Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Apr 10 2015, Page 44

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - April 10, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE C8 A UGUSTA, Ga. — Jordan Spieth was already the hottest player on the PGA Tour. Jordan Spieth had everything go his way Thursday in the Masters, so he should have known how the shot would turn out without even asking. In the lead and in the trees, he slashed a 7- iron towards the green and started barking instructions at the golf ball until he saw it bound onto the 14th green. He never saw it smack into the pin and settle a few feet away. He only heard one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon. “ What happened?” Spieth said to his caddie. Something special. With six birdies in a seven- hole stretch, Spieth flirted with a major championship record he didn’t know existed and atoned for his lone mistake with one last birdie putt for an 8- under 64. It was the best opening round at Augusta National in 19 years, gave him a three- shot lead and stole plenty of buzz from the grand slam bid of Rory McIlroy and the return of Tiger Woods. “ It’s one of the better rounds I’ve ever played,” he said. That wasn’t the case for McIlroy, though his round wasn’t awful. The world’s No. 1 player saved par four times on the front nine and scratched out a 71. Woods had three birdies in his round of 73, and while it was the first time since 2007 he shot over par in the first round of the Masters, it was looked upon as progress. Most peculiar about his first round in two months was that his short game saved him. But the day belonged to Spieth, a 21- year- old Texan who at least got into the Masters record book as the youngest to lead after the first round. An even more significant record was within his reach, and he didn’t even know it. Spieth went to 8 under with that birdie on the 14th hole, and then he blistered a driver down the fairway on the par- 5 15th hole, just 228 yards to the hole. That’s when he started thinking about a 62 because he had never shot 10- under par as a pro. But he hit hybrid over the green and wound up making bogey. Only later did Spieth realize 63 was the best score in any major, and only two players had done it at the Masters — Greg Norman in the first round of 1996 and Nick Price in the third round of 1986. “ So that’s a little frustrating,” he said before he paused with a wry smile. “ But I’m certainly OK with the day.” It wasn’t that big of a surprise. Spieth shared the 54- hole lead last year at Augusta with Bubba Watson until a four- shot swing over the last two holes of the front nine as Watson pulled away. Plus, he might have been the hottest player coming into this Masters. In his last three events, he won, finished second and lost in a playoff. The biggest challenge he faced was to keep his expectations from growing taller than a Georgia pine, and to make sure he was well- rested. Whatever the formula, it worked. “ What a player,” Els said after a 67, his best score at the Masters since Phil Mickelson beat him with a birdie on the last hole in 2004. “ You just cannot see this kid not win many, many majors. I think he is by far the most balanced kid I’ve seen. Jordan, he’s got that little tenacity to him and he’s really got a fighting spirit, and he’s the nicest kid in the world. ... He’s a special kid.” Els played the par- 5s in 5 under and briefly had the lead until Spieth went on his birdie spree. Charley Hoffman finished 5- under with an eagle and two birdies over his last four holes. In Canadian results, amateur Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., was 8 over while 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir of Bright’s Grove, Ont., was 10 over. Jason Day looked to be the most dangerous. Twice a contender at Augusta in the last four years, he made five straight birdies on the back nine until he lost momentum with a bogey from the bunker on the 17th. Still, three shots behind after one round wasn’t a bad place to be. McIlroy has more work. Coming off successive major victories to close out last year, McIlroy needs only a green jacket to become the sixth player with the career grand slam. He has never started a Masters with this much historic significance in play, or this much attention. McIlroy smashed his opening drive right down the middle. The rest of his game was a bit off. He hooked a drive into the hazard on the par- 5 second and had to scramble for par. He stubbed a chip short of the green on the 350- yard third hole and had to fight for another par. McIlroy picked up two birdies on the par- 5s on the back nine to salvage his start. “ It could have been a round that got away from me,” McIlroy said. “ I just stayed patient, realizing that it’s a 72- hole tournament. It was good to get into red numbers.” That wasn’t that difficult to achieve on a day of soft conditions that made even the tough pin positions a little more accessible. Thirty players in the 97- man field broke par. Woods wasn’t one of them. He opened with a three- putt bogey from about 40 feet. He had one bad adventure on the ninth and escaped with bogey. But there was not a sign of struggle from his short game, except for a bunker shot on the par- 3 fourth hole that went over the green. Most telling was early on the back nine. Woods saved par from the bunker right of the green on No. 10. Facing one of the scariest shots on the course, he pitched beautifully to save par on the 11th. And after a tee shot into the water on No. 12, his wedge to two feet allowed him to make bogey. “ It’s my strength again,” Woods said. But he was nine shots behind, and that was going to take a strong effort to overcome. — The Associated Press AUGUSTA, Ga. — Rory McIlroy knows full well what he can accomplish this week at the Masters. So he decided to remain patient when he found himself over par through the first 11 holes. McIlroy bogeyed No. 11, putting him at 1 over before coming up with two birdies on the next four holes to give him a 1- under 71 for the opening round Thursday. “ I just kept telling myself to be patient out there today,” McIlroy said. “ It was a tricky day. The wind was swirling a little bit. Pin positions were tough. Anything under par I felt was a pretty good score. “ It was nice to pick up a couple birdies on the back nine on the par- 5s there. Pretty satisfied with today’s work.” He won the last two majors of 2014, and McIlroy now is at Augusta trying to become only the sixth golfer in the modern era to capture all four of golf’s biggest events. The 25- year- old from Northern Ireland certainly didn’t shoot himself out of contention for the missing title in his career grand slam. There are 54 holes left, even with Texan Jordan Spieth, the first- round leader, at 8 under. McIlroy insists he hasn’t put too much pressure on himself. “ Look, I obviously know what I can achieve this week, but I’m not letting myself think about it too much. Just trying to play it one round at a time. Today was a pretty good day. I feel like I can do better. “ But happy after Day 1 and go out and just try and do a little bit better tomorrow.” McIlroy settled for par on his first five holes, scrambling to even do that on the par- 5 No. 2, when he put a drive in the creek. A sloppy chip at No. 11 cost him his second bogey. He likes how he is driving the ball and needs some of that patience with his irons. “ I’ll hope to be right there at the end of the week,” McIlroy said. — The Associated Press C 8 WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2015 THE MASTERS winnipegfreepress. com DAVID J. PHILLIP / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Jordan Spieth holds up his ball after putting on the 13th hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday in Augusta, Ga. Red- hot Spieth eclipses all others Best opener at Augusta in 19 years with a stellar 64 By Doug Ferguson CHARLIE RIEDEL / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Rory McIlroy ( left) walks down the ninth fairway with Phil Mickelson during the first round of the Masters. He finished with a 1- under 71. McIlroy patiently seeks slam By Teresa M. Walker Not distressed after starting over par C_ 08_ Apr- 10- 15_ FP_ 01. indd C8 4/ 9/ 15 10: 07: 56 PM

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