Jordan Spieth posted a superb opening round of 64 to lead The Masters by three shots from Charley Hoffman, Justin Rose, Ernie Els and Jason Day. World Number 1 Rory McIlroy shot 71.
Spieth has been on a superb run of form of late and has clearly carried it into the year’s first Major championship. In his last three starts coming in to Augusta, he’s finished 1st, 2nd and 2nd.
The youngster, who also finished as runner-up to Bubba Watson in the 2014 Masters, carded nine birdies and suffered just one bogey in his eight-under-par round. The 21-year-old’s only slip came at the par-5 15th where he played a poor pitch and three-putted for a bogey. Before that, a course record 62 had looked a distinct possibility.
“To shoot 64 at Augusta, it’s my first round under 70 although I played well last year, I am excited about that,” he said. “When I was there on 15 I knew if I could birdie there and get one more on the way in I would get to 10-under. I’ve never shot 10-under in a professional round and obviously here that would be special. Unfortunately I took the wrong club and made bogey but eight-under round here is nothing to complain about. I didn’t know where I was on 13 and 14 but then saw the scoreboard and maybe tried to push it a bit.”
Of Spieth’s nearest challengers on five-under-par, Ernie Els is perhaps the surprise package. Coming into this event, the South African hadn’t posted a top-10 finish anywhere all season. But he has six top-10 finishes at Augusta and has twice finished in second place. Els played in his first Masters back in 1994 – the year after Jordan Spieth was born.
England’s Justin Rose also scored a five-under-par 67. He has led or co-led at some point in every round at Augusta, but he’s keen not to get ahead of himself.
“One thing I’ve learned on this golf course is that if you do make a bogey or two, when you start to chase around here to make up for it, it’s not always the best decision,” he said. “I’ve definitely learned the hard way a couple of times, which was obviously a good experience.”
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy opened with a 71 to finish the day seven shots behind Spieth. The 25-year-old is looking to complete the “Career Grand Slam” with a victory this week. He was satisfied with his performance.
“I just kept telling myself to be patient out there,” McIlroy said. “It was a round that could have got away from me. I just stayed patient, realising it’s a 72-hole tournament and not having to press too much. It’s good to get into red numbers,” he said. “I obviously know what I can achieve this week but I am not letting myself think about it too much.”
McIlroy finished with the same score as the evergreen Tom Watson. The 65-year-old had four birdies and just three bogeys in his opening 71.
Former World Number 1 Tiger Woods battled to an opening 73. For much of the round he looked far from comfortable, playing some strange shots and delivering a mixed bag of numbers over his first 13 holes. He made just four pars in the first 13, but then tightened things up to finish with five straight pars.
“It was a good day,” he said. “I felt good out there, probably made two dumb mistakes. I struggled with the pace of the greens, I couldn’t believe how slow they were.”
U.S Masters Leaderboard After Day 1
1 Jordan Spieth (USA) 64
T2 Charley Hoffman (USA) 67
T2 Justin Rose (Eng) 67
T2 Ernie Els (RSA) 67
T2 Jason Day (Aus) 67
T6 Russell Henley (USA) 68
T6 Sergio Garcia (Esp) 68
T8 Bill Haas (USA) 69
T8 Webb Simpson (USA) 69
T8 Paul Casey (Eng) 69
T8 Ryan Palmer (USA) 69
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage