Many golfers benefited from Augusta National's slow greens during Thursday's first round of the Masters, turning damp conditions into a leaderboard that was soaked with red numbers.
One of the golfers to miss out on the opportunity, however, was Bubba Watson. The defending champion posted a three-over 75 on the tournament's first day, finishing the day tied for 59th place. The score was the highest by a defending champion since Phil Mickelson carded a 76 in 2007. It also puts him in danger of being the first defending champion to miss the cut since Mike Weir did it in 2004.
The University of Georgia product got off to a bad start with a bogey on No. 1 and then struggled after three-putts on Nos. 5 and 7. He hit 35 total putts on the day and later said he was caught offguard by just how slow the greens were playing (via ASAP Sports):
"It's golf. There's going to be bad days and good days. I hit the ball really well. I can't complain about my ball‑striking. I had four three‑putts. Well, it's really three three‑putts and one was on the fringe, so I can't count it as a three‑putt, but the stats won't count it as a three‑putt. So four three‑putts. I never got the speed right, never got the ball to the hole. They were slower than what I was expecting. The balls weren't rolling out like they normally do over the past years, so I just left a lot of putts short, a lot of putts were breaking different than I was expecting."
Watson is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m ET, weather permitting, and he'll be facing those same damp greens that took him down on Thursday. He'll need to score and score often to make sure he's not slamming a trunk by day's end.
It'd really be disappointing, however, if Watson does miss the cut since Augusta National just increased the number of players who advance to the final two rounds. Starting in 2013, the top 50 (and ties), plus every player within 10 strokes of the leader makes the tournament. That's up from 44 players and ties in previous years.