With a 2014 Masters field that many dubbed "wide open" due to the absence of Tiger Woods, there is an unfamiliar name at the top of the leaderboard after one day.
Bill Haas has made the cut at Augusta National four straight years, and he finished in a tie for 20th in 2013, but he has certainly never found himself in this kind of position. The 31-year-old Wake Forest alum countered two bogeys with six birdies on his way to a four-under 68 on Thursday, putting him all alone in first place after 18 holes.
PGATour.com's Mike McAllister and ESPN's Justin Ray noted just how unusual of a round it was for Haas, who last won on tour in June of 2013:
Bill Haas opens with 4-under 68, sets early pace @The_Masters It's first time in 17 career rounds at Augusta National that he's shot in 60s— Mike McAllister (@PGATOUR_mikemc) April 10, 2014
Entering today, Bill Haas was a combined +31 in the 1st round of majors in his career.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) April 10, 2014
Let's take a look at how the rest of the day unfolded, as well as some of the players chasing Haas.
Haas may be sitting alone at the top of the leaderboard, but Adam Scott is right on his tail. The defending champion birdied No. 14 and parred the final four holes to finish the day three under and tied for second place.
Of course, the 33-year-old Australian would be in first if not for a quick swim at No. 12. Scott's tee shot on the par three found the drink, and he eventually ended up with a double bogey, erasing a start that included four birdies on the first 10 holes.
As Brian Wacker of PGATour.com noted, however, "Golden Bell" gave lots of players problems on the day:
Golden Bell (aka 12) beating guys up. Nearly half-stroke over par, 3 birdies, 25 pars, 16 bogeys or worse, only 21 of 45 have hit green.— Brian Wacker (@pgatour_brianw) April 10, 2014
Other than that minor blip, though, Scott was happy with the way he played, via Golf.com's Twitter feed:
Adam Scott on rinsing his tee shot on #12 @The_Masters: "That was the only weak shot I hit."— Golf.com (@si_golf) April 10, 2014
The World No. 2 entered Thursday as one of the favorites, and he did nothing to suggest that should change. In fact, a guy who knows a thing or two about winning green jackets, via Yahoo Sports' Mark Beretta, believes Scott can become the first player since Tiger Woods (2001 and 2002) to win back-to-back titles at Augusta:
6 times @The_Masters champ Jack Nicklaus says winning a second green jacket is easier than the first. He thinks Adam Scott is a good chance.— Mark Beretta (@MarkBeretta) April 10, 2014
Interestingly enough, joining Scott in a tie for second place are Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen, who have plenty of Masters history themselves. In 2012, the duo went to a playoff, where Watson hit his now-famous shot out of the woods to be crowned champion.
While they seem forever intertwined at Augusta, both took very different routes to their rounds of three under on Thursday. The sometimes-erratic Watson put together a bogey-free round, while Oosthuizen had an up-and-down day with six birdies and three bogeys.
Watson's performance stood alone, as the PGA Tour's Twitter feed noted:
Both of these players will be among the most intriguing to track on Friday.
Watson's power and style make him one of the most captivating players on tour, while Oosthuizen owns one of the sweetest swings in golf but has struggled at Augusta outside of the unforgettable 2012 tournament.
A slew of players are tied for fifth at two under, while Rory McIlroy, who entered as the oddsmakers' co-favorite with Scott, is just outside the top 10 after shooting a one-under 71. He is knotted with several intriguing names, including 20-year-old players Matteo Manassero and Jordan Spieth, and 54-year-old Fred Couples.
Inconsistency with his putter turned out to be the Northern Irishman's downfall.
GolfDigest.com's Dan Jenkins summed it up:
Rory McIlroy, playing to his weakness, finishes with a three putt to get in at one under par.— Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd) April 10, 2014
McIlroy also three-putted on No. 12, and although he wasn't terrible by any means, his round probably should have been in the 60s, and he'll have to be better on the green going forward.
Golf Central gave some more numbers behind his performance:
Rory McIlroy: 9 of 14 fairways, 15 of 18 greens, avg. 293.5 yards off tee, 34 putts… 71 pic.twitter.com/np1WOlvl3P— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) April 10, 2014
If Thursday was any indication, we are in line for an unforgettable Masters tournament.
Who will lead going into the weekend?
Giving a quick look at the top 20 players, you'll see a leader who has never been in this position before trailed by three guys who have had success at Augusta in the very recent past. You'll see 10 different countries represented. There are two players who can't legally drink if they win and another who is older than both of them combined.
Even without Tiger, the Masters is living up to the hype.
With the weekend approaching and players looking to stay under the cut line, Friday should be more of the same.