For most part of first day of the 82nd Masters Shubhankar Sharma was left grappling with some part of the other of his game as he finished his first ever round at the Augusta National with a disappointing 5-over 77, that left him staring at the possibility of an early exit from the event.

As Sharma was left struggling, the 2015 champion, Jordan Spieth, who has one win, two seconds and a T-11 in four appearances at the Masters, was back in his familiar pole position. He has now led or co-led in 9 of his 17 rounds at the Masters.

If it was Sharma’s putting that needed attention over the front nine, it was the approaches that became his problem on the back stretch. In between more than a few times he was caught between clubs leading indecision and a lot of shots.

After three pars at the start, Sharma’s troubles began with the ball catching the upper edge of the bunker on the fourth that left him with a bogey. He three-putted fifth and sixth and went to three-over, but a birdie on eighth gave him breathing space. But that lasted only for a short time. He gave back the gain with a bogey on 10th.

Birdies on 13th and 15th were negated by bogeys on 14th and 16th. On the 16th he made a trip to the water and went back to the drop zone, from where he fired a great shot and followed that up with a nice putt for a bogey. On one more occasion he saved himself from a double and also saved a par. Then the closing bogeys on 17th and 18th, too, meant a second hat-trick of bogeys and a final card of 77 that will require some major salvaging in the second round.

Jordan Spieth, who maintains that the Augusta National and the Masters brings out the best in him, opened with a 6-under 66 that included a five-birdie streak from 13th to 17th but he ended with a bogey on 18th.

Image credit: Reuters.

A day earlier Tony Finau’s celebration of an ace in the Par-3 contest, almost forced him to withdraw as he seemed to have twisted his ankle. But the tall gangling golfer, just popped it back in place and hobbled away. He was better this morning and good enough to play and he showed that with a 4-under 68. He opened with a bogey but then had six birdies against one more bogey. He was tied for second with Matt Kuchar (68).

A group of Seven including Rory McIlroy, who needs only a Masters crown to complete a career Grand Slam, Henrik Stenson, who celebrated his 42nd birthday on Thursday and the top Asian Li Haotong were Tied-4th at 69 each.

Tiger Woods returning to the Masters after two years of absence opened with a battling 73 as he failed to birdie any of the four Par-5s. Phil Mickelson, whose three Masters, is next only to Woods in this field, carded 70 to be T-11th.

‘Didn’t finish the way I wanted to’

Defending champion Sergio Garcia dumped five balls into the water enroute to a dubious record 8-over 13 on a single hole, the Par-5 15th. Till then he was 2-over for first 14 holes and still stayed on to birdie the 16th and par the last two for an 81 and he was one spot above dead last.

Sharma admitted, “To be honest I not too happy with the round. I didn’t finish the way I wanted to, but it was great out there, the atmosphere and everything, it was fantastic. The back nine I was just making birdies and bogeys, until the 16th hole, and then 17th and 18th were bad. But maybe there are some bright things to look to for tomorrow and I’ll try and do my best.”

Summing up the day, he said, “The putter did not work on the front nine and approach (shots did not work) on the back nine. It was a mix of both.”

On his final three holes, he said, “On 16 was I was trying to hit an easy 7-Iron, which I pulled and it was pin high but it was just too far left. I will still not be too hard on myself. I made bogey, actually, a good bogey. But both 17 and 18 were hard.”

Asked if he found himself between clubs, he added, “Honestly, I did. On 16 I was between clubs, also 14 and 17. So the two places where I tried to hit a hard shot on my second approach shot there. I think that’s part of the game, I just didn’t execute it that good.”