ball a little better than my score indicates.’’

Woods said he remained in the hunt. “This is a very bunched leaderboard and I think by the end of the week it’s going to be pretty crowded.’’

As for Spieth, he was philosophical. “It’s round one. I know as well as anybody that anything happens here at Augusta National. I’m not going to get ahead of myself.’’