AUGUSTA, US: Jordan Spieth produced one of the greatest rounds of golf in major history on Thursday (Friday in Manila) with a 64 to lead by three strokes after the first round of the 79th Masters.
The 21-year-old Texan at one stage looked in line to become the first player to shoot below 63 in a major—a mark currently shared by 24 golfers—but a poor approach shot to the 15th led to his only bogey and nudged the record agonizingly out of his grasp.
Still, Spieth closed with a 20-footer for an ninth birdie at the last to surpass fellow young gun Rory McIlroy as the youngest player to have led the Masters after the opening round and underlined once again his huge potential.
Tied for second on his debut last year, Spieth ended the day at Augusta National as sole leader, three shots clear of a rejuvinated South African veteran Ernie Els, England’s Justin Rose, Australian Jason Day and American Charley Hoffman.
“It’s nice to put myself in a position now where I can really stay patient, dig in and keep giving myself opportunities and not worry about anything else,” Spieth said.
“I can pretty much control my own destiny from here. And pleased to be in that position here again. I was leading last year at one point by a couple of shots on Sunday, it didn’t go my way,” he added.
The superb performance by the young Texan eclipsed the two big storylines that were the talk of Augusta at the start of the day concerning Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
The 39-year-old Woods returned after two-month timeout he called on himself to try and piece back together his once dominant game.
But, after enjoying a promising buildup to the tournament, Woods once again struggled at times, especially early on, as he clattered a couple of drives into the trees, misjudged chips and then found the water of Rae’s Creek at the 13th en route to a 73.
It could have been worse for him were it not for some desperate scrambling to repair the damage done by his wayward shots.
It was a step forward for him in some ways after his woeful performances earlier this year, but it still leaves him with a fight on his hands just to make the Masters cut, something he last failed to do in 1996 when he was still an amateur.
Woods was, however, upbeat over his showing, saying that the unusually soft Augusta greens had been his main problem.
“I felt good. I felt like I hit the ball well enough to shoot three-under par,” he said.
“Our entire group was really struggling at the greens. We were talking about how slow they were today. We had a hard time hitting the putts hard enough.”