Matsuyama’s memorable Masters win: Trace the journey to victory
Here’s a look at what happened at Augusta National Golf Club as Masters 2021 unfolded
Hideki Matsuyama has made history as the first male golfer from Japan to win a major championship.
Matsuyama held on after knocking one in the water at the 15th, shooting a 1-over 73 to win the Masters by one stroke.
A five-time winner on the PGA Tour, Matsuyama took control of the tournament with a brilliant 65 on Saturday, doing his best work after a rain delay.
Xander Schauffele closed within two strokes after Matsuyama made bogey at No. 15. But Schauffele put one in the water at the 16th and took the first triple-bogey of his major championship career.
That cleared the way for Matsuyama to claim the green jacket. He made a bogey at No 18 but that was enough to hold off Masters rookie Will Zalatoris, who stamped himself as a future star with a 9-under 279.
Matsuyama was one shot better at 278.
Hideki Matsuyama is going to the final hole of the Masters with a two-stroke lead and poised to become the first male player from Japan to win one of golf’s major championships.
Matsuyama gave his challengers a bit of hope by skipping one into the water at No. 15, leading to a bogey that reduced his lead to two shots over Xander Schauffele.
But Schauffele found the water at 16, leading to the first triple-bogey of his major championship career.
The only player with any hope left is Will Zalatoris, who’s in the clubhouse with a 9-under 279.
Matsuyama is at 11 under and in good shape after his tee shot at the 18th.
Xander Schauffele’s chances of catching Hideki Matsuyama have apparently ended with the first triple-bogey of his major championship career.
Having closed within two shots of the lead after Matsuyama put one in the water at the 15th hole, Schauffele stepped up at the next tee with the confidence of having made four straight birdies.
It all fell apart when the tee shot at the iconic par-3 hole known as Redbud rolled into the pond.
Schauffele wound up with an ugly 6. Even though Matsuyama made a three-putt bogey, he still picked up two shots on his playing partner.
But Matsuyama’s lead is still rather precarious — two strokes with two holes to play at 11 under.
Masters rookie Will Zalatoris salvaged a par at the final hole after driving in the bunker. He’s in the Augusta National clubhouse with a 9-under 279.
Suddenly, there’s some drama in the final round of the Masters.
Hideki Matsuyama drove his second shot over the green at the 15th hole, the ball skipping into the pond at the next hole.
Matsuyama wound up with his second bogey in four holes. Meanwhile, playing partner Xander Schauffele pulled off his fourth straight birdie with an up-and-down from the bunker, moving within two shots of the lead.
That’s as close s it’s been since early in the round.
It looks like we might be headed for a dramatic finish at Augusta National after all.
Xander Schauffele is trying to put some heat on Hideki Matsuyama at the Masters.
Schauffele tapped in for his third straight birdie at No. 14, pushing his score to 9 under for the tournament and within four strokes of the leader in the final group at Augusta National.
But the American is running out of time. Matsuyama is 2 under for the day, 13 under overall and merely has to avoid any major mistakes to become the first male player from Japan to win a major championship.
Will Zalatoris is the only other player within five shots of Matsuyama. The Masters rookie made a birdie at the par-5 15th to get to 8 under.
A rarity for Hideki Matsuyama.
The Masters leader made 4 after driving into a bunker behind the green at No. 12, leading to just his second bogey in the last 32 holes.
But Matsuyama still has a commanding five-stroke lead over three players: Will Zalatoris, Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele.
Zalatoris briefly got as close as one stroke early in the round, but the 24-year-old Masters rookie has missed several short putts to spoil his hopes of making a run at the green jacket.
Hideki Matsuyama has made two straight birdies to close out the front nine with a five-shot lead in the Masters. That leaves him nine holes away from becoming the first Japanese player to win the green jacket.
Matsuyama didn’t drop a shot after a bogey from the trees on the first hole. He made the turn at 13-under par. Will Zalatoris started with two straight birdies to briefly get within one shot. But the 24-year-old from Dallas had a three-putt bogey from long range on the 10th and was five behind.
No one else was closer than seven shots. That included Jon Rahm, who shot 66 and finished at 6-under 282.
Is it over? Jordan Spieth might say otherwise. It was five years ago when Spieth took a five-shot lead into the back nine at Augusta National. He went bogey-bogey and then put two balls into Rae’s Creek to make a quadruple-bogey 7. Danny Willett went on to win the Masters that year.
Hideki Matsuyama remains comfortably ahead at the Masters without much pressure from those chasing him — least of all, Xander Schauffele.
Schauffele was within three shots of the lead he dropped three shots in four holes.
His pitch failed to get up the slope to the third green and rolled back to the fairway, leading to bogey. Then, he came up short into the bunker on the par-3 fourth and dropped another shot. The fifth hole, toughest at Augusta National this week, was his undoing.
Schauffele was on the edge of the bushes off the tee, couldn’t quite get back to the fairway and then hit a flyer over the green into a bunker. It took him two to get out of the sand and he had to scramble for double bogey. Just like that, he was seven shots back.
Matsuyama, meanwhile, holed an 18-foot par putt at No. 5 and was even for the day. He was three shots clear of Will Zalatoris.
The only player making a move was Jon Rahm, and he started too far back. Rahm, 11 shots back to start the final round, was 5 under playing the 15th.
Hideki Matsuyama started the day with a four-shot lead at the Masters.
For a moment, it was down to one.
Matsuyama pushed his opening tee shot into the pine straw off the right of the first fairway on his way to a bogey to begin his final round at Augusta National.
Meanwhile, Will Zalatoris opened birdie-birdie — which, briefly, got him to 9 under and within one shot of Matsuyama.
Zalatoris then made bogey on the par-4 third hole, leaving his uphill par try well short.
Matsuyama got up-and-down from the sand for a birdie at the par-5 2nd hole, getting back to 11 under — pushing his lead over Zalatoris and Xander Schauffele back to three shots.
Hideki Matsuyama has teed off in the final round of the Masters with a three-stroke lead.
A five-time winner on the PGA Tour, the 29-year-old Matsuyama is trying to become the first male player from Japan to capture one of golf’s major championships.
He seized control of the tournament on Saturday with a bogey-free, 7-under 65 that pushed him to 11 under overall.
Matsuyama claimed a four-stroke lead after the third round, but Masters rookie Will Zalatoris has already clipped one shot off the margin with a birdie at the first hole.
Only four players have squandered a lead of at least four strokes going to Sunday. Rory McIlroy was the more recent to do it in 2011.
Matsuyama is playing in the final group with American Xander Schauffele, who is at 7 under along with Australia’s Marc Leishman and England’s Justin Rose.
Zalatoris is a 24-year-old American who doesn’t even have a full PGA Tour card. He is trying to become the first player since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 to capture a green jacket on his first attempt.
Billy Horschel has made another stop at Waterworld.
After playing barefoot out of the creek at Augusta National’s 13th hole for the second day in a row, Horschel flew the green with his second shot on No. 15, the ball skipping all the way into the pond at the next hole.
He took a penalty drop and wound up with a bogey 6.
Horschel bounced back with a birdie at the 16th — yes, he managed to avoid the pond this time.
Thankfully for the Floridian, he doesn’t have to worry about any more aqua misadventures at the final two holes of the Masters. Neither has any water hazards.
Welcome to the new Masters tradition: Billy Horschel playing barefoot on the 13th hole.
Horschel created a stir Saturday by slipping barefoot down a slope before playing a ball from the water on the par-5 13th hole. The shoes came off again on the 13th on Sunday, though the only thing that slipped this time was Horschel down the leaderboard.
His tee shot landed in the water, so just like Saturday, he removed his shoes and socks and rolled up his pant legs over his calves to go try to play the ball. He only advanced it a few yards, not getting it back to the fairway, then tried to hack at it again from a combination of grass, mud and rocks — before taking an unplayable lie and moving on.
The final damage: A triple-bogey 8, dropping him from 41st to 50th on the leaderboard and to 6 over for the tournament.
The final round of the Masters has started with all the familiar pin positions for Sunday at Augusta National.
Hideki Matsuyama takes a four-shot lead into the final round. He is trying to become the first Japanese player to win a major and the second major champion from an Asian country. (The first was Y.E. Yang of South Korea in the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.)
It’s never easy at Augusta National. In November, Dustin Johnson had a four-shot lead that was trimmed to one shot after only five holes. He recovered with a birdie and went on to win by five. Rory McIlroy lost a four-shot lead after 10 holes in 2011 when he shot 80 in the final round.
The most famous was Greg Norman losing a six-shot lead in 1996.
Xander Schauffele, Justin Rose, Marc Leishman and Will Zalatoris were all four shots behind Matsuyama. Rose is the only major champion in that group. Zalatoris is trying to become the first player in 42 years to win a green jacket in his first attempt.
The third round of the Masters is over, and Hideki Matsuyama has a four-shot lead over Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose and Will Zalatoris.
Matsuyama becomes the first Japanese player in Masters history to lead after any round.
Matsuyama shot a 7-under 65 on Saturday to move to 11 under for the week.
His four closest rivals are 7 under: Schauffele shot 68, Leishman 70, Zalatoris 71 and Rose his second consecutive 72. Rose led after the first two rounds.
Hideki Matsuyama shot a 7-under 65 on Saturday and was three shots clear of the field at 11 under when he finished the third round of the Masters.
He is in position to become the first Japanese player to lead after any round of the tournament. Japan had players come to the Masters for the first time in 1936.
Matsuyama had five birdies, one eagle and no bogeys in his third round. He was 4 under for the tournament through six holes on Saturday, after parring each to open his third round.
He shot 7 under the rest of the way.
The Masters has a new leader.
Hideki Matsuyama’s 5-foot putt for eagle at the par-5 15th put him in the lead, and he followed that with a short birdie putt at the par-3 16th to become the first player this week to reach 10 under at Augusta National.
He’s two shot ahead of Justin Rose during the third round of the Masters.
Rose made birdie at the par-4 12th to get to 8 under.
Xander Schauffele — playing with Matsuyama — rolled in a 60-footer for eagle on the 15th to get to 7 under, tied for third with Will Zalatoris.
Justin Thomas was having an up-and-down Saturday at the Masters: three birdies, three bogeys through 12 holes, all leaving him three back of the lead at that point.
And then he went to the par-5 13th.
His tee shot sailed way right, into pine straw. He punched out from there into the fairway, leaving about an 80-yard chip for his third shot.
Things got worse in a hurry. That third shot was well short, ending up in the water and the ball getting carried away in the current that picked up by rainwater that fell at Augusta National over the previous hour. He took a drop, played a terrible chip for his fifth well above the hole and three-putted for a triple-bogey 8.
In one hole, he went from three back to six back. It was the first triple-bogey of the week at No. 13, which has been the third-easiest hole so far in the Masters.
Play has resumed at Augusta National after a 1-hour, 18-minute break because of thunderstorms in the area.
The leaderboard has tightened up considerably.
Justin Rose managed only a par on the par-5 8th hole, and remained at 7 under. Hideki Matsuyama made back-to-back birdies on the par-4 11th and par-3 12th to pull into a tie with Rose for the lead.
Marc Leishman and Will Zalatoris are one back at 6 under. Jordan Spieth’s topsy-turvy round continued with a chip-in birdie at the par-4 10th, getting him to 5 under.
The third round of the Masters is being delayed by thunderstorms in the area.
Justin Rose was at 7-under par and has a one-shot lead over Will Zalatoris. Officials approached them on the seventh green to let them know they were about to blow the horn to suspend play.
It’s the first time this week that weather has halted play at Augusta National.
Corey Conners, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas and Marc Leishman were at 5 under. Jordan Spieth made a double bogey on No. 7, only to bounce back with a blind shot off pine straw and over trees from 95 yards to 4 feet for birdie. He was three shots back.
Corey Conners has made a move at the Masters, with just one swing.
The Canadian made a hole-in-one at the par-3 6th hole on Saturday, getting him to 3 under for the day, 5 under for the tournament and within two shots of leader Justin Rose. Conners’ ace came just moments before Rose teed off to begin his third round.
Conners’ tee shot at the 180-yard hole bounced once, then rolled smack into the pin and dropped into the cup. It was the second hole-in-one at this year’s Masters; Tommy Fleetwood had one at the 16th hole in Thursday’s opening round.
Conners had the 33rd hole-in-one in Masters history and the sixth at No. 6. The last player to ace that hole during the Masters was Jamie Donaldson in 2013.
Phil Mickelson has broken 70 yet again at Augusta National.
The three-time Masters champion shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday, getting him back to even for the tournament.
It was his second consecutive day of shaving three shots off the prior round’s score: He opened with a 75, made the cut on the 3 over number by shooting 72 on Friday, then had a four-birdie, one-bogey day Saturday.
It was Mickelson’s 33rd round in the 60s at Augusta National, six shy of matching Jack Nicklaus’ Masters record.
Francesco Molinari also posted a 69 on Saturday, also getting him even going into Sunday’s final round.
Billy Horschel has gone into the water, and onto his backside, at the Masters.
Horschel had all sorts of fun at the par-5 13th hole at Augusta National on Saturday. He sent his tee shot into the pine straw off the right of the fairway, then played his second shot into a tributary of Rae’s Creek in front of the green.
This left him with two challenges: getting the ball out of the water — and getting to the water.
Horschel removed his golf shoes and socks, rolled up the legs of his white pants to the calves, then proceeded to walk barefoot down the slope toward the water.
He slipped on the grass and fell onto his butt, drawing a good laugh from the patrons — even more so when he turned his backside toward playing partner Phil Mickelson to assess the damage.
Horschel played his third out of the water to well above the hole, put his shoes and socks back on and two-putted for a par that was anything but routine.
With a bit of a grass stain to prove it, too.
It’s moving day at the Masters. The question going into Saturday is which way the traffic flows.
Justin Rose had a one-shot lead over Brian Harman and Will Zalatoris, the last two players to get into the field. Jordan Spieth was two shots behind. In all, 16 players were separated by five shots going into the third round.
The chance of rain is moderate but greater than it has been all week. Of greater interest is whether the forecast holds of gusts upward of 20 mph about the time the leader tees off. If that’s the case, the idea might be to not go backward.
Rose is a former U.S. Open champion and this is the seventh time he has been in front after any round at the Masters, but never when it’s the final round. More telling is that he has gone more than two years without winning anywhere.
The last time someone ended a drought that long by winning the Masters was Zach Johnson in 2007.
Another historical nugget to consider: No one from outside the top 10 through 36 holes has won the Masters since Charl Schwartzel 10 years ago.
Conditions are firm and fast at Augusta National, just the way Jose Maria Olazabal likes them. And it showed Friday at the Masters. The two-time Masters champion shot a 1-under 71 and was assured of making the cut.
The 55-year-old from Spain says making the cut feel like winning the tournament.
Olazabal hasn’t broken par at the Masters since 2015. He hasn’t played the weekend at the Masters since 2014. But it’s worth noting that both years Olazabal won the green jacket, the winning score was single digits under par.
He says he has enjoyed the two days because he is hitting the ball, and because of the conditions. Olazabal says, “It’s lovely to see Augusta played like we have the last two days, fast and firm. It reminds me a lot of the late ’80s and ’90s.”
Justin Rose has rallied with three birdies on the back nine to put himself out front again at the Masters.
Rose had to settle for an even-par 72 on what was shaping up as a slightly easier day for scoring at Augusta National. He had birdies on the par 5s on the back nine and made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 16th.
When he finished, he had a two-shot lead over Marc Leishman.
It’s been a tale of two nines for Rose so far this week. He was 2 over through seven holes on Thursday and then went on to post a 65. On Friday, he was 3 over through seven holes and salvaged his round on the back nine with a 33.
Tony Finau already has six birdies and an eagle through 15 holes. He was two shots behind with three to play.
Marc Leishman had another fast start at the Masters, and this time he finished it.
Leishman was 4 under through his opening eight holes on Thursday until he stumbled home to a 72. On Friday, the Australian birdied his first three holes. This time, he had another surge on the back nine and shot 67.
Justin Rose was at 6 under for the tournament and still had two holes remaining. Leishman was finished with his 36 holes at 5-under 139, with Bernd Wiesberger posting a 66 to finish at 4 under.
Wiesberger says the pin positions were tougher on Friday, but there was still a chance for low scores. Among those still on the course, Tony Finau was 5 under and Justin Thomas was 4 under.
Leishman is best known at the Masters for playing the final round with Adam Scott in 2013, the year Scott became the first Australian in a green jacket.
Bernd Wiesberger of Austria began the second round of the Masters nine shots out of the lead. By the time he reached Amen Corner, he was tied with Justin Rose.
Wiesberger finished off his seven-birdie round of 6-under 66 and was tied for the lead when he finished. Marc Leishman of Australia was having himself a day and was at 4 under with four holes left. Rose was not. He was at 3 over for the round after 12 holes.
Wiesberger posted the early clubhouse lead at 4-under 140, though it was doubtful it would stand.
But the Austrian showed good scores were available on a dry course. He birdied his opening three holes and started the back nine with a 25-foot putt on the 10th.
Wiesberger’s best run in the majors was at Valhalla in 2014 when he started the final round of the PGA Championship one shot behind Rory McIlroy. He shot 74 in the final round and finished seven shots back.
Masters leader Justin Rose had an adventure at the par-3 6th hole on Friday.
Rose’s lead was four shots entering the second round. The bogey on the 6th left his margin over Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger at just one shot.
He played his tee shot to the front of the green, leaving himself a 67-foot putt up a steep slope for what would have been a birdie.
That putt didn’t clear the slope and rolled almost all the way back to where Rose was standing. He had a 60-footer for par, got that one past the slope at least, and wound up making an 8-footer for bogey.
Rose had three bogeys through his first six holes Friday. He had only two bogeys, total, on his way to an opening-round 65 on Thursday.
Bernd Wiesberger of Austria has made a move in the second round of the Masters.
He had five birdies on the front nine Friday morning and went out in 31, getting to 3 under for the tournament and within three shots of leader Justin Rose.
Wiesberger had a 5-foot birdie try on No. 9 that would have allowed him to tie the Masters front-nine record and go out in 30, something that has been done on six previous occasions. He pushed it just a bit left, then tapped in for par.
Rose was 1 over through four holes Friday,
Wiesberger is trying to go 6-for-6 in making the cut in his Masters appearances.
Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson has some work to do if he’s going to play the weekend. Mickelson made bogey on his first two holes Friday, falling to 5 over for the week.
Justin Rose takes a four-shot lead into the second round of the Masters. When he tees off Friday morning, he has a chance to either build an even larger lead or allow players to get a little closer.
It was only four years ago that Charley Hoffman had a four-shot lead after one round. The wind was ferocious the opening two rounds in 2017. Hoffman opened with a 65. The next day he shot 75 and there was a four-way tie for the lead after 36 holes.
Augusta National remained dry, though there was significant cloud cover for morning groups that included Rose and Shane Lowry, Jordan Spieth and Tyrrell Hatton.
Justin Rose finished talking about his seven birdies and an eagle over 10 holes and said, “Sounds easy.”
Not only did he have a four-shot lead after his 7-under 65, it was 9.5 shots better than the average score Thursday at the Masters. And it was a big difference from last November, when 53 players broke par in the first round. This time, there were only 12 players in red numbers after the opening round.
It was the sixth time he has had at least a share of the lead after any round at the Masters, and the fourth time in the opening round. Jack Nicklaus is the only other player to have had an 18-hole lead four times. Then again, Nicklaus has won six green jackets. Rose has none.
Rose says the tough part now is managing expectations.
Only a dozen players managed to break par in the opening round of the Masters.
No one was close to Justin Rose.
The 40-year-old Englishman has a commanding four-stroke lead after a blistering 7-under 65. He began his surge with an eagle at No. 8 and played the final 11 holes at 9 under, shooting 30 on the back side.
Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama are the only other players in the 60s. Both posted 69 on a day when many top players struggled with the rock-hard greens and a breeze that howled at times.
This is a familiar position for Rose, who has the first-round lead for the fourth time in his Masters career. He’s never won the green jacket, settling for a pair of runner-up finishes.
“Even though I don’t have an arm in the jacket yet, I’ve been there to see what it’s all about,” Rose said. “I kind of want to keep things in perspective a little bit until I can’t ignore it anymore.”
It was another tough day at Augusta National for Bryson DeChambeau.
The longest hitter on the PGA Tour struggled to a 4-over 76, extending the troubles he had in November at the first Masters held in the fall.
A double-bogey at the par-4 fourth was a sign of trouble to come, and three bogeys sent him tumbling down the leaderboard.
DeChambeau finally made his first — and only birdie — at the par-5 15th. But he finds himself a whopping 11 strokes behind leader Justin Rose after the opening round.
Struggling with the distance of his shots, DeChambeau posted his highest score in four appearances at Augusta as a professional. At least he’s got plenty of company: top players such as Rory McIlroy (76), Jason Day (77) and Patrick Cantlay (79) also struggled.
At the 2020 Masters, DeChambeau made the cut but was never in contention. He finished 18 shots behind winner Dustin Johnson.
On a day when it was tough to go low, Justin Rose made it look easy in the opening round of the Masters.
The 40-year-old Englishman shot a 5-under 65, pushing him to a four-stroke lead at Augusta National.
Rose played the last 11 holes at 9 under, beginning his surge with an eagle at the par-5 eighth.
He could have matched a couple of records with a birdie at the final hole but gladly settled for par.
Rose shot 30 on the back side, one off the tournament record shared by Mark Calcaveccia (1992) and David Toms (1998). Rose just missed the mark for largest lead after the opening round, as well.
Still, it was an amazing performance when so many top players were struggling. Defending champion Dustin Johnson opened with a 74. Rory McIlroy struggled to a 76. Long-hitting Bryson DeChambeau was 4 over with three holes to play.
Rose, on the other hand, turned in the best score of his Masters career, His previous low was a 67.
Tommy Fleetwood has made the 23rd ace in Masters history.
Fleetwood holed out the 170-yard shot at the famed 16th hole, raising his arms in triumph when the ball bounced a couple of times and rolled straight into the cup.
Amazingly, it was the second straight tournament in which Fleetwood has made a hole-in-one. He had another two weeks ago at the Match Play Championship.
Even with the ace, Fleetwood was 2 over for the round with two holes to play.
Justin Rose has surged to the top of the Masters leaderboard with an amazing run that began just before the turn.
The 40-year-old Englishman pushed his score to 6-under in the opening round — a surge that began with an eagle at the par-5 eighth.
He added birdies at the ninth, 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th holes, meaning he played a stretch of nine holes at 8 under.
With two holes remaining, Rose was three shots clear of the field on a day when most players were having trouble breaking par.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 74, Rory McIlroy struggled to a 76 and Bryson DeChambeau was at 5 over through 13 holes.
Brooks Koepka’s surgically repaired knee wasn’t the problem in the opening round of the Masters. His swing was.
Koepka never got clicking Thursday at Augusta National. He shot a 2-over 74, putting him squarely in the middle of the Masters pack.
Koepka started with six pars and then the adventure began -- with just four more pars in his final 12 holes, including a five-hole stretch that went bogey-bogey-bogey-birdie-birdie.
It was Koepka’s worst round at Augusta National in his last 12 tries and snapped a streak of 10 straight rounds under par.
One bad shot turned into one big number for Jordan Spieth.
Coming off a victory in the Texas Open, Spieth was 1 under at the Masters when he sent his drive well right into the trees on the ninth hole. He thought he had enough of a gap in the pine trees to give it a shot. It wasn’t big enough. It hit a tree and went further back. Spieth put his third shot just short of the green and looked to have a chance to escape with a bogey.
But then he three-putted for a triple bogey and fell back to 2 over.
Justin Rose, meanwhile, was charging up the leaderboard. Rose was 2 over through seven holes. An eagle on the par-5 eighth hole was the start of a six-hole stretch he played at 6-under par.
Rose was at 4 under and leading with five holes to go. With the wind stronger than in the morning, Rose was the only player under par still on the golf course. Brian Harman and Will Zalatoris each posted 69 earlier.
Dustin Johnson found conditions much more challenging on the opening day of the Masters than they were in November for his romp to the green jacket.
The result: a lackluster 2-over 74 that ended his unprecedented streak of below-par rounds at Augusta National.
Johnson finished with a double-bogey 6 at the 18th, where he drove his tee shot into the trees and lipped out a 4-foot putt.
It was the first time since the opening round in 2018 that Johnson has failed to break par. His streak of 11 straight rounds in the red is the most in Masters history.
Brian Harman has gone from last man in the Masters to the first name on the leaderboard Thursday.
Harman had little reason to believe he would be at Augusta National this year. He was at No. 95 in the world a month ago when he tied for third at The Players Championship. That got him into the Match Play, where he reached the quarterfinals. And that was enough to get him to No. 49 in the world and into the Masters.
He had three birdies over his last six holes for a 3-under 69. Harman was tied with Hideki Matsuyama among those who finished early. Marc Leishman also was at 3 under at the turn.
Harman is making only his third start in the Masters.
At this time last year, Will Zalatoris was playing on the Korn Ferry Tour. Off to an early start, he delivered the first sub-par round at the Masters, a 2-under 70.
The pandemic forced a shift to last November that produced record low scoring by defending champion Dustin Johnson (20-under 268) and the field (average score 71.75). With a return to a spring date, tournament officials promised a return to the firmer, faster conditions.
Zalatoris actually dipped as low as 3 under after an eagle at No. 15, but gave back a shot on the next hole. A trio of internationals — Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa and Englishman Paul Casey — were still on the course at 3 under and leading the tournament.
The early leaderboard at the Masters has a very international feel.
Si Woo Kim of Korea, Corey Conners of Canada and Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa were sharing the early lead Thursday at Augusta National, with all at 2 under in their opening rounds.
Kim and Conners were through nine holes. Bezuidenhout was through five holes. With 49 players on the course for the opening round, only 10 were under par.
Meanwhile, Viktor Hovland of Norway has bounced back nicely from early trouble. Hovland triple-bogeyed the opening hole, then birdied three of his next five holes to get back to par for the day.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson — who made a total of four bogeys on his way to the Masters title in 2020 — opened with a bogey Thursday and was even through four holes. Among those following Johnson at Augusta National: his father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky.
Viktor Hovland opened his Masters with a disaster.
Hovland, the low amateur when he last played the Masters in 2019, opened with a triple-bogey 7 on the first hole Thursday. He sent his tee shot into the trees left of the fairway, then needed two shots from there to get onto the fairway.
His fourth shot to the back pin location went off the green. He chipped on, then two-putted.
Hovland parred No. 1 his first three times playing it at the Masters, then made birdie in the final round two years ago. It was his first triple-bogey in 73 holes of competition at Augusta National.
It wasn’t the only big number early in the opening round of the Masters. Amateur Joe Long made a 7 on the par-4 fifth hole, and 1988 Masters winner Sandy Lyle had a quadruple-bogey 7 on the par-3 fourth hole.
That matched the second-highest score in Masters history at No. 4. Henrik Stenson made a quintuple-bogey 8 there in 2011.
The first group has reached the turn at the Masters, and scoring is about what was expected. Hudson Swafford was at 2 under through nine holes, picking up birdies on the par-5 second and par-3 fourth holes without a bogey on his card.
With 29 players now on the course at firm, fast Augusta National, no one has reached lower than 2 under and five players were under par.
The forecast called for scattered showers, though any rain chances on a course that has been dry for a week were most likely after the first round was ending.
Sandy Lyle’s round fell apart with a quadruple-bogey 7 on the fourth hole. The 63-year-old Scot won the Masters in 1988. From the front bunker, he sent it well over the green, took two more shots to get back to the front of the green and took three putts to get down from there.
Lee Elder was invited to take part in the ceremonial start. The 86-year-old Elder was the first Black golfer to compete in the Masters in 1975. Augusta National announced in November he would be joining six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus and three-time champion Gary Player.
Elder’s health wouldn’t allow him to take a swing. Instead, he raised his driver on a cool morning that was warmed by enormous applause from spectators that lined both sides of the tee box.
Masters Chairman Fred Ridley said Elder’s has blazed a trail that inspired golf and future generations with a message that golf belongs to everyone.
Among those on the tee were Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson wearing green jackets as past champions, and Cameron Champ, one of four players of Black heritage on the PGA Tour.
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