Like a rabbit, Bill Haas jumped into the lead early in the first round of the 2014 Masters Tournament and, like the mechanical rabbit at a greyhound race; no one could catch him by the end of the day. Haas overcame a bogey on the first hole to fire an opening day four under par 68 and lead after Thursday’s play under sunny skies and light winds at Augusta National.
It’s not that he does not have company on the first page of the leaderboard. One stroke behind him lurk the last two winners of the Masters, Adam Scott and Bubba Watson, and former British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen. Adding to the pressure is the fact that this is the first time Haas has ever held the lead in any round of any major tournament.
If not for No. 12 at Augusta, defending champion Adam Scott would be the leader after day one. The Australian was cruising along at four under par after 11 holes when he inexplicably came up short on the 155-yard par-three. He would make double-bogey and fall to 2 under, then collect one more birdie before finishing with 69. Afterward Scott would say that he got a standing ovation as he stepped up to the tee at 12, and might have lost his concentration a little on his tee shot.
For Bubba Watson it was a tidy first round, making three birdies along with 15 pars on the day. “All I was trying to do was hit greens” he said after the round. He did just that, missing only two greens in regulation by a total of about four feet.
The day was not quite so neat for Oosthuizen on his way to shooting 69. The South African bogeyed his first hole of the day, but came back with four birdies on the front nine to make the turn at three under. On the back nine he made bogey at 12, birdie at 15, bogey at 17 and birdie at 18 to complete the roller-coaster ride and find himself one shot in back of Haas’ lead at the 2014 Masters Tournament.
There are seven player tied for fifth place at two under after Thursday’s play, including K.J. Choi, Brandt Snedeker and Jimmy Walker. Fred Couples leads a group of eight players who are three shots back at one under 71. Also in the group are Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.
It was not a good start for three-time Masters Tournament winner Phil Mickelson. After making pars on the first six holes, Mickelson hit his approach shot on the par-four seventh hole a few feet over the green, just short of a sand trap. His third shot went past the hole, caught a swell and rolled off of the left side of the green. His ensuing chip went 10 feet past the hole to leave him a slippery downhill putt for bogey. He missed that putt and one more, finally holing his ball for a triple-bogey seven. In typical “Phil the Thrill” fashion, he would make two birdies to get his score back to one over par after 13, but a subsequent bogey on 14 and a double bogey out of the water hazard on 15 inflated his total to four over and he finished with 76.
Other scores of interest include Graeme McDowell and Steve Stricker at 72. Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker both carded 73. Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia and Hunter Mahan all had two over par 74, eight shots behind the lead of Bill Haas after the first round of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National.
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Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky