Masters 2016: Els yips re-emerge in opening nine and Spieth on the clock
Els yips make unwanted piece of history
There has never been a Masters start like it. The previous worst score at the 1st hole was eight – Olin Browne and Scott Simpson in 1998, Billy Casper in 2001 and Jeev Milkha Singh in 2007 – Ernie Els began with a nine. It was reported for much of the day that he had gone into double figures.
The South African, who commented at the start of the year that he thought he had regained his putting stroke after being reliant on the long putter for years, took six putts from two feet. After not touching the hole on the first four occasions he then casually one-handed one and lipped out before the ball finally disappeared below ground.
Els had a horrible yip at the Dunhill Links last year and this year at the South African Open but those were nothing compared to this. It is horrific and nothing like anything you’ve seen before by a professional, let alone a recent Major winner.
He then missed for birdie from three feet at the next.
— Bunkers Paradise (@BunkersParadise) April 7, 2016
Leader Spieth put on the clock
Jordan Spieth’s threeball were put on the clock late in their opening round. The defending champion, playing alongside Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau, were overseen on the penultimate hole after falling out of position when DeChambeau found the water at the 15th hole and they then struggled at the 16th hole.
“It seemed a bit, in my opinion, unnecessary, with a hole and a half to go,” Spieth said. “But I’ve been on the clock with a hole to go. I’ve actually gotten a bad time with a hole to go. So it is what it is and it really is not a big deal.”
Casey added that he was surprised it hadn’t come a few holes earlier – “We were put on the clock on 17, which I’m surprised Steve Rintoul put us on the clock on 17. I’m surprised we weren’t on at 14 or 15. It just kind of snowballed a little bit.”
Of the opening 66 Spieth was delighted by the six-birdie start, particularly given that the face on his trusted driver cracked on Wednesday and he had to dial in a new one.
“I would have signed for two under and not even played the round, knowing the conditions that were coming up. I got a lot out of the round with what I felt like was kind of average-ish ballstriking. Just scored the ball extremely well, which is something I’ve been struggling with this season.”
That said the World No 2 and defending champion thought his early-season form wasn’t quite as worrying as some observers had made out.
“I’m still trying to figure out why people think I’ve been struggling. We’ve finished in the top 20 eight out of the last nine events, what am I supposed to do? That’s more consistent than I even was at the beginning of last year.”
Fowler records worst score at Augusta
Two years ago Rickie Fowler finished in the top five of all four Majors. Last year he was 12th here.
Now he looks like missing the cut after racking up his worst score at Augusta, an 80 which included an eight at the 13th, doubles at the 1st and 16th, and incredibly three birdies in his first five holes.
It was his eighth round of 78 or worse in a Major.
“Obviously golf is tough, and it’s a fine line, especially at this place,” he said. “It can go either way, and it definitely can go to the other way, the high-number way, a lot easier than it can the low.”
Rose joins the claw brigade
The claw grip has become a firm favourite with plenty of Tour stars and Justin Rose is a new devotee after trying it out only last week.
The 2015 runner-up had six birdies in a first-round 69 and explained that a lack of any ‘fireworks’ this season pressed him into giving it a go.
He said: “The putting grip was a big change for me. I have adopted the claw grip which is becoming more popular on Tour. I stumbled across it last week on my week off and it just felt too good to deny it. I second-guessed it a few times last week but it stayed true and I putted well.
“It wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I have putted OK this year but I feel if I am going to win the Masters I am going to have to putt great. I just felt in practice that it could benefit me. It was a gamble but I felt it was one worth taking.”
No nerves for DeChambeau
One birdie, one bogey for Bryson DeChambeau as the amateur star got his Masters career underway. In a world of robotic swings, attire and soundbites the Walker Cup star is a bit different – eg his irons are all the same length and each have their own name – and, as such, he didn’t suffer the same first-day nerves as any other debutant would despite playing alongside Jordan Spieth.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” DeChambeau said. “I had some adrenaline going but I stepped up there and striped it right down the left-center. Most people, I guess, say they’re nervous. But I’ve been saved by grace, so it doesn’t matter. This is just another golf shot out here. If I can perform to the highest level, great. If not, it’s an opportunity to show my grace and character.”
Of his playing partner he added: “We were walking up 18 and he said, “I don’t know what it is about this place. I just love putting here. I can see the lines.’ I was quite impressed with that.”
Player outguns an emotional Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus admitted that there was plenty of emotion as he and Gary Player got the Masters underway.
Arnold Palmer wasn’t part of the tradition due to health concerns but he was present to see his old contemporaries. And the Golden Bear paused to wipe away something in his eye with Palmer seated at his side.
“I don’t know whether I’ve got tears or just old,” Nicklaus said before hitting. I think that everybody was happy to see Arnold out on the tee. I think Arnold was happy to be on the tee. I think he would have preferred to hit a golf ball.
Nicklaus explained that he tried to persuade Palmer to hit a ball but it wasn’t to be.
“I said, ‘Arnold, when you’re out there, what if you up and hit, I don’t care if you putt it off the tee, I think everybody would love to have you do anything.’”
Player, who achieved his 31st hole-in-one at the Par 3, outdrove his friend by 20 yards and celebrated with his trademark kung-fu kick.
“I hit a pop-up,” Nicklaus said of his effort.
“Jack’s been outdriving me for years, so this seems fair,” Player said.