Scottie Scheffler watches his chip shot to the second green during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Scottie Scheffler off to a strong Masters start in debut, but hungers for more

Posted November 12th, 2020

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Story highlights
  • “I got around okay,” former Horn Scottie Scheffler said. “I hit it pretty poorly, so 1-under wasn’t the worst score.”
  • No one’s hungrier than defending champion Tiger Woods, the five-time winner who calmly posted a 4-under par 68 to rest in a fifth-place tie. He sounded as at ease as he played, which has to scare the daylights out of the other 91 golfers.
  • As solid a round as Scheffler had, the PGA Tour rookie of the year wasn’t the low Longhorn. Dylan Frittelli, the 30-year-old South African, started on fire with four birdies — three of them on consecutive holes, including almost a hole-in-one on 16 — and an eagle on the par-5 13th to take a 4-under and fifth-place tie into the clubhouse before play was suspended by darkness.

Scottie Scheffler completed his first competitive round at the Masters on a rain-delayed Thursday and moments later had an emotional response that was quintessential Scottie Scheffler.

Quite frankly, he was, well, ticked off.

Which is exactly the frame of mind you’d expect from a talented 24-year-old golfer who finished in fourth at the PGA Championship and came to Augusta National this week not to check off something at the top of his bucket list, but to win.

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At least, in his mind.

“I got around OK,” Scheffler said. “I hit it pretty poorly, so 1-under wasn’t the worst score.”

Hardly.

Not when you consider the historic venue with its beguiling greens and hilly terrain. Nor is a 71 bad when you consider the first-round leader, Englishman Paul Casey, scored an unsightly 81 on the first day and missed the cut in 2019 but birdied the first three holes and shot a masterful 65 on Thursday.

Scottie Scheffler, left, and Adam Hadwin leave the 10th fairway as play is suspended during the first round of the Masters on Thursday. Play was halted for nearly three hours. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“I did the right things when I needed to,” Casey said. “To be honest, you rarely walk off this golf course going it could have been two or three better, but it kind of felt that way. I don’t want to be greedy. I’m very, very happy with my 65.”

One day you eat the monster, the next day it devours you.

No one’s hungrier than defending champion Tiger Woods, the five-time winner who calmly posted a 4-under par 68 to rest in a fifth-place tie. He sounded as at ease as he played, which has to scare the daylights out of the other 91 golfers.

I did everything well,” said Woods, who matched his best opening round in his Masters career and shot his first ever bogey-free round at Augusta and first in a major since the 2009 PGA Championship. “I drove it well, hit my irons well, putted well.”

Augusta National didn’t gobble up many on an eventually sunny, windless day, but that didn’t really help former Longhorn Jordan Spieth. The 2015 champion had his typical uneven round during his three-year drought without any victories, posting three birdies, an equal number of bogeys and a double bogey on 16 for a 2-over 74 to sit in a tie for 72nd.

Dylan Frittelli hits on the 13th fairway during the first round of the Masters on Thursday. He’s in a tie for fifth place at 4-under par. (Chris Carlson/The Associated Press)

As solid a round as Scheffler had, the PGA Tour rookie of the year wasn’t the low Longhorn. Dylan Frittelli, the 30-year-old South African, started on fire with four birdies — three of them on consecutive holes, including almost a hole-in-one on 16 — and an eagle on the par-5 13th to take a 4-under and fifth-place tie into the clubhouse before play was suspended by darkness until 6:30 Friday morning with 44 players yet to conclude their round.

Frittelli has won five times on the PGA Tour, the latest coming at the John Deere Classic in 2019 for his most recent victory in his last 33 starts. He’s only had one top-10 finish in his last 22 events but has game and is ranked 100th in the world.

“I felt calm on the first tee for a change,” said Frittelli, who missed the cut in his only other appearance at Augusta in 2018. “I actually felt more comfortable when I made a bogey on 12. For some reason, that calmed me down.”

As for Scheffler, the former Texas All-American didn’t come close to putting together a complete round. Oh, he had his share of highlights, but he walked off the course after a 1-under 71 score that left him six shots off the lead.

“I got off to a really good start,” he said. “After that, I kind of lost my swing for a little bit. Didn’t play the par-5 holes well.”

He birdied three of his first six holes but had just one more birdie the rest of the day, once pulling his tee shot into the winds and then ferociously swinging his club in disgust. His putting betrayed him as well, all things considered. He blamed himself for not scoring better on the par-5’s, carding a cumulative 1-under there.

Scheffler was briefly near the top of the Masters leaderboard among the early golfers when he went off on No. 10 in the split-tee start to salvage as much daylight as possible.

But a downpour accompanied by severe lightning delayed the round by two hours and 47 minutes and may have done nothing to alleviate any anxiety about playing in just his fifth major ever.

“I sat on the patio for an hour of it, and then we went to, I can’t remember what room it was,” Scheffler said. “We sat on another patio out there. But the AC was too much to go inside. I was soaking wet. I needed to warm up outside.”

His game, one of the best on the PGA Tour already with considerable length and solid short game, warmed up quickly. He birdied the treacherous No. 12 — his third hole of the day — that sunk so many’s hopes a year ago, but he was focusing more on how many shots he left on the course.

How many?

“A lot,” he said.

But there’s a lot more holes to be played.

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