1 Jason Day believes he can defy history and claw his way back despite throwing away a hot opening round at the Masters.
Day was humming along at five under par through 14 holes, despite wind gusts pushing 55km/h at times, before dropping five shots in three holes to give defending champion and first-round leader Jordan Spieth a six-shot leg up.
Forced to settle for an even-par-72 after going out in 31 but home in 41, Day sits tied for 21st at Augusta National, already in a dogfight as he searches for the coveted green jacket.
Given no Masters champion in the 79-year-history of the event has ever won with a triple bogey on their card, Day has a long path to navigate after he dunked a ball in the water on the par-3 16th hole and made a six.
The past 10 Masters winners were inside the top 10 after round one and the past eight winners opened with a round in the 60s.
In contrast, Spieth made it five straight rounds where he’s finished with the lead here, continuing on from his wire-to-wire win in 2015 with a sublime bogey-free six-under 66.
“It’s a major championship. Things happen and unfortunately it happened at the wrong time today but it is what it is, and I’ve got to move on and push forward and try and get back in the tournament,” Day said.
“I’m not frustrated with how it all happened and how it unfolded at the end. I’m not saying I don’t care, but it’s just I’ve got to move on from now and you can’t dwell on the past.
“It’s not the way I planned it out today, but I felt like I played some really good golf up until then. There were only four bad holes.
“I’ve just got to slowly try to inch my way back into this tournament if I can, and be patient with myself and hopefully I’m there by Sunday.”
World No.2 Spieth leads by two from New Zealand’s Danny Lee and Ireland’s Shane Lowry after they reached four under.
Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Soren Kjeldsen and Sergio Garcia lurk three back after rounds of 69 while a final-hole bogey dropped Rory McIlroy amongst those at two-under 70.
Under pressure from some pundits after being winless since early January, Spieth found his putting rhythm once more, leading the field with just 25 putts.
“I feel like my game’s been trending in the right direction, I just haven’t gotten scores out of how I felt I’d been playing,” Spieth said.
“That normally just comes down to putting and certainly I made a lot of putts today.
“If I can straighten things out with the iron play, hopefully we’ll be in business.
“I am extremely pleased with that round today. I felt like we stole a few.”
It was the worst start for the Australian contingent since the last time wind gusts severely affected play at Augusta in 2007.
Former Masters champion Adam Scott shot a dismal four-over-76, leaving him 10 shots off the lead.
It was only slightly better news for Marc Leishman and Masters rookie Cameron Smith who entered the clubhouse with rounds of 74.
Steven Bowditch battled away despite a wrist injury to shoot a seven-over 79.