Cam Cole: First-round lead no guarantee at Masters

 

 
 
 
 
Jordan Spieth of the United States watches his tee shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.
 

Jordan Spieth of the United States watches his tee shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.

Photograph by: Andrew Redington, Getty Images

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Churchill said those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but at Augusta National, no first-round leader wants to hear that.

History says that in the last 30 Masters, the only player to hold or share the Thursday lead and go on to win was 2008 champion Trevor Immelman, who took his green jacket and immediately went into a prolonged career tailspin.

That’s pretty much the definition of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” If 29 players haven’t learned what they’re supposed to do with a first-round lead here, and the only guy who has then promptly lost his game, maybe there isn’t an answer.

Or it’s: play better, later.

So what to make of Thursday’s tour de force, an eight-under-par 64 by golf’s new Golden Child, 21-year-old Jordan Spieth?

Well, the fact that he frightened the major championship scoring record of 63 --- he was eight-under with five holes left after a circus shot out of the pinestraw at the 14th hole, but bogeyed the par-five 15th --- means he probably won’t follow it up with another low one Friday, because hardly anyone ever does.

Still, shooting 64 in the Masters …

“Pretty cool,” said Spieth. “I’d take three more of ‘em.”

On the other hand, he had the lead for a time on Sunday a year ago before ceding it to Bubba Watson, so presumably he has what it takes to get back in that position, and may have learned (if nothing else) how to control his emotions in the final round.

One way or another, though, Spieth doesn’t look like he’s going away, so the fellows he blew past on Thursday afternoon --- early leaders Charley Hoffman and Justin Rose, later joined by the venerable Ernie Els and Jason Day with five-under-par 67s --- are going to have their hands full.

Day is one of the Tour’s young guns, too, but he’s already an ancient 27.

Spieth, who’s 21, versus a guy playing in his 21st Masters? Now there’s a story.

The Big Easy was amused.

“I remember vividly my first Masters, '94, like I played it yesterday. I played with Ben Crenshaw. I shot 66 in the second round with Ben and he was so gracious, so nice, and said, ‘You know, you're going to win this tournament if you keep putting like that.’ It didn’t quite work out,” Els said, laughing now at the shortcomings at Augusta that have left him frustrated again and again.

“Jordan is 21, and what a player. You just cannot see this kid not winning many, many majors. I think he is by far the most balanced kid I've seen.

“He’s got that little tenacity to him and a fighting spirit, and he's the nicest kid in the world. I played with him last week and we had a ball. And I met his sister last week, met his parents. They have a link to autism, too. He's a special kid.”

Els eagled the 15th hole to get to six-under, the first to reach that number, but bogeyed 18 to fall back, and Day later birdieid five straight holes, from the 12 through 16, to tie for second.

Meanwhile, though, the boy genius had recovered from his faux pas at 15 and rolled in a 15-foot birdie at 18 to strengthen his grip on Day 1. He had birdied five of his first 10 holes, and three more of the next four.

But he overcooked his approach to the 15th with a hybrid, air-mailed the green and took four more to get it in the hole.

Rose, who has led the Masters outright after the first round three times, in 2004, 2007 and 2008, said it’s a worthless stat. “There’s just so much golf left, I don’t even think it’s worth paying attention to, to be honest,” he said. “I was young, very young, when I had the opportunity after two rounds in 2004. My best chance was 2007, when I finished fifth. I was one back with two to play. That was the year Zach Johnson won.

“The course offers you an opportunity to put a run together on the back nine and if you are leading, the chasing pack can do the same. So there’s no point getting ahead of yourself.”

Hoffman hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to learn from hands-on experience at Augusta National. It’s only his second trip here, at age 38.

“I’m an experienced TV watcher of the Masters,” he said, laughing. “If you hype this thing up too much, you’ll let your nerves get the best of you.”

Maybe that’s what all those first-round leaders learned, too late to matter.

ccole@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
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Jordan Spieth of the United States watches his tee shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.
 

Jordan Spieth of the United States watches his tee shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia.

Photograph by: Andrew Redington, Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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