Adam Scott and Bubba Watson are looking for a second. Phil Mickelson doesn't seem likely to add a fourth. Could Bill Haas earn his first?
You may not be able to win a green jacket on Thursday, but we certainly learned a lot on the first day of the Masters nonetheless.
Here's the scoreboard after Round 1:
The story of the day was Haas, who shot to the top of the field with a four-under 68. Justin Ray of ESPN put his impressive round into perspective:
Entering today, Bill Haas was a combined +31 in the 1st round of majors in his career.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) April 10, 2014
Bill Haas cards 68, his 1st career sub-70 round at Augusta. Ties his best career score in a major (done 5 previous times).— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) April 10, 2014
Whether Haas can stay there is the real question, especially with former winners in Watson and Scott just a stroke behind him. Watson's performance in particular was especially impressive, as Jason Sobel of GolfChannel.com humorously noted:
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
Watson and Scott aren't the only big-name players chasing Haas, however. Brandt Snedeker is just two strokes behind, while Rory McIlroy, Fred Couples, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Miguel Angel Jimenez are all three strokes back.
Other contenders will have more work to do, however. Charl Schwartzel, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood are all one-over, while Hunter Mahan and Sergio Garcia are two over par and Jason Day shot a 75.
The big disappointments were Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. Mickelson shot a shocking 76, while Johnson—a trendy pick to win this year's tournament—was even worse at 77. Mickelson, to his credit, had no misconceptions about his quality of play on Thursday, as he told Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel:
"I've got a lot of work to do just to make the cut tomorrow. I've got a lot of issues."-Phil Mickelson on tying Masters career high 76— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) April 10, 2014
Phil Mickelson has failed to make the cut at a Masters just once in his career, in 1997. He also shot a 76 on the first day that year.
Meanwhile, if Jason Dufner fails to make the cut, he'll leave Scott in rarefied air, as Ray tweeted:
If Jason Dufner (currently +8) misses the cut tomorrow, Adam Scott will be the only player to make the cut in each of last 9 majors.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) April 10, 2014
It's not looking too good for Dufner.
After the first day of action, it appears the theme could easily be "No Tiger, no problem." While Tiger Woods always adds an air of intrigue to any event, there are plenty of intriguing storylines to follow this year. Haas, surprisingly atop the leaderboard. Former winners like Scott and Watson starting strong. Mickelson fighting for his life.
And a slew of players hoping to earn their first green jacket.
Friday will be a huge day, and not just for those looking to survive the cut. Haas has to prove he has the fight to stay atop the pack, as a tough course ensured nobody raced away from the field on Thursday. Can McIlroy and company make things interesting heading into the weekend?
We'll have to wait and see. With the weather likely to be beautiful again and plenty of contenders in the running, this year's Masters looks like another classic.