Spieth makes strong start to US Masters defence with two-stroke lead
Simon Sinclair | April 8, 2016
Spieth soars to six under
Defending US Masters champion Jordan Spieth made the perfect start in his attempt to retain the Green Jacket with a fine display on the first day at Augusta.
The 22-year-old remained composed throughout his opening round to take a two-shot lead into the second day of the tournament.
Spieth entered the competition without a top-10 finish in his past six PGA Tour events, but displayed no signs of poor form as he put in a splendid display in tough conditions in Georgia.
The American had a steady start to his round, notching three birdies on the front nine before adding another on the 10th ahead of Amen Corner.
He negotiated the toughest part of the course without dropping a stroke, ending with a birdie on the 13th hole to remain ahead of the chasing pack.
Spieth held his nerve on the final five holes to maintain his mistake-free round, and finished on a high note by birdieing for the sixth time on the 18th to finish on six-under 66.
McIlroy and Day still in contention
The two-time Major winner started the day on level odds with Rory McIlroy and Jason Day to win the tournament, but his fine performance has seen him shift ahead as the favourite at 7/4.
South Korean-born New Zealander Danny Lee and Ireland’s Shane Lowry are the American’s closest competitors following their rounds of four-under 68.
Neither player has won a Major and it will be interesting to watch their progress over the next few days to see if they can maintain their challenge.
The Irishman has odds of 25/1 to claim his first title, while Lee has been deemed more of an outsider at 33/1.
English trio on three under
English trio Justin Rose (10/1), Paul Casey and Ian Poulter all had strong starts to their claim for the Green Jacket too, with each player finishing the day on three-under.
Casey played alongside Spieth and enjoyed a steady front nine carding two-under, but he will have been disappointed with his three bogeys on the back – including on the 18th, which prevented him from matching the American.
Poulter benefited from a strong finish with three birdies in the final six holes, while Rose had an inconsistent outing with bogeys on the back nine, limiting his chance to battle Spieth for the lead.
McIlroy looked to be in good shape to match the American’s efforts in Augusta – despite a slip-up on the par three fourth – on the front nine, firing a two-under 34.
He struggled on the 11th with another bogey, but bounced back with an eagle at the 13th and another birdie to leave him a good position for a strong finish to his round.
The Northern Irishman let his good work slip with a couple of loose shots on the final three holes, leading to two bogeys and a two-under round, four shots off the pace of his rival.
McIlroy holding onto Career Grand Slam hope
McIlroy’s performance has not affected his odds to win the Green Jacket as he remains 6/1 to win the tournament for the first time in his career.
World number one Jason Day didn’t fare so well on the first day of the competition, despite an impressive performance on the front nine.
Day appeared to be sending a message out to Spieth by notching an early eagle before adding three birdies to card five-under at the turn.
He managed to get through Amen Corner without huge damage, but then imploded in three of the remaining four, including a triple bogey on the 16th.
As a result of his collapse, the 28-year-old’s odds have dwindled back to 9/1, now third-favourite for the crown, leaving him with a lot of work to do to get back into the frame.
Meanwhile, Bubba Watson and Adam Scott find themselves well out of contention for the crown following dismal rounds of three-over and four-over respectively.
Both players’ odds are now extremely long indeed to rebound and win at Augusta, despite starting out as two of the top names for the title.
Day One leaderboard
Jordan Spieth -6
Danny Lee -4
Shane Lowry -4
Paul Casey -3
Justin Rose -3
Ian Poulter -3
Sergio Garcia -3
Soren Kjeldsen -3
Billy Horschel -2
Danny Willett -2
Rory McIlroy -2
Kevin Streelman -1
Charley Hoffman -1
Lee Westwood -1
Hideyki Matsuyama -1
Louis Oosthuizen E
Phil Mickelson E
Dustin Johnson +1
Bubba Watson +3
Adam Scott +4
Rickie Fowler +8