Champion Adam Scott matches first-round score from 2013
Former FedExCup champion Bill Haas tied his lowest score in a major to snatch the lead at the Masters golf on Thursday while holder Adam Scott experienced a real sense of deja vu in the opening round.
American Haas, whose great uncle Bob Goalby landed the coveted green jacket in 1968, recovered from a bogey five at the opening hole to set the pace on four-under 68.
Scott, bidding to become only the fourth player to win back-to-back Masters, missed only four fairways but failed to make the most of his birdie opportunities on the greens as he returned a 69 to match his effort at the same stage last year.
Bubba Watson shared second place on 69 along with Scott and the player the American left-hander defeated in a playoff here in 2012, South African Louis Oosthuizen.
Rory McIlroy, the 12-1 pre-tournament favourite along with Australian Scott, launched his campaign with a 71.
World No. 1 Tiger Woods may be missing from this year’s line-up following back surgery but there was no shortage of thrills on a sun-kissed day at Augusta National.
The 31-year-old Haas hit the front after bagging three birdies on each nine, including a six-footer at the last that gave him his first three at the 18th at the 17th career attempt.
The pin at the final hole was typical of the tricky flag positions on day one, tucked in on the corner of the putting surface.
Haas, the son of former U.S. Ryder Cup player Jay senior, refused to get too carried away with his performance.
Haas was relieved the decision to jettison his brother Jay junior as caddie in favour of the more experienced Scott Gneiser did not rebound on him.
Scott felt less than comfortable with the shortest club in the bag, as evidenced by his three-putts for par on the long 13th and 15th.
The world No. 2 was also one of several victims of the notorious Amen Corner stretch — holes 11, 12 and 13. Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, the player beaten by Scott in a playoff last year, had a day to forget as he plunged to a 78 that contained a triple-bogey seven at the 11th. US Open champion Justin Rose (76), 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson (78), WGC-Match Play champion Jason Day (75) and Jason Dufner (80) also struggled.
Former world No. 1 Luke Donald was unable to turn around his recent poor form, slumping to a 79 highlighted by a quadruple-bogey eight at the ninth that featured a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a bunker.
Triple Masters winner Phil Mickelson veered from the sublime to the ridiculous as he ballooned to a 76, matching his previous worst opening round at the championship in 1997 and 2007. The left-handed American suffered two sevens in his round but also curled in a snaking 60-foot putt for an unlikely birdie three at the 10th.
The scores: First round: 68 — Bill Haas; 69 — Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen; 70 — Kevin Stadler, Marc Leishman, K. J. Choi, Jimmy Walker, Gary Woodland, Brandt Snedeker, Jonas Blixt; 71 — Francesco Molinari, Rory McIlroy, Stephen Gallacher, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Matteo Manassero, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Fred Couples; 72 — Bernhard Langer, Nick Watney, Steve Stricker, Graeme McDowell, Sang-moon Bae, John Senden, Kevin Streelman; 73 — Charl Schwartzel, Matt Kuchar, Stewart Cink, Thongchai Jaidee, Russell Henley, Mike Weir, Thomas Bjorn, Boo Weekley, Jamie Donaldson, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed.