AUGUSTA, Ga. – Strong thunderstorms early Thursday morning took some of the shine off Augusta National’s firm and fast greens.
Good thing, because a steady 20-mph wind (with gusts up to 30 mph) made conditions plenty difficult for the first round of the Masters.
“One of the toughest days I’ve ever seen around Augusta National,” said Paul Casey, who shot 69. “Although I think we got let off the hook with the rain last night, still incredibly tough.”
Jordan Spieth said, given the conditions, he viewed his opening 66 as a better score than his first-round 64 a year ago, the first step in what became a wire-to-wire victory.
"I'd put it up there with one of the best rounds I've played," he said, "one of the best rounds I've scored."
Of course, difficult conditions are nothing new to Tom Watson, but even in his 43rd appearance at Augusta he still admits to being befuddled by the wind that swirls around Amen Corner. The 155-yard, par-3 12th is an educated guess on a windy day like Thursday.
“You can be playing downwind, into the wind, and you-don’t-know wind,” he said.
Players mentioned during the practice days here that the course was as firm and shiny as they’ve ever seen it. Bubba Watson noted that the color of the greens was “like a Saturday or Sunday color.”
They were still slippery in the opening round, even after heavy rain early Thursday morning.
“It’s tough to be really aggressive around here in these conditions,” said Louis Oosthuizen (72). “You can so easily play yourself completely out of the tournament.”
And many players did: Adam Scott and Patrick Reed shot 76, Kevin Kisner carded a 77, and Rickie Fowler had an 80.
The forecast for the next two days calls for cooler temperatures (mid-60s), with winds gusting to 30 mph as the afternoon progresses.
“We’re going to have difficult conditions for three days, and nobody is going to keep that pace up,” said Phil Mickelson (72), who was six shots behind Spieth when he finished his round. “If I just shoot a few under par each day from here on out, I still have a good chance on Sunday.”