The 1st round of the 2009 Masters went a long way towards justifying the recent changes made to the course. For most of the past decade the Green Jackets have come under increasingly heavy fire, accused of making the course too hard, the Tournament boring. In reply, Chairman Billy Payne has repeatedly said the weather is to blame; and that when we get decent weather the course will give up 65’s and 66’s again, just like it did in the glory days of the 1990’s.
And, so it was, with 19 players breaking 70, not something that has happened for many years. Indeed, for a short period on Thursday, it looked as though the course record (63, jointly held by Nick Price and Greg Norman) might be broken.
American Ryder Cupper, Chad Campbell, recorded the best ever start in Masters history, making birdies at all of the first five holes. What’s more, he then birdied the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th. One more I the last three holes, and he would have become the first player in major championship history to record a 62. Twenty three times, a 63 has been recorded in majors, but never the magical 62. Sadly, Chad finished with a pair of bogeys. He holds a one shot lead over fellow Americans Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan, who are themselves one shot ahead of Shingo Katayama and the veteran and 1987 Champion, Larry Mize.
The world number one, Tiger Woods (playing in his first major since his remarkable win at the 2008 US Open) had a mediocre day, but is still very much in the hunt. Tiger drove the ball well, but couldn’t buy a putt. In the end, however, he shot a 2-under-par 70,, and this despite making three birdies in a row from the 13th. Almost unbelievably, Tiger has still never gone under 70 in the first round of the Masters.
It was a disappointing day for the 23 Europeans on show. Only Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Ross Fisher shot under 70, all finishing with 69s. Fisher was particularly impressive, getting it to 5-under before making bogeys on the final two holes. “To shoot 69 in my first ever round at the Masters and still feel a touch disappointed, is quite something,” the Englishman said afterwards.
“I’ve watched this on the BBC since I was 7, and I still have to pinch myself a bit, that I am here at all.” And Graeme McDowell also dropped shots at both of the last two holes. Padraig Harrington, who is trying to win three majors in a row, played very solidly as well, and is nicely placed to come in under the radar, which is what he likes to do.
“Today was definitely one of the more generous days ever around Augusta,” he said. “You’ve got to feel it’s going to get a little bit tougher as we get into the next three days. I’m quite happy, but if I was very happy I would not be going to do a little bit more practise this afternoon.”
65 Chad Campbell
66 Jim Furyk, Hunter Mahan
67 Shingo Katayama, Larry Mize
68 Tim Clark, Angel Cabrera, Mike Weir, John Merrick, Todd Hamilton
69 Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington, Ross Fisher
70 Lee Westwood, Bernhard Langer, Migeul Angel Jimenez
71 Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Jose Maria Olazabal, Martin Kaymer
72 Sandy Lyle, Soren Hansen, Paul Casey, Rory McIlroy
73 Oli Wilson, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Robert Karlsson
74 Ian Woosnam, Justin Rose
75 Carl Pettersson
76 Soren Kjeldsen
78 Alvaro Quiros
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