We’re well into the afternoon wave at The Old White TPC, and no one has been able to catch Trevor Immelman, who leads after a 6-under 64.
Brendon de Jonge has a chance to at 4 under through 12 holes, but he’s been stuck on that number for about an hour.
Meanwhile, Kenny Perry, Gary Woodland, Ryuji Imada and Kyle Stanley are all sitting another stroke back at 3 under.
Speaking of Woodland and Stanley, they, along with J.B. Holmes and Steven Bowditch, are among the four players in the field this week with the best driving distance average.
Coincidence that three of those four are near the top of the leaderboard? Probably not, especially since 200 yards was added to the course for this year’s tournament. And the only one of that group who didn’t play well Thursday was Holmes, who shot 76.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Prior to Thursday, Billy Mayfair had played in 21 PGA TOUR events this year. He'd only broken 70 in the first round on seven occasions, though, and the veteran was having a hard time playing catch-up.
The first round of The Greenbrier Classic was a different story, though. Mayfair put together a 65, which was his best round of the season, to pull within a shot of the early lead held by Trevor Immelman.
Mayfair started on the back nine of the Old White TPC and set the tone for the day early when he shot 32. He made birdies in bunches -- three straight starting at No. 12 and consecutively at Nos. 18 and 1 before making his only bogey on the third hole. A 4-footer at the ninth hole sent Mayfair home with the kind of momentum that has been lacking this year.
"'I’ve just not been getting off to real good starts," Mayfair explained. "I just kind of shoot self in the foot and I always seem to be always seem to be trying to catch up. So getting off to a good start today really helped."
Mayfair played steady all day, hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens. The putter was cooperative, too, with 27 on the firm new greens. With calm breezes and ample sunshine, Mayfair said he'd be surprised if someone didn't go lower in the afternoon.
"I drove the ball very well today in the fairway and I hit a lot of good shots short of the hole," Mayfair said. "They kind of bounced and with the firmness of the greens rolled up close to the pin. I had a few real good bounces today.
"(The restoration) makes you think a little. The greens are a lot firmer but lot quicker in certain spots. It's like re-learning the golf course over again. But in the end, you just have to put ball in right spots and when got an uphill putt you've got to take advantage."
Mayfair said he played The Old White TPC on Tuesday when it was "super-duper long" after being softened by rain and hit a 2-iron into the second hole, a 440-yard par 4. On Thursday, he hit a 7-iron, and said the course was playing a "lot fairer and a lot better."
Mayfair, a five-time winner on the PGA TOUR, lost his exempt status and had to go back to q-school last year. He ended up winning and was hoping for better in 2011 but only has one top-10.
"It's been a disappointing year," Mayfair said. "... But as we all say, one week out here can change a lot of things. I'm still in the in FedExCup race (ranked 113th)."
Three years removed from his Masters victory, and the wrist surgery that followed, Trevor Immelman finally finds himself atop a leaderboard again. The South African made seven birdies and one bogey Thursday en route to shooting a 6-under 64 at The Old White TPC, where he has the early lead.
Immelman missed just one green in regulation and took 28 putts in the opening round.'
Meanwhile, three others -- Billy Mayfair, Derek Lamely and Webb Simpson -- all shot 65 to sit just a stroke back.
Simpson has played extremely well of late with five straight finishes in the top 16 dating back to the Memorial tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance. During that stretch, he also did most of his damage early with his last three opening rounds all in the 60s -- a 66 at the British Open, a 69 at AT&T National and a 66 at the Travelers Championship.
In last year’s final round of The Greenbrier Classic, Stuart Appleby shot a 59 to win. The day before that, J.B. Holmes carded a 60. But with several changes made to the course , we might be hard-pressed to see numbers like that this year.
So far, the lead is just 4 under with Billy Mayfair (through 14 holes) and Trevor Immelman (through 13 holes) sharing the top spot.
Now, The Old White TPC shouldn’t play as difficult as Shaughnessy G&CC did for last week’s RBC Canadian Open, but of the 78 players currently on the course, 17 of them are under par at the moment. In other words, figure scoring to be somewhere between what we saw last week, where only a couple handfuls of players broke par, and what we saw last year, where the winning score was 22 under.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
The cut line sits at even par right now and while it’s still early in the second round, it looks like Ben Crane will have a short week at Colonial.
Crane, who came into the week as one of the PGA TOUR’s most accurate players off the tee and into the green, ranking eighth in driving accuracy and 19th in greens in regulation, has been anything but that this week.
Through 33 holes, Crane has hit just 13 fairways and 18 greens and is 8 over for the week.
In terms of performance, his opening 75 was his worst score in relation to par since last year’s TOUR Championships presented by Coca-Cola where he shot 76 in the third round. It’s also just his seventh round over par in 31 rounds on TOUR this year.
Other notables currently on the wrong side of the cut: John Daly, Kenny Perry, Jerry Kelly and Trevor Immelman.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM Managing Editor
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- After 10 holes on Friday, Trevor Immelman was on the front page of the Masters leaderboard and looking to continue his rise toward the leaders.
Of course, that's when he started Amen Corner.
Immelman found the water with his second shot at the par-4 11th, his 6 iron riding too much wind, and had to get up-and-down just for bogey. Then he struck what he thought was a good tee shot at the par-3 12th, only to see his ball roll back into the trap. Another bogey.
Then, he failed to birdie the par-5 13th, and thus left Amen Corner having harmed his chances at a second Green Jacket.
"I kind of went through a little funny patch there," said Immelman, the 2008 Masters champ.
He was certainly not laughing two holes later when he three-putted the par-5 15th, the easiest hole on the course. Unlike the day before when he was 3 under on the par 5s (thanks to an eagle and a birdie), Immelman was 1 over on the par 5s on Friday, failing to take advantage of Augusta’s scoring holes.
Even so, his second-round 73 (after an opening 69) leaves him at 2 under for the tournament. That at least should give him a fighting chance on the weekend.
Still, it could've -- maybe should've -- been better.
"I actually felt like I played better than yesterday," Immelman said, "and shot four shots worse. Definitely if I would have made a few more putts there, that might have got myself a little closer to the lead."
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM Site Producer
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Here are some notable numbers to set up Friday’s second round at Augusta National.
· The last 21 year old to win the Masters was Tiger Woods in 1997. Will Rory McIlroy be the next? He opened with the only bogey-free round of the day, a 65 to share the first-round lead. The last player with at least seven holes of birdie or better and no holes played over par here was … Tiger Woods in the third round in 1997.
· In the past 25 Masters tournaments, only one player -- Trevor Immelman in 2008 -- held or shared the lead at the end of the first round and went on to win the Green Jacket. Only one other official stroke-play tournament that has been played every year during that period has had no more than one first-round leader finish in first place: The Farmers Insurance Open. George Burns won that tournament in 1987 after owning the lead through the first round.
· Ricky Barnes is playing in his just third Masters -- in 2003 he played as an amateur and last season obviously as a professional. Through eight previous rounds here, Barnes had finished his round in the top 10 six times. Thursday, he added a seventh, meaning that 78 percent of the time he has finished a round in the top 10. That’s a higher percentage than any player since 2003.
· Tiger Woods did not make his first bogey of the first round until the 10th hole. That marked just the second time at Augusta National that Woods has played his first nine holes without a bogey. In 2008, Woods did not make his first bogey until the 13th hole. Thursday, Woods finished with a 1-under 71. Woods has been under par in his first round at the Masters six previous times. His worst finish in any of those years was a tie for eighth in 1998.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There's something about Augusta National that brings out the best in Trevor Immelman.
The man who won the 2008 Masters spent the better part of the next two seasons nursing an injury to his left wrist that required surgery in October of 2009. In each year, though, the South African posted his second-best finish of the season at Augusta National -- a tie for 20th in his title defense and joint 14th in 2010.
So it should come as no surprise to see Immelman on the leaderboard again after Thursday's first round of the 75th Masters. Immelman's 69 left him in a tie for seventh, four strokes off the lead held by Rory McIlroy and Alvaro Quiros.
Immelman got things off to a good start Thursday with a birdie on the first hole. But he gave that back with a bogey at No. 6 and was still even par when he made the turn after he followed a birdie at the eighth with another dropped shot at the ninth.
Everything changed, though, on the back nine as Immelman started to hit his stride. He eagled the 15th with a driver and 5-wood to 6 feet, then ended the round the way it started with a birdie at the difficult 18th.
"I started off a little bit shaky maybe is the right word," Immelman said. "(I) was kind of just missing my shots, wasn't really committing very well, but my short game, really, helped me on the front side.
"And then from about 10 onward I started feeling a little bit more comfortable and hitting some shots out of the middle, and then I made a great 3 on 15. And then I had three putts in a row inside 10 feet the last three holes.
"All in all very pleased with my round."
And as for the wrist injury? Immelman is finally feeling no pain -- literally, as well as figuratively -- and it's showing in his performance on the golf course.
Immelman has only missed one cut this year, and it came in his 2011 debut in Phoenix. Since then, the two-time PGA TOUR champ has cashed five straight paychecks and came to Augusta on the heels of his best finish of the season, a tie for 12th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
"My wrist is all the way back," Immelman said. "I would say this year, from about November, December last year, I didn't have to worry about it as much, and I could go ahead and start practicing stuff I wanted to practice. At that point it just became a matter of me getting in the right practice and trying to get rid of all the bad habits I got into playing injured.
"So that's been a process, and it's been pretty good on the range. And I've started taking it better to the golf course. You know, every week seems to be getting a little bit better, but I've still got a long way to go to get back to where I was."
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM Managing Editor
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Official World Golf Ranking is top-heavy with European players, but Rory Sabbatini thinks the South Africans will make some noise this week at Augusta National.
In fact, they already have, with Retief Goosen starting his round with an eagle on the par-4 first hole. Goosen is now 4 under through five holes and tied for the early lead with England’s Ross Fisher.
There are seven South Africans in the field this week -- Goosen, Sabbatini, Tim Clark, Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel. Immelman, the 2008 Masters champ, is the last South African to win at Augusta National.
Fifty years ago, Gary Player won the first of his three Green Jackets. He and Immelman remain the country's only two Masters winners, although Els, Clark and Goosen each have produced second-place finishes since 2004.
Asked about his country's chances, Sabbatini replied: "Obviously I think it's strong as always. You got Ernie, Retief, Louis, Charl, obviously Tim's having trouble with his wrist, so he's a little unsure, but I think it's looking really good this year."
Oosthuizen ran away with the British Open last year at St. Andrews. Schwartzel won on the European Tour earlier this year and Sabbatini won The Honda Classic a month ago.
Those three seem to be the most in-form of the South Africans, but don’t forget about Els. In 17 previous Masters starts, Els has six top-10 finishes and has twice finished second. The last time was 2004; since then, however, he has missed three cuts and not been in contention the other two times. This year, he has struggled with his putting.
"I would say you have to favor especially the longer hitters, so I think that me, Ernie, and Charl are the three longer South Africans," Sabbatini said. "I definitely think Charl with his mental aspect of the game is phenomenal and I see Louis just has a good all-around game.
"And we'll all know Ernie's record here, so it would be nice to see him come through and get himself a Green Jacket."
Oosthuizen's win last year at St. Andrews gave a nice jolt to South African golf. Sabbatini would love to see the major momentum continue for his country.
"I definitely think it was fantastic for South African golf," he said. "... There's waves that have come through and Charl and Louis seem to be that next wave."
FOLLOW THE SOUTH AFRICANS
|TIM CLARK||Click for Masters scorecard|
|ERNIE ELS||Click for Masters scorecard|
|RETIEF GOOSEN||Click for Masters scorecard|
|TREVOR IMMELMAN||Click for Masters scorecard|
|LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN||Click for Masters scorecard|
|RORY SABBATINI||Click for Masters scorecard|
|CHARL SCHWARTZEL||Click for Masters scorecard|
Trevor Immelman holes out for eagle from 186 yards on the opening hole.