Reigning champion Jordan Spieth finished as the clubhouse leader after the first round, but has a chasing pack of hungry challengers right behind him in Augusta.
Super Spieth scored superbly
Spieth was in fine form as he carded a bogey-free 66 to leave him on six under par after the first round. If you were looking for consistency, the reigning champion was certainly the man as he made 12 pars and 6 birdies. The American became the first man to lead the first round whilst defending his title at the Masters since the great Jack Nicklaus.
Paul Casey entered the clubhouse not long after Spieth, with a respectable three under par with a messy card full of bogeys, pars, birdies and even eagles. The Englishman fought hard in the famous swirly Augusta conditions, on the 'toughest day' he has seen at the venue.
'Brutal' conditions at Amen Corner
Lee Westwood described the conditions as 'brutal', particularly around Amen Corner, yet some of golf's finest made light work of the wind. Spieth is now ten under par from seven rounds across the three holes at Amen Corner.
Arguably disadvantaged by the increasing wind speed, it did not seem to affect Ireland's Shane Lowry or tournament favourite Jason Day at the beginning of their rounds. Lowry made four consecutive birdies between the second and fifth hole, whilst Day carded 31, two less than Spieth, on the front nine. Unfortunately both players dropped off the pace on the back nine, finishing on four under and level par respectively. Day in particular had a horror show dropping five shots in the space of three holes towards the end of the round.
Hells bells for Els
One man who could not settle into the conditions from the outset was former champion Ernie Els. The South African made history for all the wrong reasons when he took what seemed to be ten shots to complete the first hole, an unwanted record in Masters history. Yet later coverage showed that he did in fact take six putt attempts from only several yards away, as Els actually took nine shots on a frustrating opener.
Outsider Rickie Fowler also had a difficult opening day, finishing on eight over par despite being one of the leading groups and not having to deal with the drying out and consequently faster greens that his colleagues later encountered.
Hairdryer treatment for McIlroy
Irish favourite Rory McIlroy also took time to settle, failing to produce a birdie until the seventh hole. There may have been a touch of the David Moyes' or Louis van Gaal's as he was followed by the imperious Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager who once gave a motivational speech to Team Europe before they went on to win the Ryder Cup. Yet an eagle on the 13th seemed to turn the round on it's head for the world number three, as he ended on two under par.
World number 12 Danny Willet has been tipped as a dark horse by some fans, including cricket star Kevin Pieterson, despite becoming a father only last week. Yet the man from Sheffield was solid as he kept himself in contention with a score of two under par. Justin Rose was another Englishman who kept himself in the chase with an excellent three under par going into Friday's second round, repeated by Ian Poulter later in the day.
Perhaps the surprise of the round came from New Zealander Danny Lee, who quietly glided up the leaderboard with an excellent score of four under to keep his dreams alive. Sergio Garcia joined the Kiwi in the chasing pack as he putted four birdies in a row at the end of his round to finish on three under par, as did Denmark's Soren Kjeldsen who completed the back nine in just 32 shots.
The top of the leaderboard reads as follows after the opening round:
1. Jordan Spieth (-6)
2= Shane Lowry (-4)
2= Danny Lee (-4)
4= Paul Casey (-3)
4= Justin Rose (-3)
4= Ian Poulter (-3)
4= Sergio Garcia (-3)
4= Soren Kjeldsen (-3)