Friday, 12 April 2019
Tiger Woods and Jon Rahm   (Getty Images)
Tiger Woods and Jon Rahm (Getty Images)

The first Major Championship of the season got under way at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday and the Masters Tournament delivered its usual combination of beauty, thrills and spills.

Here is a look at some of the stories and stats that you may have missed.

Debut delight for Harding and Bjerregaard

If you would have told Justin Harding as he was missing the cut at the Zanaco Masters 12 months ago that he would playing at Augusta in 2019, he might not have believed you. The incredible form that has seen him rise from 422nd to 49th on the Official World Golf Ranking has involved five worldwide wins - including a maiden European Tour title - and a move to third in the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex. A 69 on day one in Georgia put the South African right in the mix at three under and another big step could be on the way this week.

Lucas Bjerregaard was already a European Tour winner but he truly announced his arrival in 2018 as he held off the challenge of Ryder Cup stars Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton to win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. A victory over Tiger Woods at the recent WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play enhanced his reputation further and a 70 at Augusta National has kept him well and truly in the limelight.

Rahm maintains momentum

The Spaniard fired rounds of 68-65-69 to finish last season's Masters and secure fourth place. He brought that form back to Augusta on Thursday, carding another 69 to make him 17 under for his last four rounds, a total that would have won or forced a play-off in all but two of the Masters ever staged had he put it together in a single week. In his last three rounds here, he has hit 80 per cent of Greens in Regulation and with ball-striking always at a premium, that is Green Jacket form.

Ominous start from Tiger

When Tiger Woods birdied the 14th on day one to get to three under and share the lead, there was a possibility he could end a long Augusta drought. The 14 time Major Champion had not led after any round here since his victory in 2005 - a span of 5,115 days. He could not hold onto top spot but that did not make his opening 70 any less dangerous. When he won the Green jacket in 1997, 2001 and 2002, he started with a 70 each time, and in 2005 he opened with a 74. He may not be the fastest starter here but he sure knows how to finish.

Langer stars again

Bernhard Langer's love affair with Augusta National shows no sign of abating after he carded his 42nd under par round at the Masters. That saw him break a tie with four time winner Arnold Palmer for ninth on the all time list and you would not bet against him going under par again this week. As well as his wins in 1985 and 1993 he has seven other top tens, including as recently as 2014, and he was just two off the lead heading into the final round in 2016. He may be 61, but there could be plenty of impressive Masters left in Langer.

Inches from double delight at the 16th

The shadows were beginning to lengthen when Bryson DeChambeau - in the third to last group of the day - stood on the 16th tee. He sent his tee shot right of the flag at the par three and let the contours bring the ball to the pin, brushing the cup for what looked certain to be the best effort of the day. Cue Phil Mickelson in the group behind, putting his approach even closer to an ace in a dramatic end to the day.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1WOODS, TigerUSA18-13
T2JOHNSON, DustinUSA18-12
T2KOEPKA, BrooksUSA18-12
T5DAY, JasonAUS18-11

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