Golf: Bhatia, Theegala off to slow start at rain-hit Augusta Masters

Augusta, Apr 12 (PTI) Akshay Bhatia lay tied 17th after completing 16 holes, while Sahith Theegala was further down at tied 42nd with a one-over score in 11 holes as the Indian-American golfers got off to a sedate start on the rain-hit opening day of the 88th Augusta Masters here.

Bhatia struck a couple of birdies against a bogey to be one-under before inclement weather halted proceedings with winds swirling all day and gusting up to 56 kmph. Theegala’s round was less eventful, dotted with a lone bogey on the second hole.

Scottie Scheffler, the World No.1, put in a spotless round of six-under 66 and trailed the leader, Bryson DeChambeau, by one shot in the first round of the Major.

The start, which came with the ceremonial tee off by legends Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson, was delayed due to poor weather in the morning.

Leading the Asian challenge after the first day was Korea’s Byeong Hun An, who celebrated his return to the Tournament with a battling two-under 70 to share the ninth place.

The 32-year-old An made seven birdies, including a hat-trick to start his round, against five bogeys at Augusta National.

Scheffler, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard and THE PLAYERS Championship back-to-back last month, opened with a 66 as he sought a second green jacket while five-time Masters winner Tiger Woods was one-under through 13 holes in what is only his second start of the year.

Rory McIlroy, who is seeking to win the Masters for the first time to complete a career grand slam, opened with a 71.

“It’s always great getting off to a hot start, three-under through the first three holes kind of gets you settled. I knew it was going to be a tough day today with the wind and even tomorrow,” said DeChambeau.

“So a lot of patience is required around this golf course and making sure you’re just stroking on your line, putting it good, hitting good iron shots and driving it well.” Scheffler, winner of the Masters in 2022, has been very consistent. He has also been most consistent at Majors with 13 finishes in Top-25 in his last 14 starts.

“I’ve always liked playing challenging golf courses, and the majors, I think, are the most difficult golf courses that we play, outside of maybe a couple TOUR events. But the majors are always very difficult challenges. I like playing against the best players.

“I try to use that energy for some enhanced focus. And, yeah, I think those are fun weeks to be out here playing.” Nicolai Hojgaard, in his rookie year on the PGA Tour, was lying third at five-under but had three more holes to play.

Danny Willett, the 2016 Masters champion, when DeChambeau was the best amateur, was tied fourth at four-under with Max Homa, who had five more holes to play.

Korean Tom Kim was even par through 11 holes as he was among 27 players who did not finish the first round.

Si Woo Kim returned a 74 while 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama struggled to a 76, with Ryo Hisatsune coming in with a 78 after enduring a baptism of fire in his Masters debut.

Making his fifth Masters start but his first since 2020, An, who is currently ranked seventh on the PGA Tour’s FedExCup points list, got off to a flying start with three opening birdies from inside of six feet with some wonderful short game play.

With conditions throwing players off their strides, the powerful Korean, who hit 13 greens in regulation, fought hard to keep himself inside the top-10 of the leaderboard.

He struck a 43-foot birdie on the sixth and a 22-foot one on the 12th – both par threes.

Source: PTI News


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