The Masters 2022 first round notebook: Fast starts essential at Augusta without something special

It’s already bad news for those who didn’t break par on day one – it’s not just Augusta National they’ve got to beat but history.

To win at Augusta National without a fast start is possible - it just needs something outlandish to happen.

In the last 26 editions of the Masters only two eventual winners were not T15th or better on the leaderboard after 18 holes.

And the last 16 tournaments? Every single winner was T11th or better - and 13 of them were tied seventh or better.

The mantra "anyone can win it" is used at Augusta perhaps more than at any other golf tournament and in one sense it is true - something remarkable might happen - but it would need to be exactly that.

The stats do not say that anyone who failed to beat par in round one of the 2022 event (and is therefore T19th or worse) cannot win; they say that to do so they must achieve something very, very few have managed.

The good news for those chasers is that the weather forecast indicates that we can expect blustery and difficult wind; in other words the sort of conditions ripe for history-busting performances.

Let's take a closer looks at the leading contenders after round one.

Sungjae Im - leading on 5-under

What a peculiar August record he now has. In the top six all week on debut in 2020, shot 77-80 last year, and now the front runner. Complete boom or bust.

In fact, his seven laps of Augusta have, in order, ranked tied second best for the round, T20th, tied fourth, tied fifth, T72nd (of 88), 84th (of 87) and now first.

It's a very small sample, but on both his previous starts he carded his worst score in the second round.

He's 0-for-7 at going wire-to-wire (four times in Japan, twice on the Korn Ferry Tour, one on the PGA).

Gained over three strokes on the field for both Putting and Tee to Green.

Cameron Smith - solo second on 4-under

A wonderful curate's egg of a first round, with a double bogey to start, eight birdies, and another double bogey to end.

His sub-70 score was his sixth in his last 11 circuits of Augusta.

He had his second round trouble early in his career. He averaged 73.00 through his first three visits, but the last two have both reaped 68s.

He's 1-for-6 when sitting in the top two after 18 holes - the win coming in the most recent example at the Tournament of Champions.

Dustin Johnson, Scottie Scheffler, Danny Willett, Joaquin, Niemann - tied third on 3-under

The 2020 champion Johnson is resuming old ways after his missed cut on defence. His previous five starts had all landed him top 10 finishes and on each of those occasions he was sitting top 10 at halfway. Made two shots on the field in Around the Green and Approach.

The World No. 1 Scheffler is seeking a fourth win of 2022 and a third top 20 finish at Augusta. This sub-70 score was just his second in his ninth lap. Despite his great success this year, it's actually only the second time he has been in the top 10 at the end of a round ahead of the weekend. Gained two shots in both Putting and Tee to Green.

Incredibly Willett's effort was just his third sub-70 score ever at Augusta (in his 21st circuit). The 2016 winner had never ended a round at the tournament in the top 10 since that triumph. Gained over four shots on the greens.

Niemann's quick start was testament to his excellent form and the hint he dropped at the fine Augusta pointer Riviera. His previous first round scores were 75 and 76 and he had only twice broken 75 in six laps before this swift start. Gained two shots with approaches.

Jason Kokrak, Corey Conners, Patrick Cantlay - tied seventh on 2-under

Kokrak had three 71s and three scores north of 75 at Augusta ahead of this week.

Conners carded his best first round score and has an excellent second round record (69-71-65-69). Leads the field in SG Around the Green.

Cantlay recorded a second sub-70 and just a fourth sub-par round in his 11th pre-weekend lap.

READ MORE: The Masters 2022: Tiger Woods makes superb start in Augusta National comeback

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