2018 Masters: Day One Observations

Through one day at Augusta, Jordan Spieth has the lead. Here are some quick observations from the opening round.

Spieth

So, Spieth leads by two heading into Friday thanks in large part to a back nine that saw him make five straight birdies. He bogeyed the 18th, but even with that happening, it was a truly masterful display from a player who is so obviously built for this place that, as crazy as it sounds, it’s pretty easy to see him being the guy who passes Jack Nicklaus’ six Masters victories by the time his run is complete. For whatever reason, he just loves Augusta and what we’re seeing out of him so early in his career at this place is, frankly, absurd.

Those nine rounds with the lead is the record for the most in this tournament dating back to 1992, which considering that Spieth wasn’t born until 1993, seems like a pretty big deal.  In a day full of great play, one moment stood out for me in watching Spieth play that back nine. His shot into the par-3 16th was hit in a perfect position, taking the slope and allowing it to funnel down towards the hole. He would make the birdie putt, but that wasn’t the thing that stood out. Anyone who has watched the Masters has seen that shot from hundreds of players. What stuck out was Spieth’s reaction.

When Jack won the 1986 Masters, he hit a great approach at 16, and with the ball in the air, his son who was caddying for him at the time, asked for the ball to “be right”, and without missing a beat, Jack told him that it was. If there was an all-time #TourSauce bracket challenge, that one moment may be the favourite to win the whole thing, and on Thursday, Spieth had his own version. Right after he struck his Titleist, Spieth pretty much immediately started walking away from the tee because he knew it was good. He looked at the green for a second or two, but before ESPN could even cut away to the ball in the air, Spieth had lost interest. There was no reason for him to even watch it land. It was good.

We can all agree that things happen at this place all the time, and Spieth is no stranger to that. We all know what happened in 2016 that led to Danny Willett’s win, and Spieth also made a 9 last year on the 15 on Thursday. We can also all agree that there is a ton of golf left to be played, but nobody else makes it seem like there are so few holes left when they’re dialled in than Spieth, especially at Augusta. It’s not over by any means, but if Spieth keeps playing like this, I don’t know how anyone can chase him down.

Tiger

I really don’t know what to say about Tiger’s 73 other than to say that I don’t know how it wasn’t so much higher. He said to Tom Rinaldi after the round that he thought he played better than he scored, but I really don’t see how that’s possible. Sure, he hit a lot of good shots, but there was also some really loose ones in there, too. Let’s do a quick rundown:

  • He smashed a drive down the fairway on the 2nd, but put himself in the bunker with his approach.
  • He was way short on the par-3 4th, and ended up in the greenside trap.
  • Found another bunker off the tee on 5
  • Left himself too long for birdie on 8
  • Blew it way right on 9
  • Blew it even further right on 11, and followed that with a low scooter that ended up in the gallery
  • Put it in Rae’s Creek at 12
  • Left a birdie putt short on 13
  • And started 15 with these two shots:

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 8.44.04 PM.png

Yes, there were some great shots in there as well, particularly the drives on 2 and 3, and the approach on 14, but it’s hard to say that he didn’t deserve the score that he ended up with. If anything, it probably should have been higher, but that probably also means that he should be encouraged on some level. He should be thinking that there’s almost no way that he can hit that many poor shots again.

Sergio

Yikes.

Apparently after the round, Sergio made a comment about how he didn’t think he hit a bad shot in those five that ended up wet, and that may be true, but you kinda have to question the logic there. After, say, the first two go in the water, you have to think that maybe playing to a different area of the green would be the preferred play instead of just hoping that it would all work out better the next time. Maybe the pin was silly (as other players have suggested in recent years) and the green was too fast, but once you see it happening that way, you have to adjust, right?

Finau

I don’t have any idea how Tony Finau is doing this, but it’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out over not only the coming days, but weeks as well. I’m no doctor (shocking, I know), but given everything that sports has taught us over the years, there’s a pretty easy scenario to see here where Finau makes it progressively worse as the week goes on and it starts to affect his play. On top of that, it’s not like Augusta is a really flat piece of land. It’s going to be a real test for Finau, and hopefully there aren’t any long term consequences.

Side note: I loved his interview with Scott Van Pelt about the whole thing. Great questions from SVP were followed up by solid answers from Finau.

Rory

We don’t need to re-litigate Rory’s history at this place because we all know what has happened to him here over the years, but the thing that you have to remember is that even though he hasn’t won here yet, theoretically, the course is set up perfectly for him. From what we saw of it (more on that in a second), there wasn’t anything that stood out, aside from leaving a wedge short in the bunker on 7 that led to his only dropped shot of the day. He was really solid, and even though it’s most obvious take ever, he really seems like the guy that has the best chance to chase Spieth down of anyone that’s within shouting distance.

Fred Couples

Nothing put a smile on my face more on Thursday than this:

On top of the earliest celebration possible, rewind the video above and marvel at how good that bunker shot was. To land it on the green where Couples did was simply phenomenal.

Broadcast

We’ll end with a few notes on the broadcast. First off, it was great to see Pro Tracer used. I don’t need to tell anyone how much it adds to the experience of watching golf, but seeing it today was just such a welcome addition to the Masters experience, and it made me long for what could have been when we were watching Tiger traj his ball all over the property in his prime.

Having said that, the broadcast just didn’t deliver in the ways it needed to, which is, you know, showing golf shots. We didn’t see enough of Rory at all, especially given the fact that he was playing well. I’ve come to terms with the fact that we’ll probably never get full TV coverage like we get from FOX at the U.S. Open, but we should be able to see more than just players hitting putts on greens. Hopefully, it’ll be better over the next few days.

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