Super Spieth turns it on at Augusta
By his own admission Jordan Spieth has struggled in 2018, but the Champion Golfer of the Year emphatically returned to form on day one at The Masters.
The American, who won the title in 2015, produced some scintillating golf on the back nine as he carded a six-under round of 66.
He holds a two-shot lead but the field is tightly congested behind him, with many Champion Golfers impressing on an intriguing first day. Six Champion Golfers are currently inside the top 20.
It was the round Spieth has been waiting for. While his rivals have all played themselves into form, The Open Champion has had to wait patiently before pulling off yesterday's performance.
Everything clicked into gear on the back nine, where five successive birdies saw the 24-year-old leap to the top of the leaderboard – two clear of Tony Finau and Matt Kuchar, who he beat to the Claret Jug last July.
A bogey at the last prevented him from holding a three-shot lead, much to the relief of the rest of the field, but nothing could wipe a smile off the Texan’s face.
"I ended up having to make a really good bogey to post six [under] but it's up there in the top three rounds I've ever played here," he said.
"I felt we caught a really good break late in the day today to be able to play in short sleeves with no wind - the hardest part is figuring out which direction the wind's coming from."
You'd be forgiven for thinking the leaderboard looks familiar. The top 5 from The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale - Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Haotong Li, Rory McIlroy and Rafael Cabrera-Bello - are all inside the top 10.
Resilient Woods still battling
While Spieth took advantage of the perfect afternoon conditions, Tiger Woods was already in the clubhouse after carding a one-over round of 73.
The three-time Champion Golfer of the Year found the going tough in the morning Augusta dew, but he did well to stay in contention by posting two late birdies.
On the front nine it was a case of ‘what if’ for Woods, who seemed to miss a slew of putts by millimetres.
But it’s a game of fine margins and, even though he was not at his best, the 42-year-old is only seven shots back and showed enough to suggest he still has a chance.
"I think we pretty much hit every club in the bag,” he said.
“The wind was dancing a little bit. It was supposed to be puffing out of the east and by the end of the day it was coming out of the south. It was a big change.”
Finau defies logic
The video of Tony Finau dislocating his ankle while celebrating a hole-in-one during the par-three competition looks worse with every watch.
So the fact that he sits joint second on four-under is an incredible achievement.
Tony Finau - wow! One of the greatest sporting injury comebacks since Mr Miyagi worked his magic on Daniel son!! #themasters2018— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) April 5, 2018
Heavy strapping and a concoction of painkillers got him through the opening round and, while he could not apply much weight, he excelled.
"I was able to pop it back into place and to say it was a scary night is probably an understatement. So didn't sleep very much, thinking about how I was going to react when I woke up,” he said.
Best of the rest
While Spieth commands the headlines, Rory McIlroy is sitting pretty. The Northern Irishman is just three shots back after a 69 and looks primed for a serious assault this year after playing an aggressive brand of golf.
Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler are just one shot back after carding rounds of 70, while veteran Vijay Singh showed he still has it with a fine 71 to sit at one-under.
But spare a thought for Sergio Garcia. The defending champion found the water five times on the par-five 15th, with the ball spinning into the wet stuff each time it found the green.
He finally carded a 13, and finished his round on nine-over par.