This week's Masters always had the makings for being something extra special and it lived up to expectations on 7 April, as reigning champion Jordan Spieth seized a two-shot lead after the opening round. The American's love affair with the challenging Augusta National layout continued in flawless style as he fired a six-under-par 66 to storm to the top of a high-quality leaderboard in the first of the year's four major championships.
Bidding to become only the fourth player to claim back-to-back Masters victories, world number two Spieth took advantage of relatively calm morning conditions before coping superbly with tricky gusting winds as he kept his card bogey-free.
"I would have signed for two-under today and not even played the round, knowing the conditions that were coming up," said the 22-year-old Spieth, who is aiming to emulate Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods with consecutive Green Jackets.
"Got a lot out of the round with what I felt like was kind of average-ish ball striking. Just scored the ball extremely well, something I've been struggling with this season," Spieth said. "I am extremely pleased with that round today, I felt like we stole a few."
Spieth ended the day two shots ahead of New Zealander Danny Lee and Irishman Shane Lowry, with Englishmen Justin Rose, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, Dane Soren Kjeldsen and Spaniard Sergio Garcia a further stroke back after opening with 69. Rory McIlroy bogeyed the final hole for a 70 while world number one Jason Day, the hottest player in the game after winning six times in his last 13 starts, got to five-under before dropping five shots in his last four holes for a 72.
Shaking off a run of inconsistent form in recent weeks on the PGA Tour, Spieth sank a six-footer at the third, a 13-footer at the sixth and a four-footer at the eighth to reach the turn in three-under 33. He picked up further shots at the 10th and 13th, sank a clutch 15-footer to save par at the 16th and finished in style by rolling in a six-footer at the last before pumping his fist in celebration. Spieth became the first defending Masters champion to hold the outright lead after the first round since Jack Nicklaus in 1966.