2020 Masters takeaways: Bryson DeChambeau battles back after disastrous start, nine thoughts from Day 1

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The first round of the 2020 Masters is … halfway in the books as play was suspended on Monday evening due to darkness with Paul Casey leading after shooting a 7-under 65. The round was initially delayed for three hours before most golfers were on the course because of inclement weather. Those who saw their afternoon rounds curtailed will be in for a round and a half on Friday.

The leaderboard is stacked, and there’s a ton to digest from Day 1 at Augusta National with Round 1 set to finish up on Friday beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET. Coming into the week, Bryson DeChambeau was probably the No. 1 storyline in the field. Between what he did at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot to what he was trying to do at Augusta National, everybody was fixated on him.

It did not start well.

DeChambeau started on No. 10 and made a miracle par at No. 11 before posting a double-bogey at the par-5 13th hole. Before the tournament, he said par for him at Augusta National 67; however, he played one of his “par 4s” in 2 over just four holes into the golf tournament. DeChambeau finally settled in on No. 15 and birdied the rest of the par 5s throughout the rest of his round to shoot a 2-under (or 3-over?) 70.

It was not the best start, but boy, it could have been a lot worse. The entire tournament could have easily gotten away from DeChambeau early, and instead of staring at two straight majors he would have been looking at the side of his private jet after Round 2.

“This golf course, as much as I’m trying to attack it, it can bite back,” said DeChambeau. “It’s still Augusta National, and it’s the Masters. It’s an amazing test of golf no matter what way you play it.  

“I tried to take on some risk today. It didn’t work out as well as I thought it would have, but at the end of the day, I’m proud of myself the way I handled myself and finished off. Birdieing 8 and 9 was a testament to my focus level and wanting to contend here.”

I walked with DeChambeau’s group on his opening nine, and he drove it horrifically. There are a couple different ways to look at his first round. The first is that he doesn’t have his best stuff this week and is going to labor to the end. The second, though, is that he still shot 70 on a day when he had nothing with his driver until late in the round.

Round 2 will probably tell us which part of his Round 1 will be replicated as he marches toward what he hopes will be contention for another major championship.

Here are nine other thoughts from Augusta National on Thursday.

1. Augusta National was so soft: When the course is playing its toughest, the fairways are firm and the greens are rejecting shots that are even slightly off target. That was not the case on Thursday as balls bounced almost backward at times on the fairways and greens were receptive to pretty much everything thrown at them. This was reflected in the scoring, which is on pace to be the lowest ever in a first round at Augusta National.

2. Paul Casey, leader? Casey played the par 5s in 4 under and was one of three golfers (Tiger Woods. Webb Simpson) with no bogeys over the course of 18 holes. While he doesn’t have a major championship to his name, he does have a great history at Augusta National with five top 10s over the course of his career. Casey was also in the top five after Round 1 in 2015 and 2016.

3. The new favorite: Justin Thomas is still on the course, but he’s your 9/2 favorite to win the event. Why? Well, even though he’s two strokes back of Casey, he’s probably in a better position as he’s 5 under through 10 with two pretty easy par 5s forthcoming. Also, he’s Justin Thomas. The data warned us this was going to happen! Also, Xander Schauffele — in the house with a 5-under 67 — is 10-1 just behind Thomas and Dustin Johnson (13/2).

4. Louis and Jon: DeChambeau’s playing partners got the better of him on Thursday as Louis Oosthuizen shot 4-under 68 and Jon Rahm shot 3-under 69. The dynamic between those three was pretty humorous as Rahm and DeChambeau were hulking around looking ready to eat pine straw and lightning while Oosthuizen was just cruising around with the smoothest swing in the world. It (mostly) worked for all three, and all of them should be a factor on the weekend.

5. Tiger Woods looked at ease: His swing on Wednesday during his practice round looked silky, and while that doesn’t often translate to tournament play, it did on Thursday. He’s never been in a better position in terms of his score after Round 1 of any Masters he’s played. Interestingly, there were more people following the group ahead of Tiger — which included DeChambeau and Rahm — than there were following Tiger. Of course, there’s no patrons, so they were probably gawking at Bryson.

6. Larry Mize! The man averaged less than 250 yards off the tee and shot 2 under! That was better than Jordan Spieth, Gary Woodland, Charl Schwartzel, Ian Poulter, Scottie Scheffler and Kevin Kisner. Mize has also made three of his last five cuts at the Masters.

7. The biggest difference without patrons: There are no ropes lining the fairways and greens, which means shots are no longer visually framed for players. This seems like it wouldn’t be a big deal, and maybe it isn’t, but it did seem to come into play at times. When DeChambeau hooked his drive on No. 11 out to the left, he then had to hook his second down toward the green. He didn’t, though, and it blew way out to the right where patrons are normally standing watching shots on No. 12. With people standing there, it would have hit somebody and bounced back closer to the hole. The course feels way more wide open, which almost definitely changes shot shapes and decisions, if only slightly.

8. Two conversations I wish I heard: I got to walk the course today, and there were two conversations I saw going down that I was dying to overhear. The first was between Gary Woodland and Spieth, who were walking behind DeChambeau when he was teeing off on No. 18. They were definitely watching and chatting, and it looked intriguing. The second was on the 9th hole. Dustin Johnson had sprayed his second on No. 8 out to the right, and Brooks Koepka was walking down the 9th. They crossed paths and exchanged words. Probably nothing but also maybe not nothing!

9. Watching Rory and D.J.: I won’t talk about this every day, but I watched the last few holes with the Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay group, along with two other non-volunteers (two!). I certainly don’t want patrons gone forever from the Masters because there was a certain buzz that lacked, but it was quite the show. Sun splaying over the pines with only a handful of people watching two of the best to ever do it at the biggest event of the year? It was a small joy in a year where there hasn’t been much of it.

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