ONE struggled to find fairways; the other kept overshooting greens. It added up to a frustrating opening day for both Martin Laird and Paul Lawrie as they carded matching four-over 76s.
Laird, the last player to book his spot in the field, dropped four shots in five holes from the tenth. By then, the effort he’d put in to win the Texas Open last weekend with a closing 63 was taking its toll.
“This is five [weeks] in a row for me,” he said afterwards. “I was really tired at the start of this week, and though I felt better yesterday and I felt okay this morning, it’s a grind out there when you’re driving it in the trees.
“I tended to do that too much today, starting at the first and I was kind of battling from then on.” He even hit a few pull-hooks, which is not normally in his game.
His sole birdie came at the seventh on a day when the Scot struggled to control his approaches to the undulating greens.
“I’m not happy with that score and I really didn’t play very well, especially the last few holes when I made a couple of mental mistakes,” added Laird.
“I think I hit it over six greens today. We’re probably on the toughest golf course we play all year and I hit it over greens.
“I drove the ball bad and, from the fairways I did hit, I hit it over the flipping green, so it’s a little frustrating.
“I’m pretty tired. Last week kind of took its toll. I definitely felt the last four or five holes I was dragging a bit. It doesn’t help when you’re three or four-over par and you’re tired.
“But I’m going to turn my frustration into some kind of motivation tomorrow and get after this golf course because I’ll tell you, today, you do not get an easier day at Augusta.
“The conditions are perfect, the ball is going far, the course is immaculate, the greens are holding, and that’s why there’s some good scores out there.”
After also starting with a bogey-5, Lawrie then ran up a double-bogey 6 at the fifth. He looked to have found some momentum with back-to-back birdies at the eighth and ninth only to undo that good work by starting back 5-5.
“The driver was the problem today,” reported a bitterly disappointed Lawrie of an effort that matched his closing round 12 months ago en route to finishing in a share of 24th place.
“I just drove the ball horrible. In fact, it was one of my worst driving performances in the last ten years. I’d been hitting it great off the tee since I got here but today it was just terrible.
“I was hitting most of them off to the right and it’s tough to play from those pine needles. I’ll go and hit some balls on the range for half an hour or so and I’m sure I’ll find it there - as you always seem to do.”
Laird at least had the consolation of witnessing the shot of the day as Jamie Donaldson, one of his playing partners, marked his debut in the event with a hole-in-one at the sixth.
“I think it was 177 yards and I hit a soft 7-iron,” said the Welshman of a blow that was also witnessed at close-quarters by former winner Mark O’Meara, the third player in the group. It’s a tough shot as the pin’s high up on the right side. You don’t know whether to take it on or sort of play just short left, so you got a putt up the hill.
“But my caddie [Scot Michael Donaghy] said, ‘you just go straight at it’, and that’s what I did. It was great to see the ball pitch right on line, just short, and go in.”
It was the second ace of his career but, like the first one, it didn’t earn a car or anything like that. “Somebody said I’ll get some crystal but I don’t really mind as to make a hole-in-one at Augusta on my debut was awesome.”
Laird added: “It looked good all the way, and Mark called it when I was on the way down, he shouted, ‘go in’, and it doesn’t often do it when people shout it, and it did.”