The day’s play is over for the Thursday edition of the 2011 Masters. What a day it was. The theme of the day is low scoring with an emphasis on international players. Only 8 out of the top 23 (up to T14) players are from the USA.
21 year old Rory McIlroy showed us why he’s thought of by many as the next dominant player in golf. Rory carded 7 birdies and no bogeys for a smoking hot opening round of 65. I thought that 65 would stand as the only one, but I was wrong.
Alvaro Quiros from Spain is quite a bomber. He’s long and lanky and generates insane club head speed. Quiros’ length proved to be quite an advantage, especially on the back nine where he recorded a 32 despite a bogey on #14.
Perhaps the coolest part of watching Quiros play, was seeing him smile. This guy was having FUN, something missing from many players who are so serious in majors. If he can keep smiling and relaxed, he can go far. But if we see him stop smiling and getting too focused, a meltdown may ensue.
Quiros was in a final group of young guns, bombers of the ball. Jhonnathan Vegas and Gary Woodland rounded out a fantastic group to watch. They were bombing it 40 yards past the rest of the field, playing much shorter approach shots to almost all of the greens.
I’m guessing the “information gatherers” at Augusta National were keeping close tabs on their driving distance and approaches, so they can know what their next course modification will be.
The group was having a good time playing golf. Very refreshing.
Phil Mickelson struggled off the tee for all the talk about one or two drivers. On the par-5 13th, he hit it into “stacked for removal” territory, where years earlier Ernie Els was, left of the hazard, left of the fairway, left of left. Phil’s short game and Houdini-like skills brought him to the 18th tee at -3 and looking at an opening 69, until he made bogey.
Even as I write this, Phil Mickelson is still hitting drivers on the range. He’s been hitting them since he finished his round some 2.5-3 hours ago. Obviously he wants to fix whatever was wrong. Is he hitting too many balls?
The more I watch Korean Y.E. Yang the bigger fan I become. The guy is the best hybrid player on the planet and I love his intensity. Another Korean golfer I really like is K.J. Choi. He’s like a swing machine which can repeat the same action over and over again. These two Korean golfers played very well and are 2 behind the lead at -5. How cool would it be if these two were in the final group on Sunday?
Lets just take a look at Tiger Woods’ stats and see if you can guess his score:
Fairways hit: 6 of 14 for 42.86%
Sand saves: 0 for 1
Greens in regulation: 12/18 for 66.67%
Driving distance: 271.5 yards
Tiger shot a round of 71, with 3 birdies and 2 bogeys. Is Tiger “back?” I’d have to say that these stats, especially driving percentage, will keep him from winning a major any time soon.
World #1 Martin Kaymer “doesn’t know how to play Augusta National”
Martin Kaymer is one of my picks not to win the Masters. He hasn’t made the cut in three attempts and shot a 78 today. He was quoted as saying “I don’t know how to play this golf course.”
Ricky Barnes and Matt Kuchar shot 68. What is it with Barnes and The Masters? The only reason he’s there this year is because of a top 10 finish last year.
There’s a large group who shot 69. Among them are Sergio Garcia, Gary Woodland, Geoff Ogilvy. It is well known that I’m not a Garcia fan, and since I’m biased in that way, I don’t anticipate that he’ll keep it together and be in contention come Sunday.
The not-so good
Padraig Harrington came up lame with a recurring neck injury which prevented him from even being able to turn his head to the right. First round: 77.
Henrik Stenson shot an 83. I shot an 83 yesterday, in wind rain and muddy conditions. Guess that means I should have been in the field.
I’ve been at the computer, the screens, the feeds for almost 12 hours now today. I’m fried but happy for the Thursday of my favorite tournament. Having gone to the Tuesday practice round last year, it aches not to be there.
I thought the course played as easy as we will see it for the rest of the week. With all the super low scores and red numbers on the leader board, the tournament committee at Augusta National is going to tighten up the golf course and make it more difficult. If we see a 65 again, I’d be surprised.
Perhaps the best part of watching this round today was the final group. Vegas and Quiros were smiling and having FUN. FUN! Woodland, playing with those two, was intense and loved that look too. These guys were really fun to watch.
Who will shine tomorrow? Who will be at the top of the leader board come days end? Who will miss the cut? Who will eek in to the weekend? Can’t wait to find out.