Rory McIlroy has been out of form, too, but has been inspired by a recent visit to Tiger Woods’ home and remains desperate to complete the career Grand Slam. Justin Thomas is sure to be a threat, after a strong finish last year and a cathartic victory at the Players Championship. Jon Rahm has not been able to practice properly ahead of the tournament, owing to the birth of his first child, but has a great record at Augusta and warmed up brilliantly on Wednesday as he seeks to clinch the maiden major of his career.
Jordan Spieth was so deep in the pines he had an entire bowling alley’s worth of skittles to navigate just to reach the fairway. Rather than taking his medicine, though, the former champion attempts to punch a long iron towards the flag and strikes middle stump, the ball ricocheting straight back at him. Attempt No 2 and there’s more success, with the ball this time slicing back towards the green. He’ll still need to up and down just to save bogey.
A terrific putt from Rose at the par-3 12th and that’s another birdie to move into a share of the lead. Further behind, Jordan Spieth was making good progress at one-under but proceeds to hit a humongous slice deep into the pine straw on the 9th.
THE MASTERS 2021: ROSE MOVES TO -2 AS FITZPATRICK LURKS
There is a strong English presence at the top of the leaderboard with Rose birdieing two of the last three holes to move to within one of the leaders. One further back is Matt Fitzpatrick, whose subtle putting stroke will prove an invaluable weapon. There has been no such luck for Casey, though, who finishes with a 73, despite at one stage sitting three-under-par.
And just like that, Reed pays the penalty on 18 – with a helping of the commentator’s curse. He overcooks his wedge from a perfect position in the middle of the fairway and fails to get up and down to save par. Still, though, a 70 is a great score on this opening day and leaves him one back of the leaders. Meanwhile, there’s more unravelling for DeChambeau. His drive – again – careers into the trees on the par-5 8th and that’s another bogey. He’s +4.
Patrick Reed has been there and done it, and he’s in front at Augusta again. Successive birdies at 16 and 17 move ‘Captain America’ into a share of the lead. There are few better short iron players on tour and that’s proving invaluable in limiting the damage on these greens.
Another torrid opening round mercifully comes to an end for McIlory. That’s a four-over-par 76 and his hopes have already been reduced to a flicker. In the same group, Rahm bogeys the 18th to end level.