Day 1 of Bryson DeChambeau’s driving assault on Augusta did not go exactly as planned.
All eyes were on the U.S. Open champion as he teed off from the 10th on Thursday as the favorite to win this year’s Masters, armed with an attack plan that had been the source of much discussion.
Would the PGA Tour’s longest driver, as he suggested, look for the 14th fairway from the 13th tee? Could he possibly even drive the green from the first? Nick Faldo promised to run naked through the iconic course if the latter came to pass.
There was no doubting DeChambeau’s ambition in the opening round, but the aggressive approach initially appeared flawed and his improved putting had to come to the rescue on more than one occasion.
DeChambeau met his match early, scrambling to make par at the 11th and 14th after frequenting the trees but double-bogeying the 13th.
The tide steadily turned, however, with DeChambeau still relying on a series of hefty tee shots, even if his drive at the first pulled left and allowed Faldo, in attendance as a CBS analyst, to keep his clothes on.
It was a tumultuous round for the most part and yet, by the time he returned to the clubhouse, the 27-year-old had a 2-under 70, still very much in contention.
“I’m very happy with the patience I delivered to the course today,” DeChambeau said.
“I tried to take on some risk. It didn’t work out as well as I thought it would have, but I’m proud of the way I handled myself and finished off. Birdieing 8 and 9 was a testament to my focus level and wanting to contend here.”
Of his double-bogey setback, he added: “I just didn’t draw it around the corner enough and I got greedy.
“This golf course, as much as I’m trying to attack it, it can bite back. It’s still Augusta National and it’s the Masters. It’s an amazing test of golf no matter what way you play it.”
Leading the way early on was Paul Casey, who finished with a bogey-free 65 that was boosted by an eagle at the second.
Casey finished in a tie for second at the PGA Championship and suggested playing majors during the coronavirus pandemic is easier than a standard tournament.
“I didn’t know how this was going to be, playing in a pandemic without fans,” he told Sky Sports. “To be honest, I still don’t like it, I miss the energy.
“But the majors we’ve played — Harding Park, Winged Foot, now Augusta — you can sense there’s a buzz among the players. It’s been that difference that has led to my good golf in the bigger championships.
“I want people to be pouring through the gates and enjoying watching myself and others play golf. But until that happens, I’m trying to make the most of it this week.”
Tiger Woods, the defending champion, might yet have his say. He, too, was flawless in his 68 after birdies at the 13th, 15th, 16th and first.