Bill Haas has his eyes on greener pastures.
The 31-year-old had a largely undecorated record at Augusta National coming into the 2014 edition, but after one round he sits atop the leaderboard. His four-under 68 is a stroke better than Bubba Watson, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen.
Haas' first-round lead is as impressive as it is unexpected. He's never finished better than 20th at the Masters, and in his 16 previous rounds, he never carded a score below 70. In addition, Haas has a poor record in the opening round of major tournaments, per ESPN Stats and Info's Justin Ray:
Entering today, Bill Haas was a combined +31 in the 1st round of majors in his career.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) April 10, 2014
The last time a golfer has won the Masters after holding a first-round lead was Ben Crenshaw in 1984, per ESPN Stats and Info. History isn't on Haas' side:
The last player to win the Masters after holding the outright first-round lead? Ben Crenshaw in 1984.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 10, 2014
He knows better than to get ahead of himself, though.
"I was leading last week after the first round (at the Shell Houston Open) and finished 37th, so I know there's tons of golf left," Haas said, per ESPN.com's Bob Harig. "And maybe understanding that, I know that I can't expect too much. You've just got to go out there and keep playing golf, try to hit that fairway on No. 1 tomorrow."
Many will no doubt be monitoring Haas' progress to see how much longer he can hold on.
Reigning champion Scott may be the guy to knock the leader off his perch. No golfer has repeated at the Masters in over a decade (Tiger Woods in 2001 and '02), but the 33-year-old Australian isn't letting expectations get the better of him.
"In a sense, winning last year took the pressure off," Scott said. "What's the worst that can happen? I'm still a Masters champion."
Scott looked really good on Thursday, and had it not been for a double bogey on No. 12, he'd probably be at least in a tie for the lead.
Another former Masters champion who impressed was Watson. Like Scott, he's a stroke behind Haas going into the second round.
What was so impressive about Watson's first round was he failed to record a single bogey:
Bubba Watson didn't make a bogey today. That's ridiculous. I didn't even play and I made four.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) April 10, 2014
As they say, slow and steady wins the race, and if the 35-year-old remains this consistent over the next three rounds, he may well earn green jacket No. 2.
Heading into the day, one of the storylines to watch will be the performance of Phil Mickelson. Lefty was absolutely dreadful in the first round, shooting a four-over 76, which put him in a tie for 67th.
After the round, Mickelson admitted that winning another green jacket has taken a backseat to simply making the cut. "I’ve got a lot of work to do tomorrow just to make the cut, so I’ve got some issues."
Prior to the Masters, he had been dealing with an oblique injury that forced him to withdraw from the Texas Open at the end of March. A 12th-place finish at the Houston Open made it seem that everything was right with Mickelson, but that apparently isn't the case.
The last time he missed a cut was back in 1997, which coincidentally was the last time he shot 76 in a round at Augusta:
Phil Mickelson's 76 matches his worst career opening rd Masters score. Also did it in 1997, the only time he's missed the cut here.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 10, 2014
Regardless, his prospects of playing through the weekend look strong. Mickelson's a much different player this time around. But his chances of winning the Masters hinge on a strong second-round recovery.