AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Former FedExCup champion Bill Haas posted his lowest score in a major to snatch the lead midway through the Masters first round on Thursday while holder Adam Scott experienced a real sense of deja vu.
The 31-year-old Haas, whose great uncle Bob Goalby landed the coveted Green Jacket in 1968, recovered from a bogey five at the opening hole to set the pace with a four-under 68.
Scott missed only four fairways all day but failed to make the most of his birdie opportunities on the greens as he returned a 69 to match his effort at the same stage last year.
Six players shared third place on 70 - Americans Kevin Stadler, Gary Woodland, Brandt Snedeker and Jimmy Walker, South Korean K.J. Choi and Jonas Blixt of Sweden.
World number one Tiger Woods may be missing from this year’s lineup following back surgery but there was no shortage of thrills on a sun-kissed day at Augusta National.
Haas led the way after bagging three birdies on each nine including a six-footer at the last that gave him his first three at the 18th at the 17th career attempt.
The pin at the final hole was typical of the flag positions around the course, tucked in on the corner of the putting surface.
”Birdying 18 was a huge bonus,“ the 2011 FedExCup winner told reporters at the opening major championship of the year. ”I made some nice putts today, a couple of 20-footers, and that can certainly make a difference.
“Today there was a bunch of tough pins and I think sometimes you’ve just got to say ... you either go at it or you’re going to have 50 feet left because it’s going to hit and roll on the slopes.”
Haas, the son of former U.S. Ryder Cup player Jay, refused to get too carried away with his show.
”I was leading last week after the first round and finished 37th,“ he said of the Houston Open, ”so I know there’s tons of golf left.
“I know I can’t expect too much. You’ve just got to go out there and keep playing golf, try to hit that fairway on number one tomorrow.”
World number two Scott hit plenty of fairways but was out of sync with the shortest club in the bag, as evidenced by his three putts on the long 13th and 15th.
The 31-year-old Australian was also one of several victims of the notorious Amen Corner stretch - holes 11, 12 and 13.
“The Masters is normally the most nervous I am all year but today I felt very comfortable and I had a great time out there,” said the defending champion.
“At the short 12th I received the most incredible ovation I’ve ever had but I struck my worst shot of the day and hit it in Rae’s Creek. It was getting tough at that stage and the pace of play was a little slow.”
Argentina’s Angel Cabrera, the player beaten by Scott in a playoff last year, had a day to forget as he plunged to a 78 that contained a triple-bogey seven at the 11th.
World number nine Rory McIlroy, the 12-1 pre-tournament favorite along with Scott, opened with a 71.
Editing by Frank Pingue