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Raymond Floyd, Jr. of Old Greenwich, Conn. and Innis Arden Golf Club is the son of Raymond Floyd, winner of 22 PGA Tour events and 4 major championships, including the 1976 Masters. Floyd, Jr., the 2011 Connecticut Mid-Amateur Champion and an accomplished golfer in his own right, will be posting a daily blog of his encounters on the hallowed ground of Augusta National Golf Club during the 2016 Masters Tournament.
Hello from the first round of The Masters and what a first day it was. The wind not blowing as strong as forecasted and easy pins around the entire golf course, that were set in anticipation of windier conditions contributed to some very good scores.
Now do not be entirely fooled as the scoring average today was 74.3 which is still a little more than +2, but we saw that the golf course was susceptible to some low scores as we saw 20 players break par today which is about the average for the first round over the last few years.
A little clean up from yesterday’s post. The answer to my trivia question was Bill Haas as he caddied for his dad, Jay, in the 1999 Masters. Now truth be told a few of my friends from Spain on this blog did inform me that Spaniard Alejandro Larrazabal played in The Masters in 2003 as the reigning 2002 British Am champion, and then went on to caddie for Jose Maria Olazabal some 10 years later. Whatever, the correct answer was Bill Haas LOL.
The post from here on out will be much shorter. I think the coverage is so good now from start to finish of the tournament the guys on TV can give you every bit the insight that I can and more. I LOVE posting this stuff Monday-Wednesday as I feel like I can provide a unique perspective to many things that you are just not going to see on the golf channel or read on the web. However I am going to tell you about some things today that I saw on the golf course, found interesting, and go over the leaderboard in depth with my thoughts so I hope you continue to enjoy.
So, as always, I went out to see the honorary starting group that consists of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player. I have been lucky enough to have been coming to this event my whole life and remember when it was Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, and Sam Snead and when I tell you it is absolutely spectacular and I really feel like the Masters cannot start without this tradition. Many of the players come out to watch this as well, and pay their respects, as they should.
After that I went with a couple of buddies and camped out behind the 2nd green. There is a little built in amphitheater behind that green and it is great for spectating because even if it is crowded you can see, and if you stay there long enough (I was there for about 2 hours this morning) you keep inching closer as other patrons peel off and watch some of the groups come through.
The first thing I noticed was Brook Koepka’s caddie, in full white tuxedo, standing in the crowd. Now this was about 9:00 and Brooks did not tee off until 11:05 - there is nothing illegal about this as long as he does not go inside the ropes. Steve Williams used to do it all the time when he caddied for dad and I think it is very smart, especially where the pin was on 2 today. You can see how balls are reacting landing on the green, where guys struggle to get it up and down from and where some guys don’t. Koepka made birdie on 2, so kudos to his caddie.
2 is a unique hole because a lot of times guys will not be trying to put their second shot on the green, but leave it in a green side bunker or short of the green on purpose to leave an easy up and down. The pin was front right and no one, and I mean no one who missed their second shot to the right got up and down. In fact I watched Dustin Johnson and Jason Dufner both make a bogey from the bunker.
For what is supposed to be a pretty easy birdie hole I stood there and watched 8 groups come through consisting of 24 players and I only saw 3 birdies - Bryson Dechambeau absolutely staked a long iron in there to about 5 feet and missed the eagle putt for a tap in birdie. The Asian Pacific Am champion from China, Cheng Jin hit 2 great shots in with his ball coming to rest just over the green, hit a horrific chip that went 10 feet by and then made the putt. And the only pro I saw make a birdie there was my pick of the week Louis Oosthuizen - he hit it in the wrong spot short and right and actually played away from the pin and made a nice putt from about 12 feet to convert the birdie.
One of my favorite vantage points on the whole course around lunchtime is in between the 9th and 18th greens. The greens are only about 30 yards apart, and when you stand to the right of the 9th green you can turn around and take 5 steps and be looking right down on the 18th green from the back left of that green it is perfect. I got to see some amazing shots on both holes. Day almost holing out on 9, in fact the ball had 2 looks at it, Snedeker chipping in, Kiradech Aphinbarnrat hitting a miraculous shot from front of 9 green, I swear I thought he skulled it and it stopped on a dime and left change.
I got to see Zach Johnson hole about a 20 footer to salvage an even par round on 18. I saw Louis hit an absolute missile that landed right next to the cup on 18 only to react like it landed in a pool of uranium and take a bounce into the gallery, where Louis calmly took his putter and rolled one right over the edge of the cup. Then I got to see Jordan hit the same shot as Louis except his did not hit hard and it stopped 5 feet short of the hole where he drained the putt for a 66.
After I was done with my time there I trekked out on the course to watch my good friend and Wake Forest Alum, Bill Haas. Billy had an amazing pairing with Rory and Martin Kaymer, but they were last off, so I decided to head up and watch some guys play the eighth hole.
The key to spectating on the 8th is to go in between 9 and 1 and you have an unobstructed view of the back of the 8th green, and when the pin was back right like it was today it might be the best kept secret on the course. Anyway I watched Danny Willett, Sergio Garcia, and Ryan Moore come up and none of them got up and down and in fact they all looked to be frustrated as can be coming off of that hole. Well, Danny and Sergio must have flipped a switch because they both caught fire on the back as Sergio carded a 32 for a 3 under par 69 and Danny boy made birdie on 9 and had a solid back nine for a 2 under 70 - they must have given their bad karma to Ryan Moore because he shot 41 on the back en route to an 80.
The next group that came through was the one of Shane Lowery, Angel Cabrera, and JB Holmes and they all three calmly made easy birdies, and Shane Lowery was very impressive as he hit an incredible pitch and continues to show to have very good hands for a big man. In fact as I type this I have the replay on in the house we are staying at and the announcers keep saying how good he is around the greens. I first hand can confirm that.
Then I watched Billy, Rory, and Martin come up - Billy made birdie on 8 and otherwise it was uneventful, but what caught my eye was Rory’s drive on 9. All 3 of these guys hit what I thought were amazing drives and when I walked out to the fairway Rory was 30 yards pass the other 2 guys and in the crosswalk with nothing more than a sand wedge in his hand which he calmly knocked to 4 feet and made the putt. This is what I call overpowering a hole and if Rory can continue to hit drives like that he will make it very easy on himself to make birdies.
Some quick observations - The amateurs - Bryson Dechambeau paired with Spieth and Casey shot just about the easiest 72 ever. He made one birdie and one bogey - I watched him play several holes and he hits the ball very solid. He will turn pro next week at Hilton Head as he already has a sponsor’s exemption and I am sure he will be getting a nice check from Puma as he is covered in the stuff from head to toe. Anyway 2 other amateurs would be inside the cut line, British Am champ Langasque, and US Am runner up to Dechambeau, Bard - this is very impressive as these guys have never felt pressure like this.
I saw Chris DiMarco in the gallery today. The guy had a great career and made a lot of money but I cannot help but feel for him, if you remember he was the victim to Tiger’s famous chip in on 16 that hung on the lip before falling for a birdie 2 in 2005, he ended up still getting into a playoff before losing in sudden death. If that ball stays on the lip and doesn't fall I would have never seen Chris Dimarco as a another face in the crowd today - amazing if you think about it.
Danny Lee - I do not know too much about him, and he speaks in broken English, he comes from Korean parents but is a New Zealand national and now lives in Dallas (my head hurts) but this guy has a sense of humor. He is currently tied for 2nd behind Spieth and when they interviewed him after the round going through his highlights he said they were going way to fast for him which made me chuckle, then he made a nice putt for birdie on 12, and as many of you know the 12th green is about 150 yards from any spectator, so sometimes when you get a group that consists Danny Lee, Russell Knox, and Smylie Kaufman the patrons are not really paying attention to what is happening on that green, anyway he made the putt and said no one clapped, yet he kept waving to the crowd like he had just won the tournament. I love it and that sort of lose attitude is probably why he finds himself where he does on the leaderboard.
Ricky Fowler - man I was surprised at his round today, and it really looked like after his 8 on the par 5 13th that he had a case of the I don't cares. It was sad to see and I think that he is about to ruin everyone who had him in a pool where you need all your guys to make the cut, but you never know.
On Instagram, again follow me @victophinebell I posted a picture of about 10 people on the 1st green with water bottles squirting water into every pitch mark to advance the healing process. Nothing goes overlooked here.
Europeans - I mentioned in one of my prior posts that no European has won this event since 1999 - well I guess they took offense to that as we have 8 Europeans in the top 10 - Lowry, Casey, Rose, Poulter, Kjeldsen, Garcia, Willett, and Rory. I think the windy conditions and the firming of the greens plays into their advantage as they are more used to playing in conditions like we saw today.
Ernie Els start - look there is no guy classier and I hated to see that start out of him, and that was like nothing I have ever seen. To 7 putt the first hole and miss that many putts inside of 2 feet left me speechless. If you want a first hand look at what the yips are take a peek at this if you dare http://espn.go.com/espn/now?nowId=1-15154545
Mike Weir shot a 76, and for all my Canadian friends on this list it was good to see him hang in there today, it has been a struggle with Mike with injuries, swing changes, mental issues and the such, and I know 76 is no great shakes, but if the cut was after today he would be in and that is a far cry better than it has been for one of the classiest guys out there.
Bernhard Langer - the guy is 58 and shot 72 today with a stretch of 4 birdies in a row. This guy gets it done and honestly if you saw him face to face and had no idea who he was you would think he was 35. He keeps himself in insane shape and is still competing with guys that hit it 50 yards by him.
Staying in that genre, Tom Watson - I happened to be standing on 18 when he came up today and for Thursday it was pretty impressive. Watson shot a 74 and I would like nothing more for Tom to make the cut and see the roar and ovation her gets walking up 18 for the final time on Sunday. The other thing that I did not know and I happened to catch it on the telecast tonight was that he puts one of Augusta’s egg salad sandwiches in his bag and brings it up to the 13th tee and leaves it on the bench by the tee. He does this to pay tribute to his long time caddie and friend Bruce Edwards, who died during the first day of the 2004 Masters. Bruce would always have an egg salad sandwich on 13. Tom Watson is just a class guy all around.
1) Jordan Spieth - what can you say about this kid. In his first 9 rounds at Augusta he is -29, the next best through their first 9 rounds is Tiger Woods at -21 - think about it.
T2) Danny Lee - I like his attitude and he made a lot of putts - can he keep it up in his first Masters as a pro?
T2) Shane Lowry - MC in only other Masters appearance last year. Having watched him in person he looked awfully impressive from tee to green.
T4) Paul Casey - I cannot figure this guy out, he always plays well at Augusta and then he disappears for 9 months - he has played very solid golf to start this year, however.
T4) Justin Rose - This might be his year, was a little off form in the practice round when I saw him but again always finds his form here when the lights go on.
T4) Ian Poulter - Love him or hate him (I love him) he is a polarizing figure and is good for the game of golf. Only in the tournament this week because of his finish here last year and has struggled quite a bit. Like Casey always seems to play well here.
T4) Soren Kjeldsen - Honestly I do not know much about the Dane other than he looks exactly like John Cook and his son made a putt in the par 3 and rode the putter around the green like a horse. So he is my new favorite player - period.
T4) Sergio Garcia - I mean he is looking solid and I mean real solid - made every putt he was supposed to make and hit a lot of quality shots - Remember what my dad said earlier in the week - Tomorrow is a big day for him as he plays in the early wave and it would be huge if he could put up a low #.
T9) Billy Horschel - I mean has anyone even mentioned him this week, did they show him on TV? Talk about under the radar for a really solid player all around.
T9) Scott Piercy - The tall man from Vegas hits it as long as anyone out here, and while I did not see him play in person I saw some shots on TV. He has won 3 times on tour so he knows how to get it done.
T9) Rory - Look he hands down had the hardest of the conditions as I mentioned in last night’s blog yet he played great and his round seemed to be turned around by an eagle 3 on 13. That is exactly what these par 5’s can provide for players - a much needed shot in the arm.
T9) Danny Willett - He was paired with Sergio and they seemed to feed off of each other. Everyone knows how much I think of this kid’s game, and it showed today. Like Rory he also played late and should have a good chance to go out early and post a score.
The weather - it is going to be exactly like it was today - There is a chance of some scattered showers overnight here which will soften it up and make the course gettable in the morning, but the sun is supposed to come out and the wind is supposed to blow about 20mph all day out of the same direction WNW. I think the conditions will be very similar to what we saw today, except I do not think we are going to see the pins in easy positions, so even though the scoring average today was 74.3 I think you will see that balloon a little more tomorrow.
Remember the cut here at The Masters is the top 50 players and ties OR anyone within 10 shots of the lead. With that being said I will leave you with this trivia - Who is the oldest player to make the cut in a major?
Until tomorrow - Out from Augusta.