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‘I just came out of the ring with Evander Holyfield’

AUGUSTA, Ga. — This is the Augusta National that leaves you respiration hearth slightly than soaking in its magnificence, spewing expletives slightly than hosannas, and strolling off bewildered.

Other than Justin Rose, who someway shot 7-under-par 65 after not taking part in for greater than a month, most of those that traversed the hallowed floor Thursday throughout the opening spherical of the Masters left battered, with egos bruised.

“I fought hard, but I feel like I just came out of the ring with Evander Holyfield, like a 12-round match,” mentioned 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who shot 75. “I need to go home and rest.”

The Masters may not be fairly again to regular — there are nonetheless COVID-19 restrictions and fewer patrons on web site — however the course positive confirmed itself to be the difficult, beguiling beast that at occasions offers the finest in the world suits.

And as anticipated, it was a far completely different take a look at than the one introduced in November, when comfortable circumstances led to Dustin Johnson capturing 20 below, a match document.

In November, no participant failed to interrupt 80 throughout the opening spherical; there have been 5 scores in the 80s on Thursday.

Another scoring clue? There had been 12 scores of triple bogey or worse, together with a 7 at the par-4 ninth gap by Jordan Spieth. (To Spieth’s credit score, he performed the again 9 in 3 below to shoot 71.)

Making a rating of 7 at the Masters usually doesn’t translate to a inexperienced jacket. The final participant to take action was Craig Stadler in 1982. Only 4 Masters winners in 84 earlier tournaments have written a 7 on their card and picked up the trophy.

Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama needed to be feeling fairly good about themselves after capturing 69s. They nonetheless ought to. But it makes you marvel how Rose blew proper by them to face 4 strokes in entrance after a single spherical. There had been 12 gamers below par, however just three posted scores in the 60s.

Among those who struggled had been Johnson, who doubled-bogeyed the final gap for a 74; Rory McIlroy, who hit his personal father, Gerry, with an errant shot on the technique to a 76; and Bryson DeChambeau, who made just one birdie in a spherical of 76.

The scoring common of 74.5 is the highest in the opening spherical of the Masters since 2017 and amongst the seven highest in the previous 21 years.

“I think it’s been five years, at least, from the last time I remember it being this firm,” mentioned Webb Simpson, who shot 70. “But it’s fun. I think this golf course is more fun this way because you really have to think, you really have to use the slopes. You can put yourself in some really bad spots.”

Simpson’s concept of enjoyable just isn’t for everyone. Bernd Wiesberger had 40 toes for eagle at the par-5 fifteenth, hit a putt towards the gap, then noticed it path off … and roll into the water fronting the inexperienced. He dropped in the similar spot and two-putted for bogey. Shane Lowry additionally noticed the problem of the fifteenth, chipping into the water from over the inexperienced. That gap usually performs as one of the best at Augusta National — it did yield three eagles and 30 birdies. But there have been additionally 4 scores of double bogey or worse and 16 bogeys.

“It’s my 10th year here, but I’ve never seen the greens so firm and fast,” Matsuyama, who shot 69, mentioned by means of an interpreter. “So it was like a new course playing for me [on Thursday]. I was fortunate to get it around well.”

Asked if he felt the greens had been too extreme, or if maybe these in cost wanted to do one thing to rein them in a bit, Matsuyama chuckled.

“That’s a tough question,” he mentioned. “Please ask everybody else.”

Brooks Koepka did not maintain again.

“It can get pretty dicey out here if you put it in the wrong spot the way these greens are,” mentioned Koepka, who shot 74. “Maybe late Sunday afternoon you see them this agency. Monday [during practice] it type of appeared like what it does usually on a Saturday, late Saturday afternoon, Sunday.

“There’s not much grass on a couple of those greens. On the back of [No.] 6, there’s no grass. And [No.] 9, I don’t know if there is grass.”

Koepka would not say it has gone too far. He additionally acknowledged there may be some rain in the forecast and that might assist.

“But I don’t think grass is going to grow on No. 9 overnight,” he mentioned.

It’s far completely different from how issues had been in November, when the circumstances had been virtually too comfortable. Most gamers mentioned you can throw out what they realized that week; that is how a lot the change in seasons means.

Augusta has additionally seen a great bit of dry climate of late. It has not rained in additional than per week, with cool, windy circumstances over the weekend adopted by heat, sunny days contributing to the crisp course the gamers have skilled throughout follow and the first spherical.

Grounds crew personnel had been seen hand-watering a number of greens on Wednesday. Even that didn’t appear to have a lot influence.

Phil Mickelson talked about iron pictures plugged into greens in November, which he referred to as the course’s important protection. When the greens will not be agency, the course loses its “respect,” he mentioned.

That was actually again on Thursday.

“It’s tough,” mentioned Gary Woodland, who gained the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and shot 73 on Thursday. “I felt like I just got out of the ring with Mike Tyson, or somebody. It was brutal out there.”

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