The 2014 Masters got off to a strong start on Thursday. Augusta National Golf Club once again proved to be a tough test for the world's top golfers, but scoring conditions were still fair for those who were striking the ball well, like Round 1 clubhouse leader Bill Haas.
Players who didn't go low in the opening round head into Day 2 with a sense of urgency. Although nobody ran away from the field during the first 18 holes, staying within striking distance of the leaders is key heading into the weekend.
It will be very difficult to make up a lot of strokes.
Given the bunched-up leaderboard and the tough Augusta course, it's setting up to become quite a battle over the next three days. Let's check out where the leaders stand with a list of the latest scores followed by some players to watch in Round 2.
2014 Masters Leaderboard
Players to Watch on Day 2
Haas carded six birdies on an Augusta course that saw less than 20 players finish under par in the opening round. That alone shows he's capable of transforming from afterthought into serious championship contender in the coming days.
The 31-year-old American isn't getting ahead of himself, though. Bob Harig of ESPN.com passed along comments from the clubhouse leader after the first round, who noted that he found himself in a similar position last week and let it slip away:
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. 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.
Haas shot a seven-under 65 in the first round last week and then didn't break par the rest of the event. The experience should benefit him since it's fresh in his memory. He doesn't need to have the low round again, but he must avoid dropping shots to the field like he did in the Shell Houston Open.
The defending champion did exactly what he needed to do in Round 1. Due to the absence of Tiger Woods, who always attracts a lot of attention, Scott took on a more prominent role in the conversation leading up to the season's first major. That led to added pressure.
It didn't seem to impact the Australian star, though. He navigated his way around Augusta with the same precision that allowed him to win last year, aside from a water ball on No. 12. As a result, he sits just one stroke off the lead as he attempts to become the first repeat winner in more than a decade, as ESPN Stats and Info noted:
Scott has clearly found a comfort zone at Augusta over the past couple of years. While repeating against one of the top fields in golf is always an uphill challenge, his nearly flawless performance in Round 1 makes you think he has a good chance of doing exactly that.
The Masters is the only major championship in which McIlroy hasn't finished in the top 10. He almost won a green jacket back in 2011 before a disastrous final round eliminated those hopes, and he hasn't been a weekend contender at Augusta over the past few years.
A solid first round put him in a position to end those struggles. He posted a one-under round of 71 and could have been right up there with the leaders if not for a couple of correctable mistakes leading to bogeys on the par-five eighth and the final hole.
Otherwise, given how well he struck the ball, it wouldn't be a surprise to see McIlroy make a charge toward the top of the leaderboard on Day 2. Augusta has been a tough riddle for him to solve, but it seems like he's making some progress.
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