AUGUSTA, Ga. – Ross Fisher was the first of three players to climb to 5 under on the leaderboard before Tiger Woods even teed off Thursday at the Masters, sticking his tee shot on the par-3 16th to a few feet for birdie.
Chad Campbell was the second, making birdie on his first five holes of the day. He also happened to make a birdie run later in the afternoon from Nos. 12-15 and is currently at 9 under with three holes to play, on pace to tie or break the Masters scoring record (63).
Third was Shingo Katayama, wearing pants the same color as a green jacket, after a birdie on the par-5 15th. Katayama bogeyed 17, but birdied 18 to finish the day back at 5 under.
In other 5-under news, Fifty-year-old former Masters champ Larry Mize birdied the par-4 14th to get to 5 under and finished there after a 25-footer for par on No. 18.
Jim Furyk got to 5 under later Thursday afternoon while he was making four consecutive birdies from Nos. 14-17. He finished at 6 under and is the clubhouse leader.
For those of you anxiously waiting for Tiger Woods’ Sunday Red, Augusta National and weather conditions built to perfection have presented an early Sea of Red to help tide you over.
Actually, make that an Ocean.
Where is the cold and wind from earlier this week? Gone.
Where are the roars? Closer than we might think, even if Woods (even through 9) and Phil Mickelson (finished at 1 over) seemed to have missed the boat.
At 2:30 Masters time, 36 players were under par. Same thing two hours later. Sixteen players finished last year’s first-round in the red; Trevor Immelman and Justin Rose both led with 4-under 68s.
Tim Clark, winner of yesterday’s Par-3 Contest and an early clubhouse leader at 4-under 68, kicked things off today by making birdie on the first two holes; Fisher, however, kicked things into gear by getting to 4 under through 8 holes. Angel Cabrera matched that mark about an hour later.
Fisher, the 28-year-old Englishman playing his first round in his first Masters, bogeyed his last to hole to finish in 3-under 69, but still gave us a great, early hint of what kind of scores could be out there in these conditions:
• Fisher – or “FISH,” as goes the embroidery on the back of his Titleist cap – put on a driving clinic, missing only the 8th and 18th fairways, but left a bunch of 7-or-so-footers out on the greens.
He three-putted both the 9th and 13th greens from 25 feet above the hole, missing his comebackers from 7 feet.
“Sometimes you get a downhill putt, I saw (Kevin Sutherland’s putt before him from a similar distance) and I knew it was quick, but it’s just so difficult to tell yourself this is quick, you’ve only just got to tap it,” said Fisher, currently ranked No. 33 in the world. He recently lost to Paul Casey in the semifinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
“Obviously 13 I knew it was scary quick and I just couldn’t bring myself to hit it as soft as I needed to hit it.”
• During his approach to the 10th green, Fisher’s footing slipped and he pulled his shot left, pin-high. He got up-and-down for par.
“Apart from that I really didn’t hit a bad shot really,” said Fisher, who responded with a tap-in birdie at No. 11. “Tee to green I didn’t feel like I hit many loose shots.”
• At 4 under for the day, Fisher hit perhaps his best shot of the day at the par-3 12th, landing his tee ball to 6 feet. He lipped out.
• On 17, Fisher hit a bad approach from the middle of the fairway into a left greenside bunker, and couldn’t get up-and-down, missing another putt from inside 10 feet.
• On 18, he found the left fairway bunker, and couldn’t get up-and-down from about 50 yards, missing another 7-footer.
“Obviosuly a little disappointed the way I finished, you don’t want to finish with two bogeys,” Fisher said, “but for my first Masters experience and my first round, you know, I can’t complain too much.
• For those counting at home: If all those putts go in, Fisher shoots 64.
Woulda should coulda, you say?
Campbell is right on that track.