The Masters: Scott poised for round two attackApril, 2014 Competitions
Defending champion one off Haas' lead
At the end of the week Adam Scott is due to return the Green Jacket that he has spent large periods of the past year admiring himself in.
On the evidence of this much-anticipated opening day the 33-year-old is the new favourite to slip into a second one.
The Australian matched his best opening effort, of last year and 2010, to finish just one adrift of Bill Haas. Others joining Scott on three under were Louis Oosthuizen and the player who beat the South African in the play-off in 2012, Bubba Watson.
The champion of two years ago was the only player not to drop a shot on a day of relatively high scoring given some nasty pin positions and typically rapid greens.
Scott’s round could have been somewhat better than the 69 he signed for – he had reached four under after repeating the birdie at the 10th in last year’s play-off but then found Rae’s Creek at the short 12th to give two shots back. A birdie followed at the 14th but that sandwiched missed chances at the two par 5s. The sub-70 return, though, was more than satisfactory.
“I was very happy with the way I played tee to green,” said Scott, who is bidding to become just the fourth player to defend at Augusta.
“It was really how you hope to come out and play at any Major, and especially the Masters. I was really solid. I got the most incredible ovation at the 12th tee and maybe I got a bit caught up in it. I hit the worse shot ever and my ball went into Rae’s Creek for the first time.
“There’s no doubt winning the Masters last year had me a little more comfortable on the first tee than I’ve ever been in the past, because I didn’t have the legs shaking and nerves jangling for six or seven holes like usual, so that was enjoyable for me.”
‘I got the most incredible ovation at the 12th tee and maybe I got a bit caught up in it’ – Adam Scott
Haas has made four previous cuts at Augusta but has nothing better than a tie for 20th. The American, whose father Jay tied for third in 1995, opened with a bogey but finished with a birdie to finish alone on top of the leaderboard.
This was the first time that Haas had broken 70 and he was particularly happy to get that particular monkey off his back.
“I knew about that stat before the round so to shoot in the 60s feels great,” Haas said. “There is a lot of golf left but I’m ecstatic with today.”
Pre-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy had three bogeys but four birdies meant he was off to a solid start and there was more to like than dislike about his opening round. Other fancied players – Jason Day and Ernie Els (75), Ian Poulter, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose (76), Dustin Johnson (77) Luke Donald (79) – would very gladly swap their struggles with the Northern Irishman.
Mickelson had two sevens – the first at the 7th which involved no trees nor sand but a lot of putting while the second, at the 15th, saw a pitch end up wet.
For McIlroy it was altogether more straightforward. He three-putted the 12th and 18th but this was a nice, settling start to a week that many believe could climax with the two-time Major winner making it three.
“It was a good day at the office, anything in red figures was a good effort out there,” McIlroy said. “When I saw the pin positions this morning I thought they didn’t want people to get too many under par.
“They’ve got the greens very fast already, by Sunday they are going to be pretty dicey. Going out on Friday afternoon I would not mind if they were a little gentler.”