2012 Masters Round 1 Recap
With the first round of The Masters in the books, here are five important storylines from Day One:
- Lee’s Major Breakthrough? -- Lee Westwood, who shot a 5-under-par 67 to take the overnight lead, is a name well-known to golf fans. The third-ranked player in the world, he has enjoyed a successful professional career that includes 37 worldwide wins. The one thing missing in his career is a major championship win, and he has acquired the somewhat ignominious title of “Best Player Never to Have Won a Major.” Westwood’s close calls are legendary; he has six top-three finishes in the last four years alone, including a runner-up finish to Phil Mickelson in the 2010 Masters, where he held the 54-hole lead. Westwood turns 39-years-old later this month and knows the clock is ticking. With his superior ball-striking, it would be a big surprise if he’s not in the mix come the back nine on Sunday. As always for Westwood, the big question will be the short game.
- An Early Masters Meltdown -- Early on Thursday, it looked like Henrik Stenson would hold the lead going into the second round. Six-under through 15 holes, he had enjoyed two eagles and a chip-in birdie on the par-fives. He three-putted for bogey on 16 but the big blow came on the 18th, where he made a quadruple bogey 8, known to the average golfer as a “snowman,” without finding a single water hazard or bunker. A former top-five player who has fallen on hard times and is now number 171 in the Official World Golf Rankings, Stenson was looking like the feel-good story of day one. Instead, his 8 tied the record for the worst score ever on the 18th hole.
- “The Big Three’s” Mediocre Beginning -- Entering the tournament, much talk centered around the three favorites: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. Though none of them had their best stuff, all of them scrambled to prevent a worse score. Woods drove the ball wildly but scrambled very well to finish with an even-par 72. McIlroy looked a little out of sorts but finished strong, making birdies on the last two holes to finish in red numbers with a one-under-par 71. Mickelson had an adventurous day, driving the ball all around the Augusta National property, including a costly “lost ball” that led to a triple-bogey 7 on the tenth hole. He rallied behind strong putting however and birdied three of the last six holes for a 74. It may not have been what any of them was expecting but with a closely bunched leaderboard, all three of these players are still squarely in the tournament, including Mickelson.
- Amateurs Extraordinaire -- Among many of its traditions, The Masters has a rich history of inviting the winner and runner-up of some of the world’s top amateur events to tee it up at Augusta. The club’s legendary co-founder, Bobby Jones, one of the best golfers of all-time, was a career amateur himself, opting to never turn pro. This year, 20-year-old Patrick Cantlay of UCLA is garnering much attention after his opening-round 71 placed him in the top 15. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 54-year-old Randal Lewis made his Masters debut, a reward for winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur last summer. Believed to be the oldest player to ever make his debut at The Masters, Lewis wasn’t too disappointed with his lackluster score, calling it “the best 81 I’ve ever shot.”
- Augusta’s Ageless Wonder -- When it comes to Masters legends, 52-year-old Fred Couples ranks near the top. A fan favorite, his 71.90 scoring average is the best for any player with at least 100 competitive rounds played and he is tied for the most consecutive cuts made at the tournament with 23, a streak that ended in 2008. Though chronic problems undoubtedly prevented him from winning more, this year marks the 20th anniversary of his storied 1992 Masters win, in which he was aided by a break for the ages. Couples posted a solid even-par round of 72 on Friday and is hoping for one last run at a second Green Jacket. It would be quite story if he were in contention on Sunday and was able to do something like Jack Nicklaus did in 1986, when he became the oldest Masters winner ever at the age of 46 (see his legendary birdie putt on the 71st hole to take the lead below).