Friday, January 19, 2018
Golf

Day 1 at the Masters

Defending champ struggles

Bubba Watson jokingly said this week his goal for this Masters was to make the cut. As the defending champion, he didn't want to sit around all weekend before presenting the new champion with the green jacket. But after shooting 3-over 75. … "I hit the ball really well. I can't complain about my ball-striking," said Watson, who made just one birdie and recorded four bogeys. "I had four three-putts. Well, it's really three three-putts, and one was on the fringe. I never got the speed right; never got the ball to the hole. The (greens) were slower than what I was expecting." Watson was tied for 64th. The top 50 and ties make the cut.

An inconsistent round

Rickie Fowler opened his round with a double bogey. He started his back nine with another double bogey. The other 16 holes? Pretty good. Fowler posted six birdies — including at the holes after each double bogey — and one eagle to shoot 4-under 68, his best Masters round among nine. Fowler became the first player since Raymond Floyd in 1992 to shoot in the 60s despite two double bogeys. "I'm usually pretty good with bounce backs. (Those birdies) just happened at the right time to calm myself down," said Fowler, who finished 27th in 2012 and 38th in 2011. "There are probably some people who were laughing at that (up-and-down card). I just had to stay in the moment and keep swinging."

Shot of the day

Jamie Donaldson had a hole-in-one at the 180-yard par-3 No. 6. It was the 24th in Masters history and fifth at the hole known as Juniper, which features a towering tee box and a green at the bottom of a hill. Donaldson, 37, of Wales, shot 2-over 74.

Information from Times wires, pgatour.com and golfchannel.com was used in this report.

Only a little bit of teen angst

At 14, China's Guan Tianlang was the youngest player to ever qualify for the Masters. Guan got off to a shaky start, making bogey on the first hole, but he showed poise. After making birdie at No. 3, he pumped his right fist. From there, he had four bogeys and three birdies, including at No. 18, for 1-over 73. Guan hit just 8 of 18 greens in regulation and averaged 275 yards off the tee. But he needed just 25 putts. "The main thing is just enjoy the tournament," Guan said, "and have some fun." Guan, who admitted he was nervous before the round, was followed by his parents and several friends of the family. But inside the ropes, he relied heavily on his playing partner, two-time Masters champion and 61-year-old Ben Crenshaw. "He played like a veteran," Crenshaw, who shot 8-over 80 said of Guan. "He played a beautiful round of golf. He stays well within himself. He's very confident and, obviously, has beautiful hands. His thought process never got rushed; very patient; very, very, very impressive."

A G'day for the Aussie

When Marc Leishman played the Masters three years ago, he found himself thinking about what he'd seen on television while growing up in Australia. "I probably should have come here a few more times before the tournament," he said of his only Masters appearance before this week. "But I didn't. And I found myself (thinking of the past), which wasn't great." Neither were his scores: a 72 and 79 to miss the cut. "The first time was a deer in headlights," Leishman, 29, said. "I hit it in a lot of bad spots. And I think I learned a lot by doing that. You just put all your mistakes in the memory bank and try and not make them again." Thursday, Leishman shot 66 for a share of the lead. He recorded just one bogey and seven birdies, including four in a row from Nos. 13-16. The last came from across the green, or as Leishman put it, "another zip code." The key to Leishman's success? His practice round Wednesday, during which he birdied Nos. 10, 11 and 12 and eagled the par-5 No. 13. By the way, an Australian has never won the Masters. "It's good to know that it's possible," Leishman said, "because it felt impossible last time I was here."

'Solid' Tiger

Tiger Woods, seeking his fifth green jacket, stood four back after a 2-under 70. Wild at the start, including a tee shot that knocked a cup of beer out of a spectator's hand, he settled down, calling his day "solid." Woods, who has won three events this year, hit nine fairways and 13 greens in regulation but needed 30 putts. Those include a three-putt at No. 14 for bogey, and he managed only par on the par-5 No. 15, in which Woods missed the green after a massive drive and couldn't get up-and-down. "It's a good start," Woods said. "Some years, some guys shot 65 starting out here. But … I'm right there."

Remember me?

David Lynn held the lead for a bit at 4-under 68. It's the first Masters for the Englishman, 39. But at the 2012 PGA Championship, he finished second (though eight back) to Rory McIlroy. Lynn, who has won once in 16 years on the European Tour, said he gained confidence at the PGA: "I know when I'm on my game, I can compete."

Power couples

Skiing's Lindsey Vonn, left, girlfriend of Tiger Woods, and tennis' Caroline Wozniacki, girlfriend of Rory McIlroy, took in the action.

     
     
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