Thursday’s morning rainstorm at Augusta National sufficiently muddled plans at the 2020 Masters. But after a nearly three-hour delay that thwarted Bryson DeChambeau’s strategy for domination — he rebounded from a double-bogey on the par-5 13th hole to shoot a two-under-par 70 — play resumed with 27 of the 48 players who had finished their rounds breaking par for the day. Among them was the reigning champion, Tiger Woods, who logged a four-under 68 on Day 1 to finish three strokes behind the leader, the Englishman Paul Casey.
Friday at Augusta should offer more clarity: With no rain forecast, the club’s notoriously rippling greens should play faster and provide some separation in the leaderboard logjam.
Back-nine starters may have an advantage.
Casey did not relish having to start the Masters on the second nine, because the 10th hole is historically the toughest at Augusta National.
If the tournament were in April, when it is traditionally held, he wouldn’t have had to worry, because all the players start at No. 1. But in November, with daylight at a premium, Augusta National officials had no choice but to send players off both nines.
On Thursday, the side where players began their rounds made a difference in their scores, but not in the way Casey had worried it might.
For right-handers like Casey, the best play off the 10th tee is a right-to-left hook, but if the shot goes too far left it brings trees into play, which is why Casey said: “It’s not the easiest tee shot. I much prefer starting on 1.”
And yet Casey birdied the 10th on his way to a seven-under 65 as the 24 players in the early wave who started at No. 10 averaged a score of 71.2. Those who started off No. 1 averaged 72.4 on the par-72 layout.
Woods also teed off on No. 10 and parred it in a bogey-free round.
Dustin Johnson, the world No. 1, and Rory McIlroy, who can complete a career Grand Slam with a Masters victory, may hope that the trend continues; they are among the players who will tee off at No. 10 for their second rounds as they return to the course Friday to complete their first 18.
The cut won’t be made until Saturday.
Augusta National’s decision this year to introduce a stiffer cut looked like a stroke of genius after electrical storms blew through the area on Thursday. The delay virtually guaranteed that the 96-man field would not complete the second round by sundown at 5:25 p.m. and that it could not be cut until Saturday morning.
After the 2019 tournament yielded the largest weekend field — 65 — in Masters history, club officials decided to eliminate the rule that had assured a weekend berth to any player within 10 strokes of the 36-hole leader.
The number of qualifiers this weekend will be the low 50, including ties.
Fred S. Ridley, Augusta National’s chairman, said Wednesday that officials had made the change because the more forgiving 10-stroke rule had allowed players to continue on Saturday and Sunday even though they would not seriously contend for a green jacket.
“The last several years, I think we’ve only had two players who have been in contention who made the cut only because of the 10-shot rule,” Ridley said. “While certainly it can happen,” he added, “it just doesn’t.”
Alan Blinder contributed to this report.