All 93 players are now in the clubhouse at Augusta National, and it's Marc Leishman and Sergio Garcia who hold the first round lead at 6-under. Leishman set the pace early in the day, and the benign scoring conditions continued throughout the afternoon as Garcia came around to match. Leishman did his damage coming into the clubhouse, adding birdies on the final four holes to get to 6-under. Garcia, on the other hand, did most of his work on the front side, going out in 32 and then adding two more birdies on the back side to take a share of the clubhouse lead. It wast just the second bogey-free round for Sergio at the Masters, and as is always the case with the Spaniard, his tenuous grip atop the leaderboard could come undone at any moment on Friday.
Chasing Garcia and Leishman is a long list of loaded names, but Dustin Johnson separated himself at 5-under. The long-hitting South Carolinian took advantage of the par-5s on Sunday, momentarily moving into a share of the 6-under lead at the par-5 15th. He dropped a shot on No. 17 to move back to 5-under, but it was still his best round ever at Augusta National. Johnson may be the most talented of all the young players on tour, but he has repeatedly slipped up at the majors, making mental mistakes or simply washing out by the weekend.
Johnson's playing partner, Fred Couples, is also on the first page of the board at 4-under. Couples dropped a shot on No. 17 too, but the round featured the typical Couples clockwork to start the week at Augusta. Boom Boom is one of the most popular players in the game, and he'll likely continue to thrill the adoring Augusta crowds into his 60s. It's not a fluke, he'll probably stick around tomorrow if he can keep his driving up and avoid the back issues that always seem to creep up at the most inopportune times. Matt Kuchar, although much younger than Couples, has also become a mainstay at Augusta so it's no surprise to see him at 4-under as well. Rickie Fowler, who had two double-bogeys, amazingly rebounded to join them at 4-under.
And then there's the big three -- Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Phil Mickelson. Tiger finished with the best score, a 2-under 70 that could have been better if not for his stalling out on the inward nine. He's still in prime position to be at the top of the board by the weekend, but there were some missed opportunities on the par-5s on Thursday. Tiger said he was satisfied with his game, and expect him to be in form on Friday to make a late afternoon push.
Phil and Rory both finished by going in dramatically different directions on the back nine. After three bogeys in his first seven holes, Mickelson seemed to hit a groove in Amen Corner, with a birdie on No. 12 and a near eagle on No. 13, a hole he owns. That was the start of a five-hole stretch in which Mickelson carded four birdies, and it looked like he would at least match Tiger's round of 70. But he gave one back with a bogey on No. 17, which seemed to provide problems for several players as they finished up, including McIlroy. The No. 2 player in the world was all over the place on the second nine, bogeying four holes for an inward 38 and an even-par 72. He grew increasingly frustrated at the end of his round, displaying the struggles that have bothered him throughout the 2013 season.
With 18 holes complete, here's the full leaderboard:
|T23||Bo Van Pelt||-1|
|T56||Jose Maria Olazabal||2|
|T70||Ted Potter, Jr.||4|
|T70||Steven Fox (a)||4|
|T80||Nathan T. Smith (a)||5|
|T82||Michael Weaver (a)||6|
|93||Alan Dunbar (a)||11|