by Mike Clayton @ The Lakes
A few weeks ago, during a busy dinner in Beijing, Ernie Els sold the virtues of an international golf club membership. His sponsor, an owner of courses in China, thanked Ernie for his now infamous six-putt at the opening of the 2016 Masters.
& # 39; Every time you miss, Ernie, they show my logo on the collar of your shirt. & # 39;
It was long enough since Ernie saw the humor in it.
Surviving the first hour of a round, avoiding foolish, nervous mistakes, is always an important part of every golf tournament.
American Brendan Steele had played one hole when he came to the par-five 11th where he then donated two balls to the right and made a nine. A 73 was more than admirable after that horror show.
Cameron Davis, the defending champion and at home after a great season in the United States, opened his championship from the first tee with an eight, a six and then a bogey with the tricky third.
Antonio Murdaca, the winner of the Asian Amateur in 2014, a victory with which he got a start at Augusta, made it all the way to double digits at the first hole. Generations old enough to remember her know it as a Bo Derek.
Peter Senior, the winner here in 2012, started with an eight.
The Lakes starts with the most difficult trio of holes in the country. The opening T-shot is over the water and with the heavy south wind left and left the ride was a huge shot. Of course the real fall is not so much the water, but rather the large, pockmarked dune to the right of the untapped footprints of caddies, players and spectators.
Cameron Smith is a possible winner in a job that is suitable for his straight ride and world-class wedge game. He was out with Brandt Snedeker and Anirban Lahiri just after 7:00 and he was around 74, but showed how much he has improved since he moved to America a few years ago. He looks bigger, probably partly for growing up and partly for the time in the gym. Anyhow he drives a long way with a low-maintenance swing.
On the tedious 13th, the short four, Smith placed an iron perfectly in the middle of the fairway and from there he slammed for a simple three. Snedeker, who had left the T-piece with an iron, had more to do with the field from a problematic angle and finally scraped a four from the rear bunker. The Indian Lahiri tried a different, more aggressive tack, but the driver miles flickered to the right and from there his attempt to shoot up the steep slope was not strong enough and five was his punishment.
Snedeker is a great player, lively and decisive and if this round was the proof of a scrambler of the highest class. He was the whole course by the time they reached the 18th tee. In the wind the par three is not easy and he missed a lot of way to the left, but a nice putt saved a par.
The ride at the first flew miles into the dune and from there five were a result – one that Murdaca would have liked to have taken. Two more runs to the right at the second and third lead to a further two fives, although frankly a brilliant escape from the sandy wasteland in the second was followed by three putts.
Perhaps he was astonished by Lahiri who threw himself completely out of the short, straight cavity of a little bird in the hole. An iron – the obligatory club at the fourth tee because of the sand that ran 210 meters across the channel – missed the channel just like the approaching iron, but he shot at one foot.
In what is now a tiring procession in the problems on the right side, the American's tee on the fifth found the fairway bunker. Without the chance to reach the green, he threw a beautiful little field over the bunker to save his par easily.
Lahiri had the best score of the group until he drew a terrible lie to the left of the ninth green and he made a five for 73, similar to Snedeker.
Smith looked as if he'd be drawing the same thing until he pulled a little bit off the hill just enough to turn him from the bottom corner of the hole. It was an annoying way to end a difficult day, but it is early.
They can only hope that the wind switches, or by the end of the week, the man who can survive the opening shot and the first three brutal holes will have the best chance.