Date: April 08, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Aussies make sluggish start

Australia’s tilt for a second green jacket has made a rocky start.

World No.1 Jason Day looked set to buck the trend, but a nasty closing stretch cost him five shots and an even-par 72, six shots off the pace of defending champion Jordan Spieth.

It meant not one of the five-strong Aussie contingent could find red numbers on a trying day.

In gusting winds around Augusta National, Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman were the next best of the Aussies with two-over-par 74s.

Pre-tournament fancy Adam Scott was unusually wayward in carding a flat 76, while fellow Queenslander Steve Bowditch shot a 79 as his battle with a nasty wrist injury raged.

Smith began with a bogey on the first, then added a double-bogey on the third to leave himself in early strife.

But the Masters rookie hit back with birdies on all the par fives after that point and only a late stumble with a three-putt on the par-3 16th knocking him back down the leaderboard.

Leishman, too, was a couple over through five holes, but hung tough and by the time he played a superb approach inside 2m on the 17th, he was able to move towards day two with a hint of momentum.

“To hit a good tee shot, good second shot and have a nice short putt (on 17) … then a nice little up-and-down on 18 was nice … so a good one tomorrow and hopefully get back in it,” Leishman said.

“I hit some really good shots that finished in terrible positions.

“The way the wind was switching and it swirls a lot … all of a sudden you’re in a spot when a (bogey) is a good score.

“On a day like today, it’s important to let things not get out of hand. It’s really tough out there, especially with the greens so fast.

“It’s interesting, but it’s fun. I grew up in the wind and I enjoy this stuff and it’s not just windy for me.”

But the story wasn’t the same for Scott who just couldn’t find his rhythm.

The 2013 champion took six bogeys and, amazingly, found birdies on the tough 6th and 11th holes to prevent shooting himself out of contention.

Remarkably, Scott could not make a birdie on any of the par-5s that he normally gobbles up.

Sadly, Bowditch just hasn’t had the time for the preparations he’d have loved for his second trip to Augusta. Battling a painful wrist injury and other recent dental issues, he just couldn’t find his groove.

Bowditch opened with bogey, then took a penalty drop en route to a double-bogey on the par-5 second hole.

He managed a birdie on the eighth, but couldn’t take advantage of a couple of late opportunities to finish at seven over the card and needing a huge second round to make the cut.