To me, it’s nothing short of a miracle. My foot was out of place 24 hours ago and I sit here in second place at the Masters after one round. —Tony Finau
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Just 24 hours earlier Tony Finau was embarrassed and hurting, wondering if his lifelong dream of playing in the Masters would be derailed by an injury he caused by his own exuberance after making a hole-in-one.
Yet there was Finau Thursday evening, being interviewed in the fancy media room at Augusta National Golf Club after a remarkable 4-under-par 68 that put him in a tie for second place in what is considered the most prestigious golf tournament in the world.
“To me, it’s nothing short of a miracle,” Finau said. “My foot was out of place 24 hours ago and I sit here in second place at the Masters after one round.”
The 28-year-old Salt Lake native finds himself two shots behind 2015 champion Jordan Spieth, who fired a 6-under-par 66 in the waning sunlight Thursday. Matt Kuchar matched Finau’s 68, while seven more golfers are bunched at 69 heading into Friday’s second round.
Finau is playing in his first Masters Tournament after four successful seasons on the PGA Tour. He is soaking up the whole experience and when his wedge shot at No. 7 on the par-3 course Wednesday rolled into the hole, he went a little wild, sprinting up the fairway and rolling his left ankle.
The foot was x-rayed Wednesday night and came up negative and after a fitful sleep (“elevating my foot, icing my foot for a couple of hours — trying to sleep with your foot like that is tough”), he had an MRI at 7 Thursday morning. Finau said he was ready to not play if told it would cause long-term damage.
“They told me, ‘Look, a couple of torn ligaments, but nothing major, a high ankle sprain,’ then I knew I could play,” he said. So Finau wrapped his ankle and went out to the driving range earlier than usual to test it out.
He said at first he could barely put any pressure on his foot and “could barely walk,” but after his warmup on the driving range, he determined he could play.
Finau appeared to walk a little gingerly early in his round and he got off to a slow start with a bogey on the first hole after hitting into a bunker on the right side. But he came back with a birdie at No. 2, sinking a putt from eight feet and then added a birdie-2 at No. 4 with a 10-footer.
He made some good pars at the next three holes, then made consecutive birdies at 8 and 9. His putt at the par-5 8th hole was from three feet and he rolled in a 30-foot right-to-left putt at No. 9.
On the back nine, Finau sank a 5-footer at No. 13, then made one of his few mistakes on the day when his 3-foot par putt lipped out at 14. He came back with a birdie at the par-5 15th when he chipped to within two feet from 50 feet on the back of the green. After just missing a 15-foot birdie at No. 16, Finau made his two par-saving putts on the final two holes from outside eight feet.
Finau had been pushing the leaders all day and four golfers in front of him bogeyed the final hole to fall back to 3-under par. So when he finished his round, just after 6 p.m. local time, he was the leader in the clubhouse.
However, Spieth, after a slow start, came through with five straight birdies at holes 13 to 17 before making a bogey at the final hole.
Kuchar was one of the few golfers to birdie No. 18, which he did after also making birdies at 15 and 16 for a solid finish.
Tiger Woods, playing in his first Masters since 2015, finished with a 73 that puts him back in a tie for 29th place with two-time champion Bubba Watson. Three-time champion Phil Mickelson is in a tie for 11th place after an opening-round 70.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia will likely miss the cut after shooting an 81 that included a record-high 13 at the par-5 15th hole when he hit five shots into the water in front of the green.
The other local player in the field, former BYU golfer Mike Weir, finished with a 76 after starting in the third group of the morning teeing off No. 1. Weir got off to a slow start, with bogeys on the first two holes and went to 6 over par through 12. However, he made birdies at 13, 15 and 17 before making a bogey at the final hole.