An even-par 72, and Puyallup’s Ryan Moore was thrilled.
A tournament-leading 66, and Seattle’s Fred Couples fancied thoughts one more time about contending for the Masters.
And even though Tacoma’s Brian Mogg didn’t tee it up Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club, his prized pupil – reigning PGA Championship winner Y.E. Yang – sits tied for second after a 67.
1, MOORE BENEFITS FROM ‘BONUS’ BIRDIE AT 12TH
One side of the ledger, you could say the way Moore hit the ball Thursday – he missed two of 14 fairways – he didn’t get much out of his round posting a 72.
On the other side, getting a break is always a welcomed sight.
When Moore walked up to the frontside bunker at the par-3 12th, he saw the worst lie imaginable – downhill hitting over a steep ledge.
“I’m thinking, ‘If he can keep this on the green, that would be impressive,'” said Jason, his brother-caddie.
His second shot barely cleared the bunker, checked up and managed to find the middle of the cup for an improbable birdie to move to even-par on his round.
“That’s always a nice bonus when shots like that go in the hole, because it doesn’t happen all the time,” Moore said. “To have a shot like that definitely kind of keeps positive momentum going. That definitely got me in a little better mindset and a little better rhythm going into the next few holes.”
He two-putted from 50-60 feet on the par-5 15th for a birdie to move to 1-under before finishing up with a bogey out of a greenside bunker.
“I’m only looking at (my round) one way – that was a really solid round on a pretty darned tough day,” Moore said. “It was one of those days where it could get away from you really quickly just with the wind up and down.”
2, WHO’S THE OLD GUY? COUPLES NOT PLAYING LIKE ONE
Couples shot a 66.
Why is that significant?
He never went that low as a regular on the PGA Tour.
The Champions Tour rookie, and Seattle product certainly has pushed the rewind button and sits just a nudge in front of a star-studded leaderboard that includes fellow 50-and-over star Tom Watson (67).
“The idea that we’re all so old, it’s also a blessing if you play well,” Couples said.
Couples birdies two-thirds of “Amen Corner” – Nos. 12 and 13, but his par-saver on the difficult 10th hole proved to be just as memorable. Stuck in brush just off to the right of the green, he somehow got a 7-iron on the ball and muscled it out. It rolled a few feet away, and he made the putt.
3, DISPLAYING THE BURDEN OF TRUTH
Mogg is one of the best teaching professionals in the country. So when he sees something he doesn’t like – from anybody, including Yang – he speaks up.
In the middle of the back nine of a practice round Tuesday, it was apparent Yang wasn’t sharp with his ball-striking. And in the middle of the 14th fairway, Mogg approached the South Korean star and showed him some of his swings.
“I showed him he wasn’t getting the club set well,” Mogg said. We tidied that up, and played pretty well the rest of the way.”
Yang made a 20-foot putt for birdie on No. 10 on Thursday to get to 2-under, and then followed with back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th holes to suddenly get going.
“In our strategy meeting today, we talked about being aggressively conservative, knowing the wind would blow, and to aim at the middle of greens and slopes, and not at pins,” Mogg said. “Nothing special was really happening, and on the ninth (hole), he hit a 7-iron to 3-4 feet (and made birdie). On No. 10, he used the slope and spin to get it to 20 feet and made that (for birdie). He played flawless, and didn’t miss a shot.”