Augusta: Shubhankar Sharma left the Augusta National on Thursday with a card of 5-over 77. That meant he would need to come back on Friday and shoot at least in the 60s to ensure that he makes the cut and stays on for the weekend. Sharma is currently Tied-73rd.
The cutline at the Masters falls at Top-50 scores including ties or any player within 10 shots of the lead. With the cut likely to fall around 3-over or 4-over, Sharma will necessarily need to shoot under par in the second round to stay on. On the strength of his first day’s play, it would also mean he would need to tighten up quite a few areas like putting, which let him down on the front nine or the approaches which were the source of trouble on the back stretch. He would also need to be sure of the yardages and the distances he can get from the club especially if the wind is up.
Much before Jordan Spieth (66) tore up the back nine of the Augusta National with five birdies in five holes from 13th, Tiger Woods battled around for a round of 1-over 73 to be T-29th. Woods is playing his first Masters since 2015 and has not won a Major since 2008.
Spieth is fast building a reputation as “the man to beat" at Augusta. Having won once, finished second twice and T-11 once in four appearances at the Masters, he is back at the pole position that included an amazing streak of five birdies form 13th to 17th, only to followed by a bogey on 18th.
Still he came back with a 66 that was two better than Tony Finau, whose celebration of an ace in par-3 Contest a day earlier almost gave him a twisted ankle which could have forced him to pull. He recovered enough not only to play well but also pull into lead for a while before Spieth’s magic overshadowed him. Tied with Finau was Matt Kuchar.
Seven players, including Rory McIlroy who needs a Green Jacket to complete a career Grand Slam, Henrik Stenson, who turned 42 on Thursday and five others including Li Haotong of China, were all at 3-under 69.
Sharma never really found the rhythm in his game, despite three starting pars. Three bogeys in a row from fourth sixth, included two three-putts.
He did have three birdies, but each time, he gave away the quickly, if not immediately. His troubled round ended with three bogeys in a row from 16th, where he went into the water. On the 17th, he misjudged his chip into the green and on 18th he went to the right into the trees.
Sharma was candid and said, “To be honest I not too happy with the round. I didn’t finish the way I wanted to, but it was great out there, the atmosphere and everything, it was fantastic. The back nine I was just making birdies and bogeys, until the 16th hole, and then 17th and 18th were bad."
Summing up the day, he said, “The putter did not work on the front nine and approach (shots did not work) on the back nine. It was a mix of both."
He also admitted, “Honestly, I did find myself between clubs at times. On 16 I was between clubs, also 14 and 17. I think that’s part of the game, I just didn’t execute it that good."
Spieth’s Masters masterclass brought back memories of his sensational first-round 64 in 2015, when he won wire to wire and set a record-low score for victory. This time Spieth shot 66 and it was an eagle at the eighth that kick-started a round that roared to life with a spectacular run of five straight birdies between the 13th and 17th holes. He did make a mess of the 18th for a bogey, but even then he had 66 to show.
Spieth has now led or co-led after nine of his 17 rounds at the Masters, drawing him level with Tiger Woods’ haul.