AUGUSTA, Ga. – Normally, I’m a contrarian and critical of just about everything.
Watching the first round of the Masters Tournament on Thursday, I found it easy to be critical of the play in near-perfect conditions. But whether an observer might be sitting in front of a TV or even watching from outside the ropes, it’s almost impossible to understand what exactly is transpiring.
Clearly, someone standing along the ropes can when the wind starts to pick up at Augusta National Golf Club, but how the wind plays – is it steady or swirling? – is not part of the patron’s repertoire.
With seven players tied at 3 under atop the leaderboard through the middle of the afternoon wave, it was clear that any under-par round would be a very good score.
But then everything changed, and 3 under didn’t look so exceptional. Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka shot 6-under 66s, a 48-year-old Phil Mickelson posted a 67, and Ian Poulter and Dustin Johnson wrapped up 68s (scores).
Each will have his story on why he is in the thick of winning the 83rd Masters, but as a contrarian, I have to wonder what happened to Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth?
With a combined double bogey, eight bogeys and only four birdies, Rose and Spieth shot 3-over 75s and likely shot themselves out of any chance to win another major championship. Now, they will have to find a way to advance to the weekend.
“First, you want to make the cut, obviously, so get off to a good start,” Rose, the top-ranked player in the world, said to the assembled media outside of the scoring area. “If I can get it back into the red for the tournament [today], then you can build a weekend. I feel I can still get to 11 or 12 under, and you never know. This golf course offers a Sunday charge, and there's a 64 out there, if you can hit the right shots at the right time.”
Is this a logical response or a level of absurdity?
Considering Rose’s lowest career round at Augusta National is a 67, I would say he would need a career 54 holes to catch whoever might be the leader on Sunday.
For Spieth, it might have been asking a lot for the world’s 33rd-ranked player to show up in top form this week. Considering that Spieth, from 2014 to 2018 here, has gone T-2, first, T-2, T-11 and T-3, I think he will turn it on simply because of the venue.
Unlike Rose, Spieth has opened with a 75 and then got himself into contention in 2017 with middle rounds of 69 and 68, surging from 41st to fourth, but then couldn’t keep the run going with a 75 on Sunday to slide into T-11.
Those were the days when Spieth seemingly could do no wrong. Those days are very far in the rearview mirror for the three-time major winner.
So now we start all over again today, with Rose and Spieth needing to dig themselves out of a significant hole. It’s a hole that each dug with questionable play and faulty course management.
Yet, they are professional golfers. I’m willing to suggest that each will play well enough today to make the cut, and it remains possible for them to contend.
But when you ask me why I think that, remember that I’m a contrarian.
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli