England’s Lee Westwood could’ve finished at 6-under, but he missed this birdie putt at 18 on Day 1 of the Masters in Augusta.
AUGUSTA — A mostly sunny day limited the impact of overnight rains at Augusta and by day’s end the scores finally started to dip.
Across a busy leaderboard at the Masters, with nine players within two strokes of the lead, only one, Paul Lawrie at 3-under, began before 10:30 a.m., and Lawrie played his last six holes 4-under with a eagles on the par 5s 13 and 15. On 15, he chipped in from about 45 feet.
“Not many times you have two eagles in nine holes,” Lawrie said. “So, that was nice.”
When Lawrie finished, Henrik Stenson had taken the lead at 6-under par after 10, but the Swede bogied 14 and took and took an 8 on the par 4 18th to finish 1-under and four strokes behind Day 1 leader Lee Westwood.
“With the start I had … I was hoping to be able to keep it together on the back nine and I did everything except 18,” Stenson said. “It’s disappointing.”
Westwood, who didn’t tee off until nearly 1 p.m., played the front nine 4-under with four consecutive birdies. He finished in a slight drizzle but came in with a 5-under 67. The 67 ties his tournament-best turned in during the first day of the 2010 Masters. That year, Westwood led going into Sunday before finishing second to Phil Mickelson.
“There was no weakness out there (Thursday) in my game,” Westwood said. “I hit it close, hit a lot of fairways and rolled in some nice putts.”
Soft greens from the heavy rain Wednesday set the course up for low scores, but the pins were tucked away on many of the holes in an attempt to prevent a crush of low numbers.
“I thought there were some tough flags out there,” Westwood said.
Finishing a stroke back of Westwood at 4-under was 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and 34-year-old Peter Hanson from Sweden.
Oosthuizen, who teed off about 11:45 a.m., played 3-under on the back despite a bogey on the par 5 14th.
“It was a little bit bumpy at the beginning,” the 29-year-old Oosthuizen said. “I knew there were going to be bogeys out there. The course is playing really tough, tough pins for a first round I felt.”
This is Oosthuizen’s fourth Masters, and he failed to make the cut in the first three. The South African is good friends with last year’s Master’s champion Charl Schwartzel and said he mostly learned how to play the course after watching his friend under the pressure.
“The main thing was that he put himself in a position to win,” Oosthuizen said.
Hanson finds his name near the top of the leaderboard in just his second Masters appearance and he did so in a round during which he played with three-time Masters winner Mickelson and five-time PGA Tour winner Hunter Mahan, who won last week’s Shell Houston Open. Hanson has four career victories on the European Tour but has never won a PGA Tour event.
“When you get the crowd behind you, you know it is going to be a very special day out there,” Hanson said. “Playing at this venue is always very special, but in company like that, I think it really helped me (during the first round) to stay focused and stay where I want to be.”
Which is in contention — just like a few others worth noting.
Included in the six players who two shots back at 3-under are Lawrie, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Francesco Molinari, Ben Crane, Jason Dufner and former Georgia golf star Bubba Watson, who blasting tee shots all afternoon with his pink driver.
Rory McIlroy, who imploded on Sunday last year after taking the lead into the final round, finished 1-under, while Tiger Woods stood pat at even par and Mickelson finished two-over, needing a birdie on 18 help stay within seven strokes of the lead.
Woods took two penalty shots, hit three tee shots that rattled the pines and was thrilled to make bogey on his last hole for a 72, the first time since 2008 that he failed to break par in the opening round of the Masters.
“I had some of the worst golf swings I’ve ever hit (Thursday),” Woods said.
Woods usually talks about the shots that got away. This time, there weren’t many.
“(Thursday) I squeezed a lot out of that round,” he said. “I just felt my way around today. I know how to play this golf course. I think it’s just understanding what I need to do.”
McIlroy opened with a double bogey, though his big moment was on the 10th hole. A year ago, that’s where his Sunday collapse began with a hooked tee shot into the cabins for a triple bogey. This time, he pushed a 3-wood into the trees on the other side and managed a par.
“That was a bit of an improvement from the last time I played it,” McIlroy joked.
Better yet was a birdie-birdie finish, including a 15-foot putt from the fringe on the 18th that gave him a 71, making him one of 28 players who broke par and were within four shots of the lead.
“It was huge,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t feel like I had my best out there. To finish under par for the day, I’m very pleased.”
Only nine players managed to break 70, and the scoring was so bunched that only eight of the 96 players were 10 shots behind, the measure for making the cut today.
There were 15 players at 1-under, including PGA champ Keegan Bradley and former Georgia Tech star Matt Kuchar.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report