AUGUSTA, Ga. — No nerves. No worries. Adam Scott never knew the opening round at Augusta National could be so enjoyable. With his green jacket upstairs in the locker room for Masters champions, Scott made only one bad swing that cost him two shots in a round of 3-under 69.
It was the lowest opening score by a defending champion in 13 years, and it left Scott one shot behind leader Bill Haas on an otherwise demanding day.
“It was really how you hope to come out and play at any major, and especially the Masters,” Scott said. “And there’s no doubt winning the Masters last year had me a little more comfortable on the first tee than I’ve ever been in the past, because I didn’t have the legs shaking and nerves jangling for six or seven holes like usual.”
Haas, with a rich family history at Augusta that includes a green jacket for his great uncle Bob Goalby, settled down after an opening bogey with a collection of good birdie putts and an 8-iron to 5 feet for birdie on the 18th for a 68. It was the first time in 18 majors that Haas has had the lead after any round.
Augusta National officials knew this would be a gentle day of weather, and it was clear they made sure the course was anything but that. The hole locations were severe for an opening round. With endless sunshine, the greens became firmer and quicker by the hour. So many others paid the price.
On this day, only 19 players broke par. Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler and Jonas Blixt — among the record 24 newcomers to the Masters — were in the group at 70. The group at 71 included young (20-year-old Jordan Spieth) and old (54-year-old Fred Couples), and a former No. 1 in Rory McIlroy.
“It was just on one of those days it was tough to get it close to the hole,” McIlroy said. “Anything under par today was a good score.”
And it felt even better when one of those scores belonged to a Masters champion – in this case, two of them. Watson was asked about his comfort level at Augusta.
“The comfort level is knowing you have a green jacket already,” he said.