The first round of the Masters brought us some twists, turns and a shocking withdrawal, and it ended up with Charley Hoffman posting a 7-under 65 that gives him a four-shot lead heading into Cut Day on Friday.
With Dustin Johnson pulling out and the field reduced to 93 players, what should they — and we — expect?
Jordan Spieth is out of contention. Spieth made a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 15th hole on Thursday, making a mess of a hole that played surprisingly difficult given that it is historically one of the four easiest holes at Augusta National in the Masters. No Masters winner has ever made worse than 7 on a hole during the tournament, so Spieth is out.
More wind. The weather forecast for Friday is practically a carbon copy of Thursday, meaning sustained winds in the 20-30 mph range and worse gusts. With a scoring average of 75.0 on Thursday (the highest first-round average of this decade), that means a lot of squares on the card and not nearly as many birdies and eagles as we’ll hope for and see over the weekend when the weather is pristine.
The 1st hole will be tough. The toughest hole at Augusta National on Thursday? The first. There was one birdie among the 93 players in the field: James Hahn. Featuring a demanding tee shot and a putting surface filled with complexity and no easy hole locations, players are almost destined to drop a shot at the first.
The cut will be made. The smallest field is men’s major championship golf gets shortened after play on Friday. At the Masters, the cut is down to the top 50 and ties, including all players within 10 shots of the lead. Right now, there are 53 players at 3 over, which is also at the 10-shot cutoff. Not hard to imagine that number doubling on Friday to become the 36-hole cut line at 6 over par.
A dwindling number of players under par. If the windy forecast holds, then there very well could be fewer players under par on Friday than on Thursday, which is 11. A year ago, in difficult conditions, that figure was seven after Friday…and four after Saturday. Colder morning weather than Thursday could mean trouble for players who finished late in Round 1.