Augusta, Ga. – As the cliché goes, there are no winners on Thursday at the Masters. But there are losers.
Jordan Spieth set the pace at Augusta National on Thursday, going deep with a bogey-free 66 that he called “average-ish” ball-striking. Posted early in the morning, a 66 – from anyone, much less the defending champ – looms large atop the giant scoreboards that are sprinkled throughout the course. Birdies become a necessity.
The biggest comeback in Masters history after 18 holes is seven strokes, accomplished by Nick Faldo in 1990 and Tiger Woods in 2005. Seven shots? Anyone who signed for higher than 73 on Thursday can pack his bags.
Rickie Fowler and your 80? #Done. Bubba Watson: 75. Maybe next time. Adam Scott: 76. Hope Stevie doesn’t get paid by the round. Sleeper picks like Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Charl Schwartzel and Jason Dufner: 76-76-76-76.
On average, the eventual champion has been 2.23 strokes behind the leader after one round. Since 1990, that margin jumps to 3.31. Let’s round up and say this year’s winner needs to be within four shots of Spieth’s 66. Dustin Johnson’s 73 ain’t getting it done. Neither is Jason Day’s 72. Maybe next year for Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen. Had to break par, boys.
Of the 79 Masters champions, 60 were in the top 10 after the first round. And 35 were inside the top three. Your top three entering Friday?
Jordan Spieth, Danny Lee and Shane Lowry.
I know who I’m betting on.