Defending champion Sergio Garcia got into some hot water giving new meaning to the old cliche that you can’t win the tournament on Thursday, but you sure can lose it.

Garcia crashed and burned at the par-5 15th, making a 13, the highest score ever recorded on the hole by two strokes.

“I don’t know, it’s the first time in my career where I make a 13 without missing a shot,” said Garcia. "Simple as that.”

Garcia had 206 yards for his second shot and struck a 6-iron straight at the flag.

“I thought it was perfect,” he said. “If it carries probably two more feet, it’s probably good. And if it probably carries a foot less, it probably doesn’t go off the green and probably stays on the fringe like (playing competitor Doc Redman’s) ball did, but unfortunately I flew it on the perfect spot for it to come back.

"And then I kept hitting good shots with the sand wedge and unfortunately I don’t know why, the ball just wouldn’t stop.”

Garcia’s unlucky 13 also matched the highest score on any hole in Masters history.

“I felt like I hit a lot of good shots and unfortunately the ball just didn’t want to stop. So it’s just unfortunate, but that’s what it is.

“It’s not the first time the pin’s been there, but with the firmness of the greens and everything I felt like the ball was going to stop and unfortunately for whatever reason it didn’t want to.”

Garcia named his first child Azalea after the 13th hole at Augusta where he made a crucial par in the final round last year. A repeat of that was already unlikely as the 15th hole is called Firethorn, but yesterday’s events made absolutely certain.

Garcia, who made eagle on Sunday en route to winning the title last year, rinsed five balls in the pond fronting the green. Garcia to his credit made a 2 on the par-3 16th hole, but signed for a 9-over-par 81.

The azaleas are in full bloom at Augusta National and so is Rory McIlroy’s bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

The Irishman began his opening round of the 2018 Masters with a birdie at the first hole. It marked the first time in his 10 appearances that he jumped into red figures at Tea Olive, which played as the toughest hole last season.

Sergio: I make 13 without missing a shot

McIlroy dropped his first stroke of the tournament with a bogey at the seventh, but bounced back with a birdie at the par 5, eighth hole and made the turn in 35 strokes. 

McIlroy was 1 under through 11 holes, and looking up at American Tony Finau, who was 3 under through 13 holes and China’s Haotong Li through 15 among players still on the course.

The foursome of Adam Hadwin, Charley Hoffman, Patrick Reed, and Henrik Stenson shared the clubhouse lead after signing for 69.

The day began with a chill in the air and Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player doing the honours as the first tee starters. When The Black Knight won his long-drive contest over The Golden Bear, Player said to him, “Don’t worry, I outdrive you now, but you outdrove me for 50 damn years.”

And then the 82nd Masters began in earnest with Augusta resident Wesley Bryan in the first group of the day.

“It was cold. It was really cold,” said Bryan. “Being able to watch Mr Player and Mr Nicklaus tee off on the first tee this morning, it just gave me chills.”

It warmed up into a glorious day of sunshine that had Adam Scott and others rolling up their sleeves.

Tiger Woods was in danger of shooting himself out of the tournament too, but recovered to shoot 1-over 73. 

Woods was already 2 over after a bogey at 11, the start of Amen Corner, when he stepped to devilish par-3, 12th hole and pushed his tee shot. It never had a prayer, finishing in Rae’s Creek. But Woods salvaged a bogey and made birdies at Nos. 14 and 16 on his way in.

On his 42nd birthday, Henrik Stenson fired a 3-under-par 69 in his bid to become the first Swede to win the Masters. Stenson has never finished better than a share of 14th place in 2014, but he has fond memories of watching the tournament on television.

“I fell asleep many nights to the Masters, very soothing music and the flowers,” he said. His clearest memory? “When Sandy Lyle hit the 7-iron out of the bunker on 18 in ‘88.”

Stenson, Hoffman, and Hadwin all made bogeys at 18, and finished tied with Reed.

Finau, 28, who is competing in his first Masters, suffered a high-ankle sprain on Wednesday after making an ace at the seventh hole in the Par-3 Contest and losing his footing during his celebration. 

Finau dropped to a knee, reached for his ankle, and had to pop the bone back into place. An x-ray was negative and he underwent an MRI yesterday before being cleared to play.

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McIlroy: It’s not the pressure, I just haven’t played well enoughMcIlroy: It’s not the pressure, I just haven’t played well enough


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