A brief history on the man who had one of the greatest first rounds in the history of the Masters.
USA TODAY Sports
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Brandt Snedeker didn’t know what to do.
He was on the 12th tee at the heart of Amen Corner in Thursday’s first round of the Masters, with the Georgia pines dancing in the distance and the flagstick just 150 yards away bent under the pressure of the wind.
Snedeker, who usually takes 5 seconds to swing away, stepped off his shot no less than five times trying to figure out what club to hit.
Finally, he turned to the gallery.
“Does anybody else want to hit this shot?”
There was no safe ground at Augusta National Golf Club as the 81st Masters commenced on the frosty and extremely windy side. Sustained winds of 30 mph with gusts reaching 40 mph battered the pristine course that was chilled by temperatures in the mid to high 50s.
Mother Nature’s 1-2 punch led to a lot of head scratching and praying and an assault on red numbers. Yet somehow, someway, the man wearing the green golf glove and green cap put up nine red numbers. Yes, Charley Hoffman, on a day when the field averaged 74.98 and only 11 players broke par, shot 7-under-par 65 to grab a four-shot lead on William McGirt, the only other player in the field of 93 to post a round in the 60s.
“For lack of any better words, it was a dream,” said Hoffman, who was in the thick of things here two years ago before tying for ninth. “Obviously going to sleep on the lead at a major championship here at Augusta National is not going to be the easiest thing. I look forward to it, and I look forward to the challenge the next three days.”
Hoffman’s last of four PGA Tour titles came in the windy 2016 Valero Texas Open. Earlier this year, he was struggling with his game and trying to figure out how to fix it. He met with a group of confidants and the solution sounded simple enough.
“I just needed to believe a little bit more. I think I’m just starting to believe,” said Hoffman, who also relied on a putter he needed to use just 25 times. “If you don’t believe in yourself, who is going to believe in you? I sat back with a few people that are close to me and I can ask those questions to and (they) sort of all said the same thing. When they say it, it hits you.
“As dumb as that sounds, sometimes you forget to do that out there, and I’m definitely doing it now.”
His colleagues can’t believe he played the same course and shot 65. The wind, battering tee shots and approaches on every hole, even influenced putts. Potential peril was at the end of every shot and big numbers were possible on every hole.
2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth, who made a quadruple-bogey 7 on the 12th hole in the last round of the 2016 Masters, made a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 15th. Two-time major champion Martin Kaymer, who was 1 under through six holes, made a double-bogey 6 on the 10th hole and then made five consecutive bogeys en route to a 78.
“It was as hard a golf course as I’ve ever played,” said Snedeker, who finally chose a 7-iron on the 12th, made par and shot 75.
“You beat the golf course today, you can be pretty proud of yourself,” Justin Rose said after a 71. “It was certainly very, very tough out there. I haven’t played this course in a heavy wind like this before. And there’s no respite out there. Even simple tap-ins aren’t simple.”
There will be no respite in the second round, either. High winds and chilly temperatures Friday once again will test the players.
One player who won’t be tested is world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. The winner of his last three PGA Tour starts was forced to withdraw with a back injury. The reigning U.S. Open champion injured himself Wednesday falling on wooden stairs in his rental home.
“It sucks. I want to play,” Johnson said. “I’m playing probably the best golf of my career and this is one of my favorite tournaments. To have a freak accident happen yesterday afternoon, it sucks. It really does. …
“The issue is I just can’t swing.”
There were issues when others had to swing.
“Everyone I stood over,” Kevin Kisner said when asked which shots were the toughest in his round of 74. “You just had to hang in there somehow.”
Fred Couples, who won the green jacket in 1992, said he’s never seen a day quite like Thursday in his 32 Masters.
“Personally, I don’t want it to be like this for four days, if I’m here four days,” Couples said after his 73.
He won’t get any arguments there.
Andy Sullivan said playing partner Adam Scott had a downhill putt on 17 “and it almost blew back up the hill. It’s brutal out there.”
It wasn’t the only shot where Scott, the 2013 champion, saw weird things. On the 14th, he was three feet from the hole, marked his ball, replaced it and then watched it roll 12 feet away.
“The gusts, you can’t predict them and they can be really damaging to any shot,” he said. “It’s just very difficult when the wind is blowing so hard and you don’t have complete control of your ball.”
Thomas Pieters, the Belgium Bomber, reached 5 under through 10 holes but got beat up at Amen Corner, where he made a bogey on 11 and double-bogey on 12 when he dumped his tee shots into Rae’s Creek. He also finished with a double-bogey on the final hole.
“The last nine holes, the winds are picking up and they’re not really consistent. If it hits you at the wrong time, you look stupid. Like I did on 12,” he said after shooting 72. “You can’t do anything about it. That’s the annoying thing about it.”
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