Jordan Spieth blows them away at the Masters with a bogey-free 66

If there had been specks of trash on the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday, they would have blown through these corridors of pines like confetti in Times Square.

Because there is not a piece of litter to be found, the evidence of just how gusty the wind was for the first round of the 80th Masters was in the rustling azaleas, starched pin flags and players' pants billowing like sails on boats.

More than a few times the golfers paused to re-steady themselves over 12-inch putts. It was that unsettling at times.

And if the blustery conditions weren't enough, 87 competitors were lashed by another front: stormin' Jordan.

Fortunate to be in the early groups, before the wind reached its strongest, and seemingly oblivious otherwise to the peril, Jordan Spieth was the only player not to suffer a bogey, and he rolled in six birdies to open the defense of his title with a six-under-par 66.

There were others who had their own impressive days. South Korean Danny Lee shot a four-under 68 — a 22-shot improvement over the 90 he suffered in his second Masters round last year. That tied him in second with Ireland's Shane Lowry, who had four birdies in a row on the front nine.

Perhaps because they have more experience in such weather circumstances, five notable Europeans were bunched with 69s: Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Soren Kjeldsen.

Those were rounds of beauty compared to the ugliness displayed by some of the week's favorites.

Playing late in 35-mph gusts, world No. 1 Jason Day caught fire on the front with a five-under 31 and was one shot back of Spieth at the turn. He came home with a 41 for 72, including a waterlogged triple-bogey six at No. 16.

Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson also scored 41 on the second nine in a 75, somewhat salvaging his score with a birdie at 18. Another top pick, 2013 champ Adam Scott, carded 76. Rickie Fowler was awful with an 80.

World No. 3 Rory McIlroy played later than all of them, and when he eagled the 13th and birdied the 15th, he was four under. But he fell back with bogeys at 16 and 18 to score 70.

Spieth, 22, knew it was going to be a testing day, and he said he went out figuring a two-under score would be satisfactory. He surprised himself with the far better result, which he said was probably a stronger performance than the opening 64 here last year that put him on the path to an 18-under total.

"I definitely could make that argument," Spieth said. "The way I was playing, I would say, was better a year ago, but the score that came out of the round may have been [more] impressive today."

Spieth insisted earlier this week that his game was in good shape, despite recent inconsistent results that caused some to doubt his readiness. The Masters hasn't been good of late to its champions — none of the last five being able to post a top-five finish in defense.

He also cracked the face of his driver Wednesday, so there was that change to overcome too.

All Spieth did was go out and set another Masters record. No previous wire-to-wire winner had started the following year's tournament with a score as low as 66. Spieth now has led after five straight rounds at Augusta.

"I played a wonderful round of golf, but it was great to have a front-row seat to watch that," Casey said of Spieth's work.

"I was impressed with everything today. That was a flawless round of golf."

Spieth did get into some trouble. It's just that he made tremendous shots to escape it. Three of his big saves came when he missed the green at par-threes. He made nervy five-footers for par at Nos. 4 and 12 and drained a 15-footer at No. 16 after flaring his tee shot right of the green.

"It was really the par threes and the flat lies that I struggled with today, which are the driving range shots, the shots I hit a million times," Spieth said. "I feel it was extremely special to stay bogey free on a day like today at the Masters."

He shot 33 on each nine, with birdies on three of the four par-fives. Spieth capped the round by rifling his approach to six feet at 18 and making the birdie.

"Just scored the ball extremely well, which is something I've been struggling with this season," Spieth said.

tod.leonard@sduniontribune.com

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on April 08, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "No mistakes about it, as Spieth blows them away - In windy conditions, the defending champion leads by two after a 66 and is the only player without a bogey." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
46°