The 85th Masters, now back in its usual April spot on the schedule, has arrived. The Masters officially kicks off at 7:45 a.m. ET on Thursday morning with honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Elder (although Elder won’t be hitting a tee shot). The first tee time is at 8 a.m. and the final one 2 p.m. in what should be a packed day of action. Scroll down to find out everything you need to know about Day 1 at Augusta National Golf Club.
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Masters 2021 quick links
Jordan Spieth shoots one-under 71 (7:39 p.m. ET)
Jordan Spieth parred the 18th hole to post an opening round of 71 — one under par, and highlighted by a fantastic chip-in for eagle on the 15th hole.
Bryson DeChambeau posts opening round of 76 (7:22 p.m. ET)
Bryson DeChambeau carded a double, three bogeys and only one birdie en-route to an opening round of 76 (four-over). He’s currently T60.
Jordan Spieth chips in for eagle! (6:45 p.m. ET)
It’s been an up-and-down day thus far for Jordan Spieth, who carded three birdies, a triple and a bogey to sit at one-over through 14 holes. But fortune smiled upon him on the par-5 15th.
Spieth’s 204-yard 5-iron approach hit the middle of the green, but ran long into the back fringe. Dottie Pepper described the chip he had left as “crazy fast” — and by the looks of it, she was right, and it’s a good thing the ball hit the middle of the cup! BOOM. Eagle for Spieth! He’s now one-under (T8) with three holes to play in Round 1.
Justin Rose finishes masterful round (6:14 p.m. ET)
Justin Rose claimed the first-round lead for the fourth time in his career after parring the 18th hole to sign for a round of 65 — seven under par.
Incredibly, Rose was two-over through seven holes, and then went on a red-number rampage, beginning with an eagle on No. 8, and followed by seven birdies on his remaining 10 holes. He currently leads the field by four shots.
Tommy Fleetwood aces No. 16 (6:00 p.m. ET)
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood made the 32nd hole-in-one in Masters history — and the 17th since 2004 — when he aced the par-3 16th hole, which is playing 170 yards today. Fleetwood used a 9-iron. The hole-in-one brought Fleetwood back to 2-over on the day, currently T35.
Spieth finds disaster at No. 9 (5:04 p.m. ET)
Just when it looked like Jordan Spieth had it all figured out, disaster struck for him at the 9th hole. An errant drive deep into the trees started the trouble, followed by issues on his initial punch out. His next shot put him in position to save bogey and, for a moment, it looked as though he would be successful. But an ill-time three-putt ended with the 2015 Masters champion finishing his nine with a triple bogey.
Spieth’s triple bogey does not bode well for his chances as just four players have won at Augusta National after carding a 7, with Craig Stadler in 1982 being the most recent. The triple bogey drops Spieth to two over as he makes the turn in his opening round.
Rose making a move (4:33 p.m. ET)
Justin Rose had a ho-hum start to his opening round at Augusta National as he was two over through seven holes. Then, he flipped a switch.
Rose’s went five under over his next five holes with three birdies and an eagle, vaulting the 2017 runner-up into a tie for the lead. With the two back-nine par 5s still in front of him, Rose has an excellent chance to set the new lead by day’s end.
McIlroy struggles, Reed jumps up the leaderboard (4:10 p.m. ET)
Rory McIlroy’s first round of the 2021 Masters is one he will likely look to soon forget. McIlroy posted 76 in the opening round as he made six bogeys and just two birdies under difficult scoring conditions on Thursday. He is seven shots back of the leaders heading into Round 2.
Unlike McIlroy, Patrick Reed took advantage of his tee time in the morning wave The 2018 Masters champion made four birdies and two bogeys in his start to the Masters as he looks to become the 18th man to win multiple green jackets. He will tee off at 2 p.m. ET in Round 2.
DeChambeau struggling early (3:28 p.m. ET)
Bryson DeChambeau’s quest for the green jacket is not off to the best of starts. DeChambeau started his day with three-straight pars, but he quickly found trouble on the par-3 4th. His approach sailed long and into the trees, leading to a double bogey. His next hole was no better as he posted another bogey to drop to three over.
DeChambeau’s best finish at the Masters was a T21 finish in 2016 as he won low amateur honors.
Spieth in red numbers early (2:55 p.m. ET)
A lot of people were picking Jordan Spieth as a potential winner this week, especially after his comeback victory at the Valero Texas Open. The early returns are promising in the first round at Augusta National. Spieth was steady with a par at the 1st. At the 2nd, he tried to reach in the green in two, ending up in a greenside bunker. But a nifty up-and-down from there gave Jordan his first birdie of the tournament. Then he nearly added another at the 3rd hole.
Two of the players tied for the lead have finished their rounds. Those clubhouse leaders are Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman, who both shot three-under 69s on Thursday. Bryson DeChambeau, on the other hand, made a double bogey at the par-4 3rd hole to fall behind.
Early lead reaches four under (2:10 p.m. ET)
It’s still early on Day 1 at the 2021 Masters, but all groups are now on the course, with Jordan Spieth’s threesome setting off in the final grouping at 2:00 p.m. ET. In addition, some of the early starters are already finishing up their rounds, which means it’s time to check in on the lead.
As of this writing, three players are locked in a tied atop the Masters leaderboard at four under par. Those players are Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman and Webb Simpson, all of whom have contended at Augusta before.
DJ, McIlroy off to shaky starts (1:30 p.m. ET)
The 85th Masters has not started as well as two of the biggest names in the field had hoped. At least that’s the case early in Thursday’s opening round. Defending champion Dustin Johnson made a bogey right out of the gate, when a poor tee shot set up a difficult second, resulting in an approach that went over the green. He got one shot back with a birdie at the par-5 2nd, before surrendering another stroke at 5.
Things took a turn for the better at the difficult 11th hole, where DJ drained a nifty chip shot for a birdie. He was even par through 11 holes, three shots off the lead.
Rory McIlroy wishes he had DJ’s front-nine score. The four-time major champion, who would complete the career grand slam with a Masters win, opened his tournament with four-straight pars, but then things got ugly. McIlroy made bogeys at 5, 6, 7 and 9, against one birdie at 8, and poor putting was largely to blame. The unfortunate stretch left McIlroy at three over at the turn. In a bizarre turn of events, Rory actually hit his dad with an errant approach shot on the 7th hole.
Hideki Matsuyama jumps ahead with eagle (12:40 p.m. ET)
The new leader at Augusta National is Hideki Matsuyama, who drained a 20-footer for eagle on the par-5 8th to get to three under on the day. Kevin Kisner previously held the lead at two under.
Matsuyama added pars on 9 and 10 and remains at three under heading into Amen Corner. Bezuidenhout and Si Woo Kim are also both at three under and tied for the lead.
Kim, Conners jump up leaderboard on front nine (11:40 a.m. ET)
Si Woo Kim and Corey Conners both played the front nine in two under and are tied for the lead. Christiann Bezuidenhout also got to two under with birdies on 2 and 3.
Some big-name players are starting their rounds, too. Xander Schauffele and Jon Rahm are one under after three, Patrick Reed is one under after two, and Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy are all even early.
Hovland stumbles early; Ancer gets hot (10:50 a.m. ET)
A couple of hours into the morning wave and we’re starting to see our first look at early stumbles and surges.
Viktor Hovland, a trendy pick to win this week, opened with a triple-bogey 7 on the par-4 1st (although bounced back with a birdie on 2), while Abraham Ancer, who was tied for second after 54 holes last year, has opened par-birdie-birdie and is two under after three holes, good for the (very early) lead.
WATCH: Nicklaus, Player, Elder kick off Masters as honorary starters
Now, it’s officially Masters week. The first round of the 85th Masters got underway early Thursday, as Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Elder met on the 1st tee as honorary starters to hit the ceremonial opening tee shots.
Nicklaus and Player have held this honor for years, along with Arnold Palmer before his death in 2016, but Elder was a guest addition for 2021. In 1975, Elder became the first Black golfer to play in the Masters. Now, 46 years later, he’s a guest honorary starter for this year. Elder did not strike a shot at 7:45 a.m. on Thursday morning, but he was there with friends and family, along two other legends, getting the Masters started once again in its usual April date.
“Today, Lee Elder will inspire us, and make history once more,” ANGC Chairman Fred Ridley said. “Not with a drive, but with his presence, strength and character. Lee, it is my privilege to say, you have the honors.”
Why the Masters food (glorious food!) may be the grandest tournament tradition of them all
AUGUSTA, Ga. — It’s hard to imagine any sporting event at which food plays a more important role than it does at the Masters. The sandwiches sold to spectators at circa 1985 prices, and available to players and even reporters at no charge at all, have always been an elemental part of the tournament.
The status of these sandwiches — pimento cheese, egg salad, various others — have only increased since November. What happened was a reporter asked Dustin Johnson, pre-tournament, to name his favorite Masters tradition. He thought about it for a second or two (the Masters has a lot of traditions) before saying, “The sandwiches.”
And that was before this year’s introduction of a new sandwich, chicken salad on brioche bun!
Secrets of the Augusta National grounds crew: What it takes to get the course Masters-ready
If you think getting on the grounds of Augusta National is tough, try getting the scoop on how those grounds are maintained. As with so much else around the home of the Masters, turf care practices are cloaked in secrecy. Anyone who has ever cut a cup or pushed a mower on the famous course is asked to swear a vow of silence, and most stick to it for fear of not being invited back.
Over the years, some information has been made public; verifying it is another matter. On a quest to separate fact from fiction, we contacted a handful of agronomic experts who know their way around Augusta.
Here’s what they could — and couldn’t — tell us about what it takes to whip the course into tournament shape.
You’ll never guess what the Masters’ most sought-after merchandise item is
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Chelsea Branscum spent several minutes Tuesday afternoon unknowingly surrounded by Augusta National’s smallest army. The young woman from nearby Evans, Ga., wore the attire of golf’s least-assuming accomplice: a yellow sundress and large, brown-rimmed sunglasses. The black bench upon which she sat was packed neatly with two large tote bags featuring the Masters’ iconic insignia. Two more totes were at her feet. She spoke from her perch overlooking a crowded thoroughfare between the practice range and the 1st hole, otherwise known as the promenade directly adjacent to the Masters’ famed merchandise shop.
“So actually two are my mom’s and two are mine,” she said. “Because we live in Augusta, we love to get the flags to put in our house, and of course tee shirts, too, because who doesn’t want a tee shirt?”
She spoke with an easy Southern warmth, somehow unaware of the legion of cold, dead eyes trained upon her every move.
They were everywhere, albeit sheathed in cardboard and plastic. Their white whiskers were rigid, even in the early afternoon breeze. Finally, my curiosity bubbled over. I had to ask.
What about those?
‘Pretty spicy’: Masters competitors expecting brutal conditions at Augusta
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Typically, Adam Scott says, Augusta National plays pretty easy at the beginning of Masters Week. The greens are slow. They’re soft. The friendly setup, he says, can lull you into a false sense of security before dropping the hammer come Thursday morning.
But Scott vividly remembers one year, 2007, when he was greeted by rock-hard practice greens.
“I actually remember being on the 16th green with Greg Norman and we poured some water on the slope and the water just trickled all the way across and off the green. It never got absorbed. That stood out for me,” Scott said after a practice round. Why did he bring it up? Because even though he didn’t pour any water on the greens during Monday’s round with Cameron Smith, those greens felt awfully similar.
“It looked like it was really at a tournament length, the grass around the greens and the firmness and the speed of the greens,” he said. “It had that brown tinge on it. If that’s a sign of things to come, we’ve got to buckle up for this week.”