Masters 2017: Early starters finish under par on a difficult first day at a blustery Augusta National

Pete Iacobelli
The Independent
Getty Images
Getty Images

Russell Henley and Kevin Chappell could be a rarity on a blustery day at the Masters.

Both were pretty pleased with themselves after their strong starts at Augusta National, considering the conditions. They shot 1-under 71s with the winds blowing heavily throughout the opening round Thursday.

Patrons had a hard time holding onto their hats, flags atop the pins could be heard snapping in the wind and trees that line the course consistently waved as golfers walked past.

Henley and Chappell were the early low scorers on a day when few could stay significantly below par due to the strong gusts that bent shots and played havoc with golfers trying to judge proper distance.

"There was a lot of thinking out there," said Chappell, who was at 2-under before a bogey on the 18th hole knocked him back.

"I hope conditions stay playable," Chappell said. "I'm sure there've been some gusts where balls are moving on. But anytime you shoot under par around here under any condition, it's a good score."

Chappell was encouraged by his opening round (Getty)
Chappell was encouraged by his opening round (Getty)

It certainly was — only 12 golfers were under par midway through the opening round.

Henley was simply excited to be teeing off. His win last week at the Houston Open got him into the Masters and he had the first tee time right after the somber honorary start ceremony that was a tribute to the late Arnold Palmer.

"I still can't believe I'm here and next thing you know I'm behind the ceremonial tee shot," Henley said.

It quickly got very real for Henley.

Henley was delighted just to be present at the Augusta National (Getty)
Henley was delighted just to be present at the Augusta National (Getty)

He had to contend with the winds that went one way on one hole and a different direction the next. Henley opened with two birdies on his first four holes, then fell back with consecutive bogeys on the 10th and 11th holes.

Just as quickly, Henley recovered with birdies on the 12th, 13th and 14th holes. A bogey on the 17th hole left Henley at 1-under par, matching his second lowest score in 11 career rounds at Augusta National.

Henley said the wind may have been the toughest around Amen Corner — the nickname for Augusta's famed 11th, 12th and 13th holes.

He said that he was about to take out a 5-iron for a 200-yard approach, figuring he would need some extra punch to get it close the green. Instead, he hit it over the green leading to a bogey.

"It was really rough," he said.

Chappell, making his second ever Masters appearance, matched his career low at Augusta, twice shooting 71 on the way to a 44th-place finish in 2012.

Both Henley and Chappell say if the winds stay strong — the National Weather Service has a wind advisory for the area for the rest of Thursday — it will be difficult for anyone to get too far ahead.

"I'm not going to wish anything bad on anybody," Henley said, "but I'm really happy being under par."

Spieth endured a frustrating first round (Getty)
Spieth endured a frustrating first round (Getty)

Former champion Jordan Spieth was one of those to struggle in the testing conditions at Augusta National.

Spieth held a five-shot lead with nine holes to play 12 months ago, only to follow dropped shots on the 10th and 11th with a seven on the par-three 12th after hitting two balls into Rae's Creek.

And although the 23-year-old managed a solid par on the same hole in Thursday's opening round, he then ran up a quadruple-bogey nine on the 15th.

Spieth's approach to the par five span back off the green into the water and after taking a penalty drop, he hit his fifth shot over the back and followed up with a poor chip and three putts from 30 feet.

No player has ever made worse than seven on any hole in the Masters and gone on to win, although Spieth responded in style with a birdie from three feet on the 16th.

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