AUGUSTA, Ga. – With a 3-wood in hand, Kyle Stanley’s first tee shot – his first competitive swing at the Masters – soared skyward and out of sight Thursday morning, much to the appreciation of an eager gallery.
And proof of its return to earth? Mud was caked on the golf ball as it sat on short grass.
That was just the beginning of the Gig Harbor golfer’s thrilling yet frustrating round – one that ended in a 3-over-par 75 that left him far down the leaderboard.
Fortunately, nobody broke away and posted a super-low score. It could have been for a similar reason Stanley struggled – muddy balls, courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club’s soggy fairways after a few days of heavy thunderstorms.
“Yeah, it factored into (shot selection) a little bit. It’s just kind of a guessing game. You try and err on the right side,” Stanley said. “I was probably a little bit too cautious at times, and just left myself some difficult up-and-downs.”
Stanley birdied the second hole to move to 1-under, but nobody in his group of routine birdie-makers – including Australian Jason Day (76) and American Bill Haas (72) – got going on a hot streak.
Haas made three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the front nine. But he also fell back late.
“Nobody in our group played obviously their best golf,” Haas said.
Some of Stanley’s misfortune – he hit just eight of 18 greens in regulation – can be blamed on the soft conditions. He had another big issue, too – missing tee shots left, and into trouble on crucial holes.
He did that on the seventh hole, then tried muscling an iron shot into one of the front greenside sand traps. The golf ball stopped 15 yards short of it.
“It’s tough because it’s so wet, and it’s sometimes hard to judge the ball, and hitting it and it not really going anywhere,” Stanley said.
Facing a delicate pitch, his third shot popped up into the bunker. He left the green with a double-bogey 6.
Stanley fell to 3 over after a bogey at No. 10 – set up by an errant shot out of the left rough. But he rallied on the back nine, making birdies on both of the par-5 holes, No. 13 and No. 15.
And the Bellarmine Prep product thought he got a break when his shot out of the back bunker at the 16th green hit Haas’ ball, leaving him a 7-foot putt rather than the 25- to 30-footer he could have had.
But his par-saving try didn’t start on line, and he made bogey. A hole later, he had to punch out from behind a three on the left side, and could not get up and down from 70 yards for par.
Afterward, the stoic Stanley exchanged responses with big smiles to reporters. It was kind of how he felt about his first Masters round – now in the books.
“To be honest, I didn’t really have a lot of expectations this week. Like I said, the game hasn’t really been there – or it has, and I just haven’t been scoring,” said Stanley, who in February won the Waste Management Phoenix Open. “I am just waiting on good golf. It’s there. I just have to put it together.”
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