This feels like a movie we’ve seen before.
The winds gusted and whipped during the first round of the 2016 Masters, but defending champion Jordan Spieth never wavered.
Following a wire-to-wire win at the 2015 Masters, Spieth recorded a bogey-free 6-under 66 on Thursday, placing his name in its familiar spot atop the Augusta leaderboard. Only Arnold Palmer has led The Masters for more than Spieth’s current streak of five consecutive rounds, leading the tournament for six straight rounds in 1960-61.
“I certainly made a lot of putts today. If I can kind of straighten things out with the iron play, hopefully we’ll be in business,” Spieth said Thursday. “But, yeah, I am extremely pleased with that round today. I felt like we stole a few.”
In Spieth’s first nine tournament rounds at Augusta National, he’s 29-under par, bettering Tiger Woods’ previous record-total over that span by eight shots. Fresh off of his first-ever green jacket champions dinner on Tuesday night, he’s looking to become the first back-to-back winner since Woods in 2001 and 2002.
“I think everything we do is building up around the major championships, and so we are trying to peak this week,” Spieth said, noting that he’s finished in the top 20 in eight of his previous nine tournaments. “Obviously if we continue what we’re doing right now and it goes our way, then that would be a fantastic statement to have made.”
Spieth, playing alongside amateur Bryson DeChambeau and Paul Casey, grabbed the Augusta spotlight and turned the lights only brighter. His patron gallery was likely the day’s largest, a Masters distinction held for many years by Woods.
Others attempted a Thursday run only to fall short of Spieth’s mark. The world’s top-ranked player, Jason Day, carded a front nine 5-under 31 before floundering on the second nine and finishing at even par.
Rory McIlroy eagled the par 5 13th in finishing with a 2-under 70, Phil Mickelson grinded to an even par 72, and Rickie Fowler sputtered to an opening-round 80 in the windy conditions.
“I was impressed by everything today. That was a flawless round of golf (by Spieth),” said Casey, who finished with a 3-under 69. “It was one of the toughest days I’ve ever seen at Augusta National. I played a wonderful round of golf, but it was great to have a front row seat to watch that (from Spieth).”
With 54 holes remaining in the 80th Masters Tournament, a sequel to the 79th is a distinct possibility, and at Augusta National, remakes of the original only build on the legend.
Vince Johnson is covering his eighth Masters Tournament. Follow his coverage on Twitter @vincejohnson.