You can’t win a green jacket on Thursday at the Masters, but you sure as heck can send a strong signal to the local tailor that you won’t be slipping one over the shoulders this year.
Three-time champion Phil Mickelson and world No. 1 Luke Donald dangled into that dangerous territory in the opening round.
Mickelson had a rough day from tee to green, missing it "four or five" times in places he knows he simply cannot miss shots. A "horrific" drive way left off the 10th tee led to triple-bogey 7 and an eventual round of 74. He hit only eight greens in regulation — tying his tournament low in his 20th Masters — and he did not give himself many quality birdie chances.
Nonetheless, having stood on the 11th tee at 4 over, he battled hard, and a closing birdie at 18 got him into the clubhouse at only 2 over.
"I could have been sitting here 5 or 6 over and out of the tournament," Mickelson said, "but at 2 over, I'm one hot round from being back in this tournament. I know if I can play the first three holes in 2 under tomorrow (Friday), I'm back to even par."
After the heavy rains that hit Tuesday and Wednesday, mud on the golf ball was a significant factor. Mickelson faced an approach shot at the perilous par-4 11th hole with mud on the left side of his golf ball; he had to aim the shot a full 35 yards right of the flag, toward the 12th tee. Even then, the ball rocketed left on him and nearly finished in the pond that fronts the left edge of the green.
He said his struggles with his long game came as a result of being a bit tentative, which led him to get a little narrow on the downswing and leads him to hit big cuts. "I try to steer it, and I hit the big slice," he said. He vows to be more aggressive in Round 2, when he hopes to return to the mix of contenders.
"When I go after it, I get wider, I hit it harder, and I hit it straighter. So I'll be going after it (Friday)."
As for Donald, he shot 75 and became caught up in a mini-scoring controversy after his round. He’d made bogey-5 at the fifth hole and signed for 75; however, an administrative error mistook a ‘5’ for a ‘3,’ and the scoring computers around the golf course showed Donald at 73. Not so.
Donald met with a Masters official afterward, and the situation was resolved. The usually steady Donald made six bogeys in his round, including uncharacteristic three-putt bogeys at Nos. 5 and 6.
For all the talk about the big guns entering this year’s Masters — six of the world’s top 10 players already have won this year — only Lee Westwood (67) was hitting on anything close to all cylinders.
Tiger Woods finished bogey-bogey to shoot level par. Rory McIlroy, who began his round with a double bogey, battled all day and finally poured in two closing birdies to pull out a respectable round of 71. World No. 4 Hunter Mahan, the top-ranked American in the field, got to 3 under through five holes, but had no birdies the rest of the way and shot 72.