Masters 2017: Blustery conditions raise difficulty level in Round 1

Sporting News
It appears Augusta National might escape the heavy rain once predicted to plague Round 3.

Masters 2018: Leaders might escape predicted Round 3 rain

It appears Augusta National might escape the heavy rain once predicted to plague Round 3.

The 2017 Masters is under way, but Thursday's blustery conditions have left many players scratching their heads.

With wind gusts up to 35 mph at Augusta National in Round 1,birdies have been hard to find for the world's best players.

Rain dominated the story Wednesday when the famed Par-3 Contest was canceled. The torrential downpour may have disrupted the fun event, but it has helped players manage some defense against the steady wind Thursday.

The soft conditions around the greens has allowed players to hold wedge shots. The greens aren't running as fast as they were by the end of the week last year, which has helped players keep a defense against wind gusts.

On the par-3 fourth hole, Adam Scott, who became the first Australian to win the Masters in 2013, stood on the tee box perplexed for the better part of 10 minutes as he tried to wait out strong gusts.

His caddie, Steve Williams, backed Scott off the ball a couple of times as they deliberated what club to hit on the tricky hole. Scott ultimately hit the green and made par, but it's a good example of whyslow pace is expected Thursday as players meticulously decide on shots and clubs.

The tall pines guarding Augusta National's pristine fairways will help protect the players throughout a majority of the course. Yetexposed holes on the front nine could present a problem.

Players who operate with a low ball flight will have an advantage. Also, though it isn't always the case, longer hitters will have an advantage as long as the wind remains inconsistent.

Longer hitters will be able to hit shorter irons into greens, givingthem more control.

One player to watchis Belgian Thomas Pieters. The big-hitting Ryder Cup phenom birdied three of his first five holes to jump into the early lead. If he can continue to handle the pressure, he could be a surprise performer this week.

Masters leaderboard

Here’s a look at the live 2017 Masters leaderboard from Round 1 at Augusta National Golf Club.

What to read next