Nineteen months ago, the leader shot his worst-ever round at Augusta National Golf Club. Nineteen months later, the leader tied his best-ever round. A lot has changed since the last Masters. A November start date. No patrons. And Paul Casey. Here are three things you need to know after Thursday’s first round in Augusta, Ga.
Paul Casey leads
Last April, Casey shot a nine-over 81 during the first round of the Masters.
Thursday, he shot a five-birdie, one-eagle, no-bogey 65. A 16-stroke improvement. He leads by two shots over Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas, and three shots over eight players. The first round was delayed by three hours in the morning due to storms, and it will continue Friday morning before Round 2.
“I have no idea. I have no idea. I don’t know. Just rubbish,” Casey said of the difference between this year’s first round and last year’s. “But I played some decent golf in 2019 overall. Just not the first round of the Masters. I don’t know why it was rubbish. Don’t know.”
On his first nine, Casey birdied his first hole, the 10th; his fourth hole; and his sixth and seventh. On his second nine, he eagled his 11th hole, the 2nd; and birdied his 15th hole, the 6th. On the 575-yard, par-5 2nd, Casey hit his drive 359 yards down the fairway, hit his second shot, from 214 yards out, to within 5 feet, and he made the eagle putt.
Two shots back were Simpson, who did not make a bogey; Schauffele, who made seven birdies; and Thomas, who was still playing. Hideki Matsuyama, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Reed, Tiger Woods, Matthew Wolff, Adam Scott and Dylan Frittelli were three back.
Tiger Woods is three back
Woods, in his title defense, tied his best-ever opening round at the Masters.
The 15-time major champion made four birdies and no bogeys for a four-under 68, which also tied for his second-best round this year. Woods parred his first three holes. He then played his next seven at four under.
Woods birdied the 510-yard, par-5 13th. He just missed the fairway with his drive, hit his second shot, from 192 yards out, to within 45 feet, and he two-putted for the 4. Woods birdied the 530-yard, par-5 15th. He drove it down the middle, hit his second shot, from 229 yards out, over the green, then got up and down for the 4. Woods birdied the 170-yard, par-3 16th. He hit his tee shot just past the hole and to the right, and it trickled to within two feet.
Woods started his second nine, the first nine at Augusta, with another birdie. He hit his tee shot 266 yards down the fairway, hit his approach, from 175 out, to within 20 feet, and he rolled in the putt for the 3.
Bryson DeChambeau is five back
Bryson DeChambeau was two over after three holes. He made five birdies and one bogey over his final 15 holes for a two-under 70.
On his third hole, the 510-yard, par-5 13th, DeChambeau, in order, hit his drive right, hit his second into the bushes left of the green, hit a provisional ball into Rae’s Creek, found his original ball, took an unplayable-lie penalty, chunked his fourth shot, hit onto the green and two-putted for a double bogey.
From there, DeChambeau birdied 15, 16 and 2, bogeyed 7, then birdied 8 and 9 for the 70.
“I tried to take on some risk today,” he said. “It didn’t work out as well as I thought it would have, but at the end of the day, I’m proud of myself the way I handled myself and finished off. Birdieing 8 and 9 was a testament to my focus level, and wanting to contend here.”