Augusta: The annual quest for Masters glory moved into full swing on golf's greatest stage yesterday at Augusta National with favorites Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott going out in back-to-back groupings.
Adam Scott tees off during Round One of the Augusta Masters yesterday. Pic/AFP
Defending champion Scott, who last year became the first Australian to win the Masters, headed out first in the 16th grouping of the day alongside PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner and 19-year-old British amateur Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Scott is bidding to become just the fourth player to win back-to-back Masters titles after Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods, the last man to achieve that feat in 2002.
In so doing, he would also take the world number one spot away from the Woods, who is absent through injury. Eleven minutes later it was McIlroy's turn as he began his bid to win a third major title after the 2011 US Open and 2012 PGA Championship.
The 24-year-old Irishman had for company 20-year-old Jordan Spieth and 23-year-old Patrick Reed — two rising young US stars on the PGA Tour.
Reed and Spieth are part of a record haul of 24 Masters first-timers who are threatening to turn the game inside out as the generation that spawned such talents as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh starts to fade.
"It feels funny that they are going to be playing their first Masters and I'm playing my sixth," McIlroy said of his playing partners. "I feel like the veteran in the group."
Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez fired four birdies on the front-nine to seize the early first-round lead yesterday at the 78th Masters with Sweden's Jonas Blixt the low man in the clubhouse.
Jimenez, who at 50 would be the oldest major winner in golf history, birdied the par-5 second and added back-to-back birdies at six and seven and another at the ninth to jump atop the leaderboard at four-under par.
The only reason Jimenez is in the field of 97 this week at Augusta National is because he finished in 2014's year-end world rankings top 50.
Adam Scott opened with a birdie and added birdies on the par-3 sixth and par-5 eighth to share second on three-under.