December 19, 2014
Golf — Augusta MastersFriday, April 11, 2014
Bill Haas takes one stroke lead
Rory McIlroy bogeyed the final hole for a one-under par 71 and was well satisfied with the overall outcome, despite being three off the pace. The young Irishman and bookmaker favourite to win his first Masters said he was surprised how hard the set up was for a Thursday, normally a “soft-pin” day with hole-positions becoming progressively tougher into the weekend.
“When I saw the pin sheets in the morning I said to myself: ‘Well, they don’t really want anyone to go really low today.’ The back nine was also more difficult as the greens got more dried out. In all I’d say I’m very satisfied to have got in with anything under par.”
The 31-year old Haas is no longer an Augusta rookie and admits playing five previous Masters has given him a comfort level he did not have in his first years. “You still get nervous on that first tee but I think I was more nervous the first year and you get more fired up to go,” he said. Nerves possibly explain his scrappy bogey at the opening hole but Masters experience helped turn negative into a positive. “Yeah, not a good iron shot on that hole,” he said, “but I hit a nice par putt that almost went in and for some reason that kind of settled me down with the putter.”
He immediately followed up with a 15-foot downhiller for four at the par-5 2nd then added to his birdie count at the par-3 4th. “A birdie at the 4th is almost like an eagle, that hole is so difficult. Then I fatted an iron shot at the 5th, just short of the green and pitched it by about 12 feet which I made for par. To come out of that stretch of holes one under when I easily could have still been one over settled me down. The rest of the day I felt like I played pretty solid.”
It was not a good day for Ángel Cabrera, who came to Augusta with a spotty early-season but whose game usually takes a momentous up-curve on Masters week. Not the case so far. After a four-bogey, single birdie outward half of 39, he triple-bogeyed the long par-4 11th and had to work hard thereafter for 78, now with a tiny if unlikely chance of making the Friday cut if he can go really low today.
Phil Mickelson was also victim of an unexpected and unlikely triple bogey, his coming at the relatively short par-four 7th where a slick putt from behind the hole picked up speed and left him with a tough uphill chip back to the green. Mickelson closed with 76 after adding another 7 at the par-5 15th.
Heavy rain earlier in the week has had some influence on the course set up, the fairways although cut as tight as usual are damper than normal, testing to the limit downhill wedge shots from layup positions. A typical example was Dustin Johnson, catching his third at the 15th ever so slightly fat from inside a hundred yards ten yards too short to clear the green-guarding water, leading to 77.
For the second round most players are switched from morning to afternoon start times, and vice-versa. If the breeze stiffens later in the day as is usual, the greens will crust up more and provide an exacting challenge.