The 2005 Masters Tournament might have been slow to start, but once the season’s first Major Championship did get under way after a storm delay, there was never a dull moment at Augusta National Golf Club as past winner Billy Casper took 106 blows before pocketing his card, three-time champion Nick Faldo withdrew with a back injury and less than a quarter of the field completed their first round before nightfall.
When a halt was called at 7.30pm, the leaderboard showed American Chris DiMarco out in front on the course at four under par with four holes to play, while Australian Mark Hensby claimed the clubhouse lead with a three under par 69 – the only player to complete the day with a sub-par score.
England’s Luke Donald, playing in his first Masters, also had four holes to play when the klaxon sounded and stood at three under par with South African Retief Goosen and former winner Vijay Singh of Fiji in the group on two under out on the course.
Among the finishers, there was a strong Masters debut for English Ryder Cup player David Howell, who signed for a highly creditable level par 72, while 2006 Ryder Cup Captain and 1991 Masters Champion Ian Woosnam, took 78.
Play was delayed for five and a half hours in the morning due to a severe thunderstorm which flooded the most valuable piece of real estate in Augusta. However id didn’t take long before the conditions and the course took its toll.
Casper recorded a 14 at the par three 16th on his way to shooting 106 but opted not to trouble the scorer. It wasn’t the only high score of the day – England’s Ryder Cup player Paul Casey ran up a ten at the 13th on his way to a 79 and Tiger Woods putted off the green into the water at the same hole.
Faldo, meanwhile, was forced to withdraw with a back problem after playing just eight holes of his first round. It was the first time that the 1989, 1990 and 1996 winner, had failed to return a score in his 22nd consecutive appearance.
Faldo picked up his ball and walked off without holing out on the ninth green, leaving Tom Lehman and Peter Lonard to continue as a two ball.
He explained that he had been suffering from a lower back problem for some time, but the problem resurfaced after playing his third round to the second hole. He was four over par when he decided he could not continue any longer.
He said: "I have had this niggling problem for about 18 months. I can't make a backswing or a follow through so I think I'm in trouble. It happened on my third shot to the second and it got worse and worse and worse. Good timing! This place of all places."
Howell was out in the first group of a frustrating day, but eventually teed off at 1.30pm and proceeded to show many a Masters veteran how to chart a route around Augusta National.
A pair of twos at the fourth and sixth holes helped his cause, particularly his deft chip-in at the sixth when a four seemed the more likely outcome after overshooting the green.
A couple of slack approaches cost him shots at the tenth and 14th but he birdied the 15th to get round in level par. He said: “I am delighted with that. It would have been nice to break par but 72 is a good start. It was difficult – squelchy underfoot and breezy. Certainly not easy.”
Asked about the effect of four 72s on his record, Howell smiled: “Well, it wouldn’t win but it wouldn’t be last either. Based on today conditions I would say level par would make the top ten. If I can shoot one shot lower every day I will be happy with that.”