So, Thursday was kind of underwhelming, wasn’t it? Some very good golf was played. Bill Haas carded a nice 68, and three others were in the 60s. But the Masters’ first round left much to be desired in terms of Masters first rounds. The usual suspects at Amen Corner caused the predictable wealth of problems. However, in perfect conditions, we should expect better. Last year, 11 players scored in the 60s on the first day.
Haas (-4), our defending champ Adam Scott (-3) and the 2012 winner Bubba Watson (-3) are all atop the leaderboard. That’s fun. But not it’s-totally-cool-that-Tiger’s-not-here fun. What can get us over that hump?
Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Golf, especially at Augusta, is a neutered game. As much as I love it, it is often devoid of much individuality and character. Young, white, and predominantly southern men play it well. They say and do the right things. “It was tough out there today.” “The greens were as quick as I’ve seen them on a Thursday.” “I’m happy with how things went.” At times, it feels like only their faces change.
Jimenez doesn’t really roll that way. He’s 50 — he’ll play in a Senior Tour (!) event in Atlanta just next week. He’s a Spaniard who sports a ginger ponytail and a grandpa’s physique. He favors Rioja and Lagavulin to sports drinks, and typically has a Cuban cigar dangling from his lips. He started as a caddie, joined the Spanish army, and began his competitive career thereafter. The man is a revelation. Instead of “today is what it was,” Jimenez opts for more philosophical musings such as: “Golf is a beautiful game. And it has given me a beautiful life.”
He also plays it beautifully, although not enough on The PGA Tour. Jimenez only tees it in a handful of events in the United States each season, which makes his page-one leaderboard presence even more appealing. It’s like seeing an angel shark. The 20-time European Tour victor teased us when he led last year’s Open Championship at the halfway mark before fading out over the weekend to finish up 13th.
And he’s had success at The Masters in the past. He’s carded three top tens at Augusta in his career, and is just three strokes off of Haas’ lead with a 71. That number could have been much better—a bogey, double on the brutal Nos. 11 and 12 derailed a near-perfect round. Jimenez scrambles well, and is a bunker and short game wizard. If the greens continue to roll quickly, and the pins are tucked away, he has a real chance to contend.
I’m pulling for Jimenez to make a run this weekend. And you should, too. Because then you might get to see some of this on your TV
If Tiger had a stretching routine like that, maybe he wouldn’t be laid up with a bad back.
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Sarah Turcotte is a writer and producer living in New York. Her work has appeared in ESPN The Magazine, espn.com, Golf Digest, Fast Company, Bon Appetit and Details. She played collegiate golf at The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Her greatest golf achievement was not being in last place after the first day of her only LPGA Tour start. She tweets occasionally at @turcottesarah.