News & ToursApril 9, 2015

Why the first round of the Masters only sort of matters

The old saw that you can't win the Masters on Thursday, but you can lose it actually rings true. Fact is, only once in the last 30 years has the winner of the Masters been in the top spot after the first 18 holes (Trevor Immelman in 2008 was T-1). So does that mean you're better off chopping it up on Thursday? Not exactly.

Solid play during the opening round is nearly a requisite to donning the green jacket come Sunday night. For while Augusta National is thought of as a course where lots of ground can be made up in a hurry, if you're too far back after Thursday, the chances of a rally -- while not impossible -- simply aren't very good.

Related: 16 wacky Masters stats

That's particularly true in recent history. In the last nine Masters the winner has been in the top 10 after 18 holes every time and in the top seven eight times. The last seven winners have also all shot rounds in the 60s to begin their Masters quest. In other words, you don't have to be the best player on Thursday, but you better be pretty dang good.

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Of course, that doesn't mean you're out of it if you have a rough day. Craig Stadler shot 75 in 1982 and went on to win. Ian Woosnam was T-31 after 18 holes in 1991 and got it done. And more recently, Tiger Woods gave it 74 in 2005's opening round and went on to climb over 32 other players over the final 54 holes.

Still, that's not the preferred method of doing things. If you're seeking a winner of the 2015 Masters, skip past the first guy on the leader board at the end of today. But don't go too far past that. The likely winner is in the next five or six names.

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