Bill Haas opens with 68 to lead Masters

Opening Round – 78th Masters Tournament – Augusta National Golf Club – Augusta, Georgia –

Bill Haas logged his best career major championship round Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club to take the overnight lead at the 78th Masters at 4-under.

Haas’ opening-round 68 marked the first time in four other trips to Augusta that he broke 70.

The World No. 31 leads three former major champions by a shot as only 19 players managed to break par on Thursday under tough conditions.

Bubba Watson, the 2012 champion, is T-3 alongside Louis Oosthuizen and defending champion Adam Scott. Watson carded the only bogey-free round of the day, hitting 16 of 18 greens.

With a victory at Riviera and a pair of runner-up finishes this season already (WGC-Cadillac and at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix), Bubba might be the player to win it. At 25-t0-1 odds at Ladbrokes, the gaming public likes the lefty. He also rides the longest streak without a three-putt on the PGA Tour into round two at Augusta.

Brandt Snedeker, who recorded a Top 10 here last year, is T-5 after a 2-under-70 tied with six others including Jimmy Walker and Gary Woodland. Rory McIlroy, Fred Couples (making his 30th start at Augusta), Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth headline a group at 1-under.

For Haas, he finished 14th on the PGA Tour Money List a season ago, but has yet to challenge at a major championship. His best work earned him a FedEx Cup crown. The 80-1 long shot was T-20 at the 2013 Masters – his best effort here.

He was a co-leader after a 65 last week in the opening round at the Shell Houston Open, but failed to contend into the weekend. He was T-6 earlier this year at the WGC-Cadillac Championship when he was second in Strokes Gained Putting for the week.

His hot putter Thursday earned him his first overnight lead in a major championship.

Other Masters News:

  • Phil Mickelson carded a triple bogey at No. 7 and then a double at the 15th en route to a 4-over-76. At T-67, he has work Friday to make the cut. The start is his career worst position after day one at the Masters.
  • Several players struggled Thursday including former major champions Zach Johnson (78) and Jason Dufner (80). Difficult pin locations and a dry course seemed to have its way with players.
  • Although Haas finished 4-under, a number of players were at 4-under at various points in their rounds including Miguel Angel Jimenez, Jonas Blixt and Scott.
  • Oosthuizen, who was runner-up to Bubba in 2012 losing in a playoff, has missed the cut at Augusta in four of his last five attempts.
  • Steve Stricker, Stephen Gallacher and Webb Simpson all had their rounds to 3-under at one point. Webb was 3-under through three holes before finishing 2-over-74. Gallacher is T-12 after a 71, while Stricker ended up even-par.