Charley Hoffman blew away the field with a seven-under 65, but there are 19 golfers behind him bunched at three under to one over, all of whom salvaged the day by grinding through tough conditions. Pick the one you most expect to make a move on Friday.
Sean Zak, associate editor, GOLF.com: Rickie Fowler. The wind isn’t going away anytime soon, and if you had a chance to watch Fowler Thursday, you saw a man in fine control of his ball flight. I think a number of players lucked into 70s and 71s. I think Rickie bad-lucked into a 73, and I expect that controlled golf to get him under 70 Friday.
Michael Rosenberg, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Rory McIlroy. Sure, an obvious choice. But he had two top 10s in the past month and showed great resolve with his opening 72 in the worst of the tough Thursday conditions.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Give me Phil or give me…not death, just disappointment. Once again Lefty has thrown himself into the fray. His eagle on the second hole put a charge into this tournament, and surely it’s kismet that he’s 46 years old, a magical number around these parts. Lots of wind and increasingly crusty greens puts a premium on short-game and game-planning and nobody does it better at ANGC than this three-time champ.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Fred. Studies show that when he plays a good first round at the Masters, his second is better.
Josh Berhow, staff producer, GOLF.com: Lee Westwood. His round stopped at the wrong time today, as he birdied five of the last six holes to come in with a five-under 31. We know he likes playing at Augusta — five top 10s in the last seven years — so he’s bound to stick around and contend on the weekend.
Alan Bastable, executive editor, GOLF.com: Westwood and Sergio, obviously, followed by inexorable Sunday swoons. Philly Mick has to love where he is, at one under. Any score around par today was an achievement (Hoffman’s 65 was downright freakish), and as Mickelson pointed out, more wind and weirdness tomorrow will serve the more experienced players well. When the going gets tough at Augusta, it’s not about knowing where to hit it, it’s about knowing where to miss it.
Sean Steinemann, social media editor, GOLF.com: Rory McIlroy. While a number of big names limped into the house on Thursday, seemingly letting the conditions get the better of them, McIlroy bounced back from a three-over 39 on the front side with a three-under 33 on the second nine. Best part is, he’s off early tomorrow and gets to feed off his positive momentum as he looks to complete the Slam.
Josh Sens, contributor, GOLF Magazine: Jon Rahm. After faltering late Thursday the Spaniard comes out with some red ass tomorrow and drops a big red number on the field.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Give me Justin Rose. Major champion. Going back to the 2012 Masters, he’s made more birdies at Augusta National than anyone else. And he tacked on five more in the first round.
Marika Washchyshyn, multimedia producer, GOLF.com: Rory. He went from toeing the cut line to charging toward being a champion in six holes. Even if the weather is the same tomorrow (and it’s supposed to be a little better), he’s figured it out. And with DJ out of the way? Watch out for Rors, he’s hungry for that green jacket.