"The U.S. Open is the major to win, but the Masters is the one to play in."
Gregory Havret during the first round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
These are the words of Gregory Havret, one of twenty men who teed off in his first competitive round at Augusta National today. The Frenchman, who secured his invitation via a second-place finish in the 2010 U.S. Open, is speaking of the special aura that surrounds the smallest-field major, and with it, the special case of nerves that comes on the first tee box.
"It's a night and day difference between how I felt today and how I felt the first time I teed off here," says Brandt Snedeker, who today opened with 69 (-3) in his fourth Masters. "My first time I could barely tee the ball up my hands were shaking so bad. I blew it right over the 's' in Masters of the big scoreboard, deep into the pine straw. I now know that left is the place to miss."
Just how would first tee jitters affect the 2011 first-timers, who accounted for one-fifth of the field? Well, we stood by the right-side bunker all day and tallied the freshmen results. Of the 20 first-time players, seven hit the fairway, five landed in the bunker (which is so deep only two were able to extract themselves with a green in regulation), two were far left in tree trouble, and the balance left clear angles to the green from spots in the light rough. So all in all, not terrible. In fact, the first-timers played the first hole at one-over par, with Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Jhonattan Vegas making bogeys and Hiroyuki Fujita and Lion Kim commencing their Masters careers with birdies.
Perhaps Snedeker dispensed some advice in the locker room, as not one player started with a "Fore Right!" into the pine straw.
"I'm always a little nervous on the first tee, even at regular tournaments," says Jason Day. "Today I hit it straight and it just leaked right and went in the bunker. I was just glad I didn't hit anyone. It was just good to be off and running." And run he did into an even-par round. Not bad for a first-timer.
--Max Adler and Marty Hackel