That’s your lot for today, then. Tomorrow will be a long one, as there are plenty of first rounds not yet completed. The organisers will be confident of catching up ahead of the weekend, though, with the weather no longer an issue. Hope you’ll join us again for that! Nighty night.
-7: Casey (F)
-5: Simpson (F), Schauffele (F), Thomas (10)
-4: Matsuyama (F), Westwood (F), Oosthuizen (F), Reed (F), Woods (F), Wolff (11*), Scott (10), Frittelli (9*)
-3: Janewattananond (F), Rahm (F), Wallace (F), Fowler (11), Langer (10*), D Johnson (9), Rose (9)
Justin Rose opts to finish the hole he’s on - and what a decision! He clips his second at 9 pin high to 18 feet, then rolls unerringly into the cup for birdie. Having looked all but certain to drop back to -1 a few minutes ago, he’s now hitting the turn in three-under 33 and smiling very broadly indeed!
And it’s another birdie for Woolf. Two fuss-free putts on the par-five 2nd, and he rises to -4. This is his first competitive round at Augusta National! At which point the klaxon goes for the end of the day’s play. Everyone gets the opportunity to finish their hole if they so desire. But plenty of players are marking their balls and wandering back home.
Another birdie for Justin Thomas, the latest at the very tricky 10th. He’ll be wishing the sun could hang in the sky for a couple of hours more. He’s up to -5, and looks bang in form for that elusive second major.
Rose drains his downhill putt for par! That is a quite stunning escape after a hook, a blade and a chunk. The triple whammy! One of the silliest pars ever made in the history of golf, and quite magnificent. Rose walks off with a huge smile on his face, raising a fist of triumph in the self-deprecating comic style. It keeps him at -2, and you never know how important that will be come the end of the week. So what have Scotland and Justin Rose taught us? Never give up, kids, that’s what.
Scotland’s men have qualified for a major football championship for the first time since 1998. It’s got the square root of bugger all to do with the golf, but just thought it worthy of mention. That should cheer up Sandy Lyle after his opening round of 78. Yes.
It continues. Having knifed one through the green one way, Rose duffs the one coming back. He’s left with a 30-foot par putt on one of the easiest holes on the course, ranked 15th, averaging 4.67. Meanwhile his playing partner Cameron Champ has turned around a slow start with birdies at 4, 6 and now 8. He’s -2.
Rose is making a five-course meal of the par-five 8th. He hooks his second into the pine straw down the left ... then thins his wedge straight through the green in the amateur style. One to make hackers everywhere feel a little less hapless. Hey, if it can happen to a former world number one...
News of Bubba, who was going well the last we heard. Well, no longer. Bogeys at 16 and 17 were followed by a double at 18, the result of failure to get out of the bunker on the right. He’s back to +2, and one of this week’s more leftfield tips looks a little more unlikely now.
Mickelson’s second into 10 topples down the left bank. He chips up to six feet, then nearly sinks to his knees as his par putt half-disappears into the hole only to pop back out. He slips to -1.
Something happens for McIlroy at long last. Two big booms down the par-five 8th and he’s on in two. His eagle putt, from 30 feet, never looks like dropping, but it stops close enough for birdie to be a certainty. He’s back to level par.
Another birdie for Adam Scott, who rakes a 25-footer across 9 and turns in 32! Shame the daylight is running out in double-quick time, because a few of the chaps out there could otherwise be bothering the top of the leader board soon. Tomorrow morning, perhaps.
-7: Casey (F)
-5: Simpson (F), Schauffele (F)
-4: Matsuyama (F), Westwood (F), Oosthuizen (F), Reed (F), Woods (F), Scott (9), Thomas (8), Frittelli (7*)
Justin Thomas bounces back from his dropped shot at 7 with birdie at 8. He very nearly eagled but his chip clocked the flagstick and stayed up. He’s -4 again. Meanwhile some belated news of 2017 runner-up Justin Rose, who started with bogey but has made a Mickelsonesque comeback: birdies at 2, 5 and 6. He’s -2. There are a lot of players who will fancy their chances right now.
Phil Mickelson would become the first fiftysomething to win a major if he prevailed this week. When he lamely bogeyed 1, you wouldn’t have put too much money on it. But birdies at 2, 6 and now 9, the latest the result of a 132-yard flop to kick-in distance, brings him up to -2. I mean, he almost certainly won’t do it. He can’t do it, surely. He can’t. He could, though. He could do it. Imagine if he did it!
McIlroy’s short game is so erratic. On 7, he wedges from 96 yards to four feet. It’s a simple-enough putt for a much-needed birdie, but he shoves it to the right and remains at +1. Meanwhile the 30-year-old South African Dylan Frittelli, who put in a decent performance at the recent PGA, is on the move. An eagle at 13, birdies at 14 and 15, and now a quite wondrous tee shot at the par-three 16th, his ball landing to the right of the flag and gently rolling down and ... not quite in, though it looked like a hole-in-one for a split second. It stops the width of a dimple short, but he’s more than happy with yet another birdie, and he’s -4 through his first seven holes.
Earlier today, the 62-year-old Larry Mize shot a glorious two-under 70. Now it’s the turn of the 63-year-old Bernard Langer to show the young ones a thing or two. Having birdied 15, he lands a 6-iron gently on the 16th green, allowing the camber to take his ball round to five feet. That’ll move him to -2. Speaking of former champions, Danny Willett has hit the turn in level-par 36.
Rickie Fowler, woefully out of form of late, appears to have hit a rich vein. He’s birdied 2, 4 and now 9 to turn in 33: he’s -3, and if he goes on to win this, good luck finding a more popular victor. Ah hold on, here comes the equally affable 2013 champ Adam Scott, who has picked up strokes at 2, 3 and 8. He’s -3 as well.
Thomas hits a hot second through the back of 7. He can’t get up and down from the sand, and that’s the first blot on his copybook today. He’s back to -3. His partner Koepka lands his approach on the dancefloor, but sends it backspinning hysterically off. He can’t get up and down either, and he slips to +1.
Matthew Woolf is really enjoying the test set by Augusta National. He sends his second at 17 miles right of the green - about 25 yards right, to be accurate - but he lobs up gracefully from the bottom of the swale, screeching his ball to a halt right by the flag. Another par escape on his Masters debut ... and aren’t these major championships a doddle? His ended his first, this year’s PGA, in a tie for fourth, then finished his second, the US Open, as runner-up. Third time lucky? You wouldn’t put it past this brilliant young Californian. He’s -3.
Francesco Molinari, so close yet so far last year, has turned things around after a slow start. The 2018 Open champ bogeyed 10 and 11, but has bounced back with birdies at the par fives, 13 and 15, to move back to level par. A little frustration as he doesn’t give his 12-foot birdie chance on 16 enough juice, but there are worse fates.
A wonder save on 16 by Woolf. He shoves his tee shot to the right. He’s left with an absurdly treacherous chip down towards the hole, front left. Too much and he could end up in the water. Too little and it might stop dead. He gently plops a chip onto the first bit of green available. It rolls slowly, almost threatening to grind to a halt. But then it takes one slow turn over a ridge and picks up the necessary speed, eventually stopping in serene fashion four feet from the cup. That’s a quite exquisite touch. He escapes with par and remains at -3. Matt Wallace meanwhile signs for a 69.
Nothing much is happening for Brooks Koepka yet. Six holes, six pars. He’ll be looking over at his playing partner Justin Thomas with a green eye. Actually, he might be squinting a bit, because the sunlight is not long for the off. If this Masters was being held in April, the sun would go down a few minutes before 8pm local time. But now it sets at 5.25pm. If we’re lucky, we’ll get the best part of an hour.
Matthew Wolff, fresh from his second-place finish at the US Open, has started the next major in similarly impressive fashion. He’s birdied 12, 13 and now 15, the latest birdie for the 21-year-old Californian tickled in from 20 feet at a gallery-teasing slow speed. Shame there weren’t any patrons there to ooh and aah as it teetered over the edge and thought twice before falling. He’s -3 already, and will have learned plenty from his difficult final round at Winged Foot.
Yet another birdie for Justin Thomas! He’s got a very tricky putt on 5, up and over a ridge on the hardest green on the course. He should do well to get it close, but in it goes! He laughs incredulously. When your putter’s hot, it’s hot. He’s the biggest mover and shaker out on the course right now. This is some leader board already.
-7: Casey (F)
-5: Simpson (F), Schauffele (F)
-4: Matsuyama (F), Westwood (F), Oosthuizen (F), Reed (F), Woods (F), Thomas (5)
-3: Janewattananond (F), Rahm (F), Finau (F), Wallace (17)
A 74 for Jordan Spieth. It’s just not happened for him anywhere since that outrageous victory at Birkdale in 2017. It’s been a strange decline; the decision to coax a few extra yards out of his swing might not have been the best. Meanwhile nothing’s happened for Rory in the majors since Valhalla in 2014. He does well to rattle in his par saver on 4, though, and there’s a notable spring in his step as he escapes without further early damage.
They’re obviously not going to be able to get everyone round tonight. The legacy of that three-hour storm delay this morning. Hey, at least the weather is supposed to hold for the rest of the week. So it’ll be just a matter of how many holes the second wave of starters can squeeze in. Some players might be more grateful of the opportunity to go in and reboot than others. McIlroy, for instance, has just dumped his tee shot at the par-three 4th into the deep bunker at the front, and his splash out isn’t great. He’s left with a 12-foot par saver. If that doesn’t go in, it’ll be another slow start to a major. He’s beginning to specialise in those.
Thomas is the width of a dimple away from making it four birdies in a row. But his 25-foot putt across 4 shaves the high side of the hole. Meanwhile Wallace also comes incredibly close to picking up yet another stroke, but his 15-foot curler on 16 somehow stays up. And back on 13, Bubba Watson springs into life after bemoaning his luck with a mud ball. His approach to 13 flies wide left, but he still gets up and down for birdie, then makes another by rattling in a tramliner on 14. Suddenly the two-time winner is -2.
Speaking of being In The Mix Again ... it’s Tiger Woods! He finishes with par at 9 for yet another sub-70 round at Augusta National. He signs for a 68, and the defending champion is just three off the lead. That’s his first bogey-free round in the majors in 106 attempts. And there’s him supposedly out of form.
A third birdie in three for Thomas! He’s scampered up the standings to -3 with indecent haste. Meanwhile Tony Finau finished strongly, with eagle at 15 and birdie at 17. His Masters record so far: a tie for 10th and a tie for fifth. The big man is long overdue a big win. An opening round of 69 and he’s in the mix again.
Matt Wallace has just the one top-ten finish at the majors to his name: a tie for third at the 2019 PGA. But the 30-year-old Londoner looks in the mood for another. He’s followed birdies at 13 and 14 with eagle at 15, firing his second to 12 feet and guiding in the snaking putt. He’s suddenly in very good nick at -3.
His mood probably won’t be helped by the eagle his playing partner Dustin Johnson makes. Throw in Patrick Cantlay’s birdie at 1, reward for sending his second from 160 yards to blow-in distance, and McIlroy is trailing his partners by two and three shots respectively after just the one hole.
Two birdies in the first two holes for Justin Thomas. Coming behind him, Rory McIlroy bogeys 1, unable to get up and down from sand. He’s already wearing his trademark Augusta hangdog expression, his shoulders drooping as his second into the par-five 2nd drifts away to the right. Then it’s a dreadful lob over the flag and off the other side of the green. He putts up to kick-in distance, saving his par, but he certainly doesn’t have the demeanour of a man who thinks he can win this tournament. For comparison, Thomas’s first two shots at this hole weren’t particularly good, either, but from a similar position on the right, he span a chip to a couple of feet and made birdie. Worrying early signs for the grand-slam chasing McIlroy.
Paul Casey pars 9, and he’s signing his name to an opening-day 65. Just brilliant. He’s certainly due one, after coming so close at the PGA recently. Also finishing up, but on the 18th: Xander Schauffele. He takes advantage of a big break - his pulled approach threatened to topple down a bank on the left, but stood up in the fringe - and rolls a 30-footer in for birdie, the ball threatening to stay up on the left before falling through the back door. That’s his fifth birdie on the back nine, holes he covered in 32 strokes. That’s a magnificent 67, and with his record in the majors - six top-ten finishes in 13 starts - he’s a serious contender.
Shot of the day by Patrick Reed! This is quite something. He’s on the pine needles down the right of 9, with branches overhanging. He draws low and hard from 190 yards into the heart of the green, his ball screeching to a halt a couple of feet from the cup. That is truly sensational, the sort of manufactured nonsense that would make the likes of Seve or Bubba proud. That’ll be an outrageous birdie and a very fine 68!
A really impressive end to young Jazz Janewattananond’s round. Birdies at 13, 15, 16 and 18 have catapulted him right up the standings. A fine debut round by the 24-year-old Thai. The 2018 champion Patrick Reed has quietly been about his business, meanwhile, and birdie at 8 has moved him up to -3. He’s in a spot of bother at his last, though, hoicking his drive at 9 into trees on the right.
Opening birdie at 1 for Justin Thomas, as he rattles in a 25-footer. Westwood gets lucky with his tee shot at 18, his ball twanging back into the fairway. Onto the green in regulation, then two putts, and he’s putting his name to an extremely creditable 68. Back on 9, DeChambeau strokes in his putt for a much-deserved birdie. That’s a strong finish, and he’s suddenly signing for a 70. That round threatened to spin out of control this morning, either side of that double-bogey seven on 13, but he dug in impressively. He’s -2. And par for Oosthuizen, who is in the house with a 68.
-7: Casey (17*)
-5: Simpson (F)
-4: Matsuyama (F), Westwood (F), Oosthuizen (F), Schauffele (17), Woods (16*)
-3: Janewattananond (F), Rahm (F), Reed (17*), Cabrera Bello (13)
DeChambeau’s drive at 9 went 364 yards! He takes advantage by wedging gently to eight feet ... and that putt will be uphill so he can give it a good go. Rahm, by contrast, having only (1) driven his ball 340 yards, fluffs his wedge in. He’s outside credible birdie range, and has to settle for par. That’s a 69 that could have been better ... but given his cold start, could have been a lot worse. He’s right in the mix.
Westwood slices his drive at 18 into the trees down the right. He’s another player whose momentum has completely slowed; out in 31 but no birdie since, and now he’s facing his second bogey on the back nine. Meanwhile fun and games on 9, where DeChambeau and Rahm send two manic blooters down the track. DeChambeau really got behind his drive, taking the trees on the left out of the equation. That is rather long. But this place is about smarts as much as brute force, and Larry Mize, 62 years young, is in with a round of 70. What a performance by the 1987 champ!
Par for Casey at 7. Nothing to be sniffed at on the hole playing hardest today. The tournament leader remains two clear of the clubhouse leader Simpson at -7. An early birdie for the out-of-form Rickie Fowler at 2; that might give one of golf’s great Nearly Men succour. Birdies for Oosthuizen (-4) and DeChambeau (-1) at 8; only a par at the par-five for Rahm, though, and he’s looking a little down after a momentum-slowing couple of holes. He’s -3.
Simpson scoops out from the deep bunker at 9. But he can’t get close and the ball topples down the ridge running through the middle of the green. No matter, though! He rolls in the 25-footer he’d left himself, and that par will feel like a birdie. His pimento-cheese sandwich will taste even better now. He signs for an excellent 67 ... and his partner Hideki Matsuyama finishes birdie-birdie for a fine 68! Schauffele gets up and down to save his par at 15. Meanwhile par for Tiger on the tricky 5th ... and an opening bogey for his old sparring partner Phil Mickelson, who takes three to get down from the side of 1.
-7: Casey (15*)
-5: Simpson (F)
-4: Matsuyama (F), Westwood (16), Schauffele (15), Woods (14*)
Kokrak’s misfortune might have spooked his partner Schauffele. He’d laid up, and only just gets over the brook. Inches away from getting wet. Back on 7, Rahm three putts from the fringe. That’s incredibly careless, and he slips back to -3. But on 6, Casey lands his tee shot 15 feet to the left of the flag, then trundles the birdie putt into the cup. He’s suddenly two in the lead, and that advantage could extend soon because Simpson is making a pig’s lug of 9, finding pine straw and then sand. He’ll need to get up and down from the bunker if he wants to sign for a 67.
DeChambeau takes his putter out, and judges his par prod pretty well, coming as it does off the fringe and onto the short stuff. It stops a turn short and that’s bogey. He’s back to level par. Then some drama on 15, where Jason Kokrak sends a mud ball flying through the green and into the drink over the back. The ball nearly hits a passing Lee Westwood; he gets out of the road just in time, then sportingly leaves a tee peg where the ball entered the hazard, making Kokrak’s life a wee bit easier when he gets down to survey the damage.
Bother for Bryson down 7. He sends his drive into the trees down the right. He spots a route through the branches towards the green, but sends it over the back, then fails to chip up with the necessary confidence. The ball sticks on the slope and he’s got a battle on to save his par now.
Matt Kuchar has been slowly mooching up the leader board. Birdies at 8 and 12, and now he’s rolled one in across 15. His playing partner Lee Westwood leaves his chip up from the back a wee bit short, though, and has to settle for par. He remains -4.
-6: Casey (14*)
-5: Simpson (17*)
-4: Westwood (15), Rahm (15*), Schauffele (14), Woods (13*)
-3: Matsuyama (17*), Kuchar (15), Oosthuizen (15*), Kokrak (14)