Marc Leishman shares the opening-round lead after Day 1 at the Masters.
Augusta National is known for producing legendary Masters champions. It’s equally responsible for providing huge surprises, especially on the major championship’s opening two days.
Thursday’s opening round of the 77th Masters was no different in that regard.
Even where the unexpected should always be expected, surprise leaders, less-than-expected performances and significant accomplishments helped define the opening round.
Here are Thursday’s top surprises as we see them.
Ian Poulter struggled to a four-over 76 in the first round.
There were several British golfers expected to contend at this year's Masters.
While Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Luke Donald got off to credible starts, fellow countryman Ian Poulter struggled mightily. Even with scoring conditions on the easy side for Augusta National, Poulter belied his dark-horse status with a four-over 76.
He is now a full 10 shots behind the leaders heading into Friday.
The 37-year-old Poulter seriously damaged his efforts to win his first career major. His sloppy round included five bogeys—three in a stretch of four holes midway through the round—and only one birdie, which did not come on any of Augusta National's par fives.
As a result of Thursday's performance, Poulter has some serious work to do Friday if he plans to play on Saturday. That's a position in which few expected the confident golfer to be.
Things went a little sideways for Bubba Watson during Thursday's opening round.
Not since Phil Mickelson in 2007 has a defending champion struggled in the Masters opening round like Bubba Watson did Thursday.
The long-driving Watson never really got any momentum going en route to a three-over 75 on an Augusta National that was really there for the taking.
The lackluster performance, which featured four bogeys against only one birdie, left Watson nine full shots behind the leaders in a tie for 64th. He'll need a strong round on Friday to make the cut considering the vast number of golfers under par after Thursday.
To make that happen, Watson will have to improve upon his par-five performance after birding only one of four on Thursday.
Trevor Immelman announced his surprising return to contention with a four-under 68.
If we asked before Thursday to name a Masters champion of the past eight or nine years who would post the best opening-round score at the 2013 Masters, it's not likely Trevor Immelman would be your first choice.
Chances are he would be your second-to-last at best. Yet after an opening-round four-under 68 on Thursday, Immelman is back in contention at Augusta National after winning the event in 2008.
Immelman has battled nagging injuries, poor form and slumping confidence for the past several years, but he looked the confident part as he played bogey-free golf and recorded three birdies on Augusta's back nine.
Immelman's greatest moment as a professional came at Augusta National, and perhaps Thursday signaled the return of his career on those same hollowed grounds.
Dustin Johnson's opening-round 67 has him one shot behind the leaders.
Dustin Johnson has major championship pedigree; it just hasn't been built at Augusta National. Until Thursday, that is.
With his power and shot-making prowess on display, Johnson posted an unexpected five-under 67 to enter Friday just a stroke behind the leaders.
In his previous three Masters starts dating back to 2009, Johnson hasn't managed to break the Top 30, struggling with Augusta's challenging greens and short-game demands. Yet on Thursday, he managed to keep his drives in play, scrambled well when he did miss fairways or greens and putted extremely well.
In fact, Johnson suffered only one bogey all day at the difficult par-four 17th and countered that back-nine hiccup nicely with an eagle on the 13th and a birdie on the 15th. If the short game holds up, so might Johnson well into this Masters weekend.
Not even two double-bogeys could keep Fowler out of contention.
If Rickie Fowler had been told he would card not one but two double-bogeys in his opening round at Augusta National yet still find a way to fire a 68, he would have laughed. Yet that’s exactly what Fowler did during the first round of the Masters, and he sits only two shots off the lead as a result.
Perhaps just trying to be consistent, Fowler doubled the opening hole of both the front and back nines. But the popular young golfer never once made a bogey between or after the doubles. He managed to counter the disasters on the first and 10th holes with six birdies and an impressive eagle on the par-five 15th.
A birdie on the 17th and a nice save from off the front of the green on the 18th, and Fowler finds himself only two shots off the pace heading into the second round, which he hopes to play without the doubles.
Sergio Garcia may have been a forgotten man to some extent, but he shares the lead after Day 1.
We had a feeling Sergio Garcia would be a factor in the 2013 Masters, but a bogey-free round of 66 on Thursday wasn't exactly what we anticipated from the Spaniard.
Sergio’s game was on from the start, as the dynamic golfer got to three under through the first six holes and to six under after a birdie on the par-five 15th. Three pars on the way in earned Garcia, who still seeks his first career major title, a tie with the equally surprising Marc Leishman atop the leaderboard.
As unlikely as his bogey-free round and share of first was, Garcia’s performance on the testy greens of Augusta National was its equal. Sergio was both solid on the mid- and short-range putts, but he also displayed strong distance control when his approaches left him far from the hole.
Garcia, who can often be his own worst enemy on the course, controlled his game and his mindset.
Leishman ran off four straight birdies on Augusta National's back nine to share the first-round lead.
Raise your hand if you had Marc Leishman co-leading the 77th Masters after Day 1. After a solid six-under 66, that’s exactly where he is.
The Aussie bogeyed the first hole Thursday, but he avoided any further damage. After making the turn at one under, Leishman rang up five birdies on the back, including four straight in the critical stretch of 13 to 16, to climb the leaderboard.
It’s relatively rare air for the 29-year-old Leishman, who owns only one career PGA Tour victory and can claim only a tie for ninth at the Sony Open as his best showing of the 2013 season.
That said, on the eve of the second round, Leishman is one of two golfers without a back turned to him.
Tianlang Guan, the youngest player to ever play in the Masters, fired a one-over 73 on Thursday.
A 14-year-old shooting a one-over 73 at the Masters? We honestly didn't see this one coming.
Throughout his entire round at Augusta, Tianlang Guan looked more like a 24-year-old contender than an eighth-grader getting his first Masters test a week after taking a math exam.
But there was the Chinese teenager, making a 20-foot birdie putt on the famed 18th hole to post a score that bettered established stars such as Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter, Padraig Harrington and Hunter Mahan, to name just a few.
Making the performance all the more impressive, Guan bogeyed five holes Thursday. He countered almost every time with birdies, including one on the difficult par-four 10th.
That has him inside the cut line heading into the second round.