Masters 2013 Results: Biggest Winners and Losers from Day 1
Day One of the 2013 Masters Tournament belonged to one man and one man alone.
Or should we say boy?
However you want to label 14-year-old Chinese sensation Guan Tianlang, there's no disputing that he was Thursday's biggest story. Bigger than Arnold or Jack. Bigger than Rory. Bigger even than Tiger.
Grouped with 61-year-old legend Ben Crenshaw, Guan, the youngest ever Masters participant, defied the psychological odds and held his own on the sport's biggest stage, earning legions of admirers in the process.
Ahead we'll breakdown his historic round, along with the rest of the afternoon's buzziest happenings.
Winner: Jamie Donaldson
Jamie Donaldson, pride of Pontypridd, Wales, got the Masters off to a rousing start by sinking a hole-in-one on the Par 3 sixth.
In doing so, Donaldson became just the 24th golfer ever to ace a hole during Masters competition. The world's 33rd-ranked golfer finished the day at one under.
Loser: Bubba Watson
Oh brother, Bubba.
Defending Masters champion Bubba Watson was all over the course on Thursday, bogeying three holes on the front nine and finishing the day three over par.
Last year, he was three under after Day 1.
With a second consecutive title probably out of the picture, Watson's most pressing concern is qualifying for the final rounds. The last reigning Masters champ to miss the cut was Canada's Mike Weir back in 2004.
Watson currently sits in 64th place.
Winner: Augusta National
Augusta National is many things to many people: heritage site, guardian of the game, billionaire's playground, refuge of the backward.
But if there is one thing upon which we all can agree, it's the beauty of the place.
No golf course is quite so stunning in quite the same way.
The first day of the Masters is our once-yearly opportunity to absorb Augusta's majesty with fresh eyes. And of course she never disappoints.
As Arnold Palmer blasted the tournament's opening shot through a dense fog, we were met with yet another reminder of what gives this golf course its abiding beauty.
Somehow, a place that never changes manages to wow us anew every 12 months.
There's nothing Augusta National loves more than rules, most of which are tangentially related to the task of "preserving tradition" but are, at heart, arbitrary power plays.
You know, rules for the sake of having rules.
Augusta, for example. limits the amount of live television coverage at the Masters, which is why ESPN's broadcast of Day One didn't begin begin until 3 p.m. ET.
Unfortunately for Bristol, world number one Tiger Woods teed off at 10:45 a.m. and was almost done with his round by the time cameras went live.
In other words, ESPN paid for a day of Master's coverage that basically didn't include the sport's biggest draw.
I don't usually feel bad for the WWL, but man, that sucks.
In a situation like this, you'd normally expect the network execs to throw a tizzy. But when it comes to Augusta, what are the suits going to say?
Are they going to back out? Are they going to demand Augusta lower its rights fees?
Augusta National needs money about as bad as the Pacific needs water, meaning the networks are largely at the club's mercy when it comes to coverage restrictions.
Chairman Billy Payne can spout as much nonsense as he wants about how limiting Masters coverage somehow makes the tournament "a little more special," and the networks have no choice but to nod in agreement—even it means a day without Tiger.
Winner: Marc Leishman
And the leader in the clubhouse is...
With a six-under 66 that included five birdies on the back nine, the native Australian finished Day 1 tied atop the leader board.
For his career, Leishman has just one PGA tour win, and has never finished better than 27th at a major event.
His only prior Masters appearance came in 2010. He missed the cut.
It says here he won't miss it this time.
Loser: The Big Names
Before you go gaga golf fans, let's be clear.
I know Zach and Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Fred Couples, Matt Kuchar, etc. are all big names in the world of golf.
I also know that there are three players in this tournament the novice fan cares about: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickleson.
That's the holy trinity of golfing fame. Those are the guys that can carry this tournament past the mainstream and into pop cultural Valhalla.
If Woods, McIlroy and Mickleson don't play well, a whole bunch of people are going to flip the channel come Sunday.
Now we should also be clear in stating that none of those three were bad today.
Mickleson picked up a ton of momentum on the back nine and should be dangerous tomorrow. Woods was steady from tee to tee and finished the day at a comfortable two under. And although McIlroy played to even par, no one is counting him out of this tournament.
I suppose the only mild surprise is that none of the above really stood out on a day with favorable scoring conditions.
That will likely change as the weekend progresses, but for now it's a notable non-development.
Winner: Guan Tianlang
China's Guan Tianlang had a memorable Masters debut today.
He shot one under on the back nine. He sank a birdie putt on 18. He finished one over. He didn't make any glaring errors.
Oh yeah, and he's 14.
We'd been told all week that the youngest ever Masters participant was a paragon of cool, one of those rare, perfectly calibrated competitive specimens who could keep a level head even in the most emotionally taxing environments.
But none of that was real for me until I actually saw the kid play Augusta. And when I did, I was blown away.
Leave all the accolades about his short-game for another day. The very fact that Guan played a round at Augusta without tripping over his nerves has to be one of the more impressive golfing feats of this, or any, season.
Guan currently sits in 46th place heading into Friday.
Loser: Ian Poulter
Even a gorgeous chip-in at 12 couldn't save Ian Poulter from a disastrous opening day.
Outside that small 'Amen Corner reprieve', Poulter tallied five bogies to finish the day four over.
The Englishman's driving was particularly erratic, and afterward he took to Twitter with an apology for fans, saying:
"Can't be disappointed with that round I drove it so bad. 4 fairways in reg when they are 40 yards wide. Horrific day. Sorry folks no excuse"
Thursday saw two Spanish players—Sergio Garcia and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano—finish near the top of the leader board.
Fernandez-Castano's four under 68 might be the bigger surprise, but Garcia's six under 66, which ties him for the Day 1 lead, is easily the bigger story.
Over the last 15 years, Garcia has passed through the many phases of golf notoriety—blooming talent, perennial contender, fading star—all without doing the one thing everyone assumed he'd someday do: win the big one.
Despite 17 top-ten finishes, Garcia has never broken through at a major championship, which in 2012 led him to tell the press, "I don't have the thing I need to have [to win a major]."
It would be a remarkable (and psychologically befuddling) achievement if Garcia finally won after confessing that he'd never win. And of course he's a long way from making that happen.
But the longer Garcia hovers near the top, the more interesting this story becomes.
Winner/Loser: Rickie Fowler
It was an afternoon of extremes for young Rickie Fowler, the world's 28th-ranked golfer.
His eagle on 15 was one of the day's best marks, and he supplemented it with a three-birdie run on the front nine's final four holes. At times, he was the most electrifying talent on the course.
Then there's the minor inconvenience of his two double bogies, one to begin the front nine and one to begin the back.
Was it nerves? Distraction? Or just the regular ebbs and flows of the game?
Perhaps we'll find out this weekend.
Overall, Fowler has to be pleased with a performance that saw him walk away with a four under 68.
At the same time, it was one of those rare four unders that carried an unmistakable sense of what could have been.
Perennial Winner: Fred Couples
Another April, another Masters, another great round by Fred Couples.
Despite a bogey on 18, the '92 Masters champ finished the day at four under, tied for fourth place overall.
The 53-year-old's 68 marked, by my count, the 47th time Couples has shot a round under par at Augusta.
Chances are, it won't be the last.