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2014 Masters: Stars Primed to Surge Up the Leaderboard in Round 2

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2014 Masters: Stars Primed to Surge Up the Leaderboard in Round 2
David J. Phillip

While Round 1 represented a big step forward for guys like Bill Haas, Bubba Watson, Jonas Blixt and Kevin Stadler, it was a day to forget for some of the favorites heading into the 2014 Masters.

It's never a good idea to read a lot into the opening round of a major tournament. Some of the guys at the top of the leaderboard are bound to fall off over the coming days, while the best golfers in the world will shine through and play up to their talent level.

The four stars listed below had underwhelming showings in the first round, but look ready to recover on Friday.

 

Rory McIlroy

Matt Slocum

Augusta National has never been very kind to Rory McIlroy, between his missed cut in 2010, final round score of 80 in 2011 and his 77 and 76 over the final two rounds in 2012. Maybe it's bad luck. Or maybe there's some truth to McIlroy being the next Greg Norman.

Round 1 seemed like the feeling-out period for the two-time major champion. He needed to get an idea of the course conditions, and now that he has, he'll be ready to make a real push for the top.

McIlroy said after the round that he was happy with his performance and thinks he's better off now than he's ever been at Augusta, per The Telegraph's Paul Heyward:

It was a good day at the office. They set the course up very difficult. Some of the pin positions were tough to get close to. The greens are firming up, the wind was all over the place and anything under par is a good score. I feel good and better prepared than I have ever been because experience counts for so much.

Three strokes back of Haas heading into Round 2, McIlroy should make some noise on Friday.

Plus, if recent history tells us anything, it's that his collapse doesn't start until at least the third round.

 

Phil Mickelson

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The positive for Phil Mickelson after the first round is that things can't get any worse. His first-round 76 tied for his highest first-round score at a major tournament, and he admitted that he now has to worry about simply making the cut, per Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman:

The previous 76 was also at Augusta, and Lefty missed the cut of that tournament, per ESPN Stats and Info:

To say that Mickelson's a different golfer than he was in 1997 would be a vast understatement. He's won three green jackets since then and become one of the best golfers of his era.

With so much ground to make up on Haas already, a win may be out of the question for Lefty, but he should be much better on Friday. Cracking the top 10 isn't an unrealistic goal.

 

Matt Kuchar

Chris Carlson

In his last two Masters tournaments, Matt Kuchar finished third and eighth, respectively. He's had some success at Augusta recently and knows what it takes to at least crack the top 10. That's why his one over Round 1 performance was a bit surprising.

Kuchar entered as one of the favorites, and how he's in a tie for 27. Seventy-three is tied for his second-worst opening round at the Masters.

Both Kuchar's driving accuracy (85.7 percent) and greens in regulation (66.7 percent) weren't all that bad on Thursday, so if he can get a little better luck, he should be much better off on Friday.

 

Lee Westwood

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

In three of the last four seasons, Lee Westwood has finished in the top 10 at Augusta. During that four-year span, he has a runner-up finish (2010) and a third-place finish (2012). He's not going to be phased by starting out with a one-under on Thursday.

Westwood had a couple of poor shots that put a damper on his first round, especially his adventure on Amen Corner. He should right the ship on Friday, and as long as he can remain consistent, Westwood will be right in the thick of it come the weekend.

The law of averages is also on Westwood's side. Sooner or later, he has to win a major, right?

 

All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

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