By his own high standards, Jordan Spieth has had a tame start to 2018 but there must be something in the water in Georgia that gets him going.
The American grabbed the first round lead at Augusta National for the third time in four years thanks to a six-under 66.
It’s also the ninth time in 17 rounds that Spieth has held the lead at the Masters.
He sits two clear of Tony Finau and Matt Kuchar, who are joint second on four-under, Finau somehow recovering from dislocating his ankle in the Par-3 Tournamen to shoot a superb 68.
Spieth, who seems to have an on-going love affair with this golf course, hit five birdies on the spin from 13 through 17 before a stunning recovery from the edge of the 18th green – after he’d hooked his drive into the trees – saw him finish with a bogey.
The birdie run, said Spieth, was simply down to a glove switch on the 13th fairway after his hands had been getting sweaty.
“I had phenomenal up-and-downs on 10, 11 and 12 but I switched gloves on 13 and I started pin-seeking after that,” he said.
He described his eagle at No.8 as a 'bonus' and said he had 'perfect' numbers for his approach on 15 and tee shot on 16, the latter seeing him turn his back on the ball mid-air.
“That was a beautiful shot,” he said.
The 24-year-old made a rare mistake at 18, despite him saying it is usually 'one of the more comfortable tee shots' for him on the course. But a wonderful recovery helped prevent anything him succumbing to anything worse than a bogey.
“That was a fantastic," he added. "I probably couldn’t have gotten it closer with a bucket of balls.
“I’m not going to get ahead of myself. It’s a really good start. For me, it’s just about being comfortable when I set up over the putter. For six months, I’ve just been a little bit off. I’ve put a lot of work in and I’ve started to see some results and started shooting some good rounds.”
Asked about what it is about Augusta National that seems to bring out the best in him, Spieth said it’s simply down to good planning.
“We build plans for the year to peak at different times,” he said. “I’ve played really well here and that’s the work of the team and our plan. Out here, this golf course brings out a lot of feel in my game. I don’t do well in domes or driving range shots. You don’t get that out here.”
Rory McIlroy, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Henrik Stenson had solid opening 69s to join a group of four other players on three-under, one of them American Patrick Reed. Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and former winner Zack Johnson sit a shot further back on two-under, whilst Vijay Singh rolled back the years with a 71.
Dustin Johnson, the world No.1, stumbled to a one-over 73.