American Bill Haas compiled an opening four-under-par 68 at Augusta National to take a one-shot lead into the second round of the 2014 Masters
Bill Haas compiled an opening four-under-par 68 at Augusta National to take a one-shot lead into the second round of the 2014 Masters.
The in-form American turned in 34, birdied 13 and 14 and offset his only bogey of the day at 17 with a fine closing birdie to set the clubhouse lead.
He sits one clear of defending champion Adam Scott – who shot an opening 69 despite finding the water on the treacherous par-3 12th – Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson, who defied challenging afternoon conditions to take share of second.
Eighteen players are within three shots of the lead after the first round, including Brandt Snedeker, KJ Choi, Marc Leishman (all -2) and Rory McIlroy, who opened up with a solid one-under-par 71 to vindicate his pre-tournament assertions.
It was a struggle for Luke Donald and Justin Rose, though. The former was retrospectively penalised two shots for a rules breach on the 9th hole and carded an inauspicious 79, while Rose stumbled to a four-over-par 75.
Conditions certainly favoured the morning starters – the likes of Haas and McIlroy – with the course drying out throughout the day – a product of an increasingly strong wind.
That wind also made holes 11 and 12 far more difficult. Jordan Spieth likened the 11th to a par-5 and the zephyrs swirling above the treacherous par-3 12th caused numerous balls to disappear into water.
The pin ponsitions were uncharacteristically harsh for the opening round – holes 14, 16 and 18 spring immediately to mind – and the all-round examination was perhaps a touch more strenuous than the players expected. Still, this is a major championship.
Throughout the course of the day, we were constantly reminded that putting yourself in the right position on Augusta National’s slick greens is integral to success.
With conditions predicted to follow a similar formula and pin positions expected to be a little more accessible, look for some of today’s morning starters to shoot in the 60s.
Both Oosthuizen and Watson – who contested a play-off in 2012 – look in a strong position after excellent efforts in round one.
That said, tournament organisers seem keen to ensure Augusta National shows its teeth, so I wouldn’t be expecting too many kind pin placements.
McIlroy and Scott are among the late starters, and I’d suggest they’d both be more than content with rounds of 70 or 71.
In my view, anyone who is level-par after two rounds won’t be too far away heading into the weekend.