Special to The Enterprise
It was a day of low scores and red numbers for almost half of the field of 93 players in the first round of the Masters on Thursday. Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman stand as the co-leaders after firing rounds of 6-under 66, as 45 players shot even-par or better.
Unfortunately for Davis High graduate Nick Watney, he was not one of them. The former Blue Devil standout struggled to a 6-over par 78, but isn’t discouraged just yet.
“The golf course is there for the taking,” Watney told The Enterprise, “only a few firm greens.”
A rainstorm that was forecasted to come in and disrupt play in the mid-afternoon never did. As a result, the wind never picked up as was expected.
“The wind wasn’t too bad,” Watney said. “(The course) was easy compared to what this place can be like.”
Watney bogeyed the first hole en route to a front nine 3-over 39, and the back nine wouldn’t get any easier.
He made four straight bogeys to begin the inward nine, culminating in a drive that went well left on the par-5 13th, one of Augusta National’s most scenic holes. Watney drove his ball into the thick Azalea bushes and flowers and had to face the consequences.
Watney felt his driving and chipping were especially an issue and he knows that he needs to bring them back to form if he is to make the cut to play the weekend at the PGA Tour season’s first major. He has clear goals for Friday:
“I obviously need a really good round, so hopefully I can get off to a good start.”
Watney is grouped with Ernie Els who, like Watney, also bogeyed his opening hole on Thursday. Els, however, bounced back with a birdie on the very next hole and finished at 1-under.
The veteran Els is someone who Watney enjoys playing with and he remembers watching the South African win U.S. Opens as a youngster in Dixon.
“It’s great,” Watney said. “He was always somebody that I watched growing up so it’s always fun (to be grouped with him).”
Hopefully the influence of the “Big Easy”, as Els is nicknamed, will help get Watney back into gear in the second round of the Masters.
— Garrett Johnston is a freelance golf writer based in Sacramento. He has been covering the PGA Tour for the past eight years, and has followed Watney closely for the past three.