Five things we learned from day one of the US Masters

On a day when Jordan Spieth got that sinking feeling again, Brian Keogh examines the major talking points...

Five things we learned from day one of the US Masters

1. Augusta’s mental challenge

They say death and taxes are the only sure things in life but you can add to that the unpredictable nature of Augusta National’s back nine.

Just ask Jordan Spieth, who survived his return visit to the par-three 12th where he made a Masters-destroying quadruple bogey seven 12 months ago by two putting for par.

The American was cruising along in the buffeting winds and riding his luck — his second to the 11th came with a few rolls of a watery grave — then he arrived at the 15th at his Masters challenge suffered a big blow.

After a lay-up, he appeared to have taken disaster out of the equation.

But he then proceeded to run up a quadruple bogey nine by finding water with his third, pitching over the back and then three putting from 30 feet after a woeful chip.

A three over 75 is not definitive but it will take something special for Spieth to come back from yet another Masters blow.

2. Phil Mickelson and the legend of 46

Jack Nicklaus’ sixth Masters win at the age of 46 in 1986 is arguably the greatest performance of all time at Augusta National.

But there’s a chance that Phil Mickelson could match that feat this year if he wins his fourth green jacket at the same age.

Mickelson showed yesterday that as with Nicklaus in ’86, experience is everything at the Cathedral of Pines, plotting his way to a one-under par 71 that could be worth its weight in gold.

Knowing what constitutes a good score on a tough day is a skill that veterans possess and Mickelson knew that anything in the red yesterday would be a sensational effort.

3. Rory’s curse at No 1

The first hole at Augusta National is traditionally one of the toughest, especially if your name is Rory McIlroy.

The world No 2 has now played 445-yard Tea Olive 31 times in nine Masters appearances, and he has yet to make a birdie.

In fact, McIlroy dropped a shot at the opening hole of the Masters for the second time in his career having also started with a six there in 2012, when he also made a double bogey in round three.

Yesterday’s bogey — he found the deep bunkers on the right off the tee and couldn’t reach the green — means McIlroy is now 10 over par in his career at the first, averaging 4.32.

4. Dustin Johnson unlucky major record

If ever there was a player who could snatch disaster from the jaws of glorious triumph, it’s Dustin Johnson. The world No 1’s propensity for attracting bad luck in majors knows no bounds and it now appears that last year’s US Open victory at Oakmont was the exception that proves the rule.

In the 2010 US Open shot an 82 in the final group on Sunday and finished tied for eighth behind Graeme McDowell. Later that year he was in the final group of the US PGA at Whistling Straits but missed out on a playoff when he was penalised two shots for grounding his club in a waste bunker and ended up fifth.

In the 2011 Open at Sandwich he was a shot behind Darren Clarke with five holes to go and hit his second shot out of bounds at the 14th.

Then 2012 he missed the Masters after his agent said he hurt his back lifting a jet-ski.

In 2014 he announced he was taking the rest of the year off to address “personal challenges” then three-putted the final green to hand the 2015 US Open to Jordan Spieth.

His fortunes appeared to have changed with that win at Oakmont and an imperious rise to No 1 in the world. No such luck, apparently.

5. Turf management has changed, but not Augusta National

Cell phones remain banned at Augusta National, which says it all about the club’s love to old world traditions that are in keeping with the spirit of founder Bobby Jones.

Whatever about that inconvenience, the players can be grateful that the club has been at the cutting edge of turf management technology for years.

It wasn’t always that way, according to Gary Player, who recalls how Jack Nicklaus went on to win one of his six green jackets because his sky-high iron play gave him an advantage as the rest struggled to hold firm greens from fairways that had far longer grass than today’s manicured surfaces.

Recalling how he went to see the famously stern Clifford Roberts to lower the mower blades, Player said the chairman gave him short shrift.

“So he says, ‘Do you know anything about poetry?’ I said, ‘Yes. Yeats, Wordsworth, Shakespeare’,” Roberts said: “‘I’m impressed,’ then he says, ‘Listen carefully: The mowers are as low as they can go. Good morning’.”

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