A perfect day at the 2019 Masters produced one perfect leaderboard on Thursday.
The Augusta National Golf Club put on its spring best colors and some of the biggest names responded.
It was a mix of the Majors Monster, Weird Science and a touch of old Lefty — as in Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson.
All of them came through late on a day when scoring appeared more difficult early then the late afternoon gave way to some sensational play.
Koepka, the most dangerous man in majors, has a piece of that first round lead with a stunning 66, fueled by four straight birdies starting at the infamous par three 12th. Brooks nearly made it six in a row but his birdie attempt at the 16th pulled up an inch short. Koepka has won two of the last three major championships and he had his determined look on full display during day one.
So did the mad scientist — DeChambeau.
Bryson closed with four straight birdies. He nearly aced the 16th then at the 18th, his second made a bee line for the hole, hit the middle of the pin and bounced off it, stopping two inches short of an eagle two. Spectacular stuff by a player who hadn’t gone that low ever at The Masters.
Then there was the 48-year-old Mickelson. He’s a shot back despite bogies at the 10th and 11th. Lefty made up for them with five birdies over the final seven holes and among them was a near-ace at the 16th then a 10-footer for birdie to close out the 67, a shot back of Koepka and DeChambeau.
It was that kind of afternoon after a morning where everyone was jockeying for position.
Sixty-nine looked like a really good score as the late tee times went off. By day’s end, there were five players at three-under including former Masters champ Adam Scott and bombastic Jon Rahm.
Conditions were near perfect and there’s no promise of good weather the rest of the way with weather threatening on Saturday and Sunday.
Form tells us that the last 13 winners of this championship have been in the top 10 after the first round.
That would certainly leave pre-tournament favorites Rory McIlroy (73) and Justin Rose (75) in a bad position.
Dustin Johnson is right where he needs to be. His 68 left him tied with Ian Poulter, just two off the lead.
There were no lack of big names in contention. Stiffs need not apply.
The afternoon heroics of the leaders overshadowed the morning 70 by Tiger Woods.
Woods could have gone lower, his putter wasn’t in a cooperative mood and three short misses left him out of the sub-70 crowd.
In all, 28 players went under par Thursday.
There’s a lot of quality in the red.
Heroic round of the day belonged to Jason Day. He tweaked his fragile back when he lifted one of his children near the practice putting green before he teed off. By the time he finished the first hole, he was on his back, being attended to by an athletic trainer. Day got up, plodded on gingerly, limping around the back nine and in the end, managed a two-under par 70.
At the other end of the performance spectrum, Jordan Spieth’s 75 showed he hasn’t been cured of what ails him and Paul Casey was totally embarrassed by the 81 he put up.
Defending champion Patrick Reed’s 73 means there’s a great chance he won’t repeat.
And that was really good news to start this 2019 edition of The Masters.