Day 1 of the 2013 Masters featured some pleasant surprises, familiar faces and tremendous shots. While the top of the leaderboard is filled with some impressive scores, there’s still plenty of golf to be played in the next three days.
Marc Leishman and Sergio Garcia share the lead after Round 1 with impressive rounds of 66. We’re used to seeing Garcia hang around in majors, but this will be a good chance for the Spaniard to finally break through the invisible barrier that has kept him from major tournament glory.
Sixty-eight was also a popular number Thursday, yielding a six-way tie toward the top of the leaderboard. Fred Couples, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson were among the players to fire off rounds of four under and put themselves in good position to contend for the green jacket.
It wasn’t all familiar faces, though.
Fourteen-year-old Tianlang Guan may have been the most impressive player at Augusta on Thursday, despite a score of one-over 73. The youngster showed tremendous poise throughout the first round, and regardless of his finish, Guan has a bright future ahead of him.
We’ll break down the rounds of each of the golfers who shot a 68 or better on Thursday, providing insight into what each did to claim a spot atop the leaderboard.
(66) Marc Leishman
Leishman entered the clubhouse with a six-under 66 and the lead after Round 1 of play. Garcia would eventually catch up to the 29-year-old with a 66 of his own, but the two were the only golfers to reach that mark on Thursday.
The second-time Masters participant opened his round with a bogey on the par-four first, but he shook off the jitters to the tune of seven birdies without another blemish on his card.
Leishman fired four straight birdies beginning at No. 13 and finished his round with two pars to finish the round. Provided he can play mistake-free on Friday, he’ll be in good position to remain in the lead heading into the weekend—but that’s a big “if” for any golfer in this tournament.
(66) Sergio Garcia
Garcia has been known to play inconsistently in majors, but he certainly didn’t appear to be all that erratic on Day 1. With a blemish-free scorecard and six birdies on the day, Garcia is back in prime position to make a run at his first green jacket.
Momentum was the calling card of the Spaniard’s card in the opening round. He tallied five pars and four birdies on the front nine, building up steam for a two-birdie back nine and a share of the lead after Day 1.
(67) Dustin Johnson
Firethorn provided plenty of eagles on Day 1, and while Johnson only birdied No. 15, he did manage to shave off two strokes with an eagle on the par-five 13th. A hole at which many struggled on Thursday, Johnson used it to move to five under and within striking distance of the lead.
Despite a perfect card through 16 holes, the 28-year-old dropped a shot at No. 17 with a bogey, but a lot of good can be taken away from his first round. Johnson hasn’t finished better than 30th at Augusta, though a strong first-round showing may help end that drought this year.
(68) David Lynn
David Lynn teed off at 8:22 a.m. with Group 3 and entered the clubhouse with the lead at four under. His score would eventually be bested, but Lynn has to feel good about his first-round performance.
The first-time Masters participant turned in a spotless front nine, and while he bogeyed No. 10 and No. 17 on the back, Lynn will have plenty of momentum heading into Day 2. Escaping Amen Corner with two birdies will have that effect.
(68) Rickie Fowler
Fowler somehow managed to erase two double bogeys to turn in a four-under 68 for a share of fourth place.
Sixes on both No. 1 and No. 10 could have easily derailed the colorful Fowler, but he countered with six birdies and an eagle at the par-five 15th that provided a lot of quality scoring opportunities for golfers on Thursday.
Big numbers are the 24-year-old’s biggest weakness, but he’ll do well this weekend if he can keep tacking on birdies—though an easier solution would be to avoid sixes altogether.
(68) Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
Fernandez-Castano played extremely well on the back nine after a one-under start to the day. With four birdies and just one bogey in his last nine holes, the Spaniard found himself within striking distance of the lead after Day 1.
A par on No. 18 would have moved the 32-year-old into a tie for third place, but a bogey for a four-under 68 shouldn’t discourage Fernandez-Castano heading into Friday. He played well enough to be considered a legitimate contender for the green jacket.
(68) Trevor Immelman
The 2008 Masters winner is back in the hunt this year after firing a 68 for a share of fourth place. With a bogey-free round and a string of birdies in his last five holes, Immelman played mistake-free golf that should have the rest of the field very concerned.
The 33-year-old South African hasn’t played well this year (four missed cuts), but there’s something to be said for the familiarity of a course that provided him with a green jacket just five years ago.
(68) Fred Couples
Couples just continues to impress at Augusta. Even at 53, the 1992 Masters winner is posting low scores and hanging around with a much younger crowd.
Couple bogeyed No. 6 and No. 18, but he sprinkled in six birdies—three on the front nine and three on the back. There was enough to like about his first round to consider Couples a serious contender heading into the weekend.
(68) Matt Kuchar
Like Couples, Kuchar paired two bogeys with six birdies in his first round. Fortunately, both bogeys came on Par 3s—direct results of a couple poor shots. Kuchar will be able to bounce back on Friday if he can find a little more consistency with his ball-striking, though a four-under 68 is nothing to be ashamed of.
The 33-year-old has already posted three top-10 finishes this year, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest he can keep the momentum rolling into the weekend. Kuchar could be a dangerous player if he hangs around on Friday.
*Full leaderboard can be found at PGA.com.