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Windy conditions spell Masters disaster

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP / by Jim SLATER | Paul Casey of England plays his shot from the 18th tee during the first round of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 6, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia

AUGUSTA (UNITED STATES) (AFP) - 

Blustery conditions humbled the world's greatest shotmakers in Thursday's opening round of the Masters as gusting winds and Augusta National's lightning-quick greens took a nightmare toll on players.

"It's very difficult conditions and borderline (unplayable)," said 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott of Australia after a three-over 75.

"We're really lucky we had a little rain overnight because if the greens were firm... I don't know how we would have played. It was borderline, all swirling around, and that's when you know it's very difficult."

Steady but swirling winds above 20 mph (32 kph) with gusts twice that speed send tee shots and approaches soaring off target and even kept balls rolling on greens.

"Very difficult on some of the slopey areas of the greens or long putts," Scott said. "I had a ball that was three feet from the hole. I'd marked it, put it back, and it rolled to 12 feet."

Fred Couples, the 1992 winner making his 32nd Masters start at age 57, shot 73 in the windiest weather he could recall, conditions set to produce the highest scoring average on day one in a decade.

"It was hard. It was windy. I've never seen it like this," he said. "To shoot even par was a really good score. It was really difficult."

Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who would become the oldest Masters winner two months shy of turning 47 by winning his fourth green jacket, said has seen worse conditions in his 25 years at Augusta.

"They are challenging but we have had more challenging conditions," Mickelson said. "The greens are receptive today."

Belgium's Thomas Pieters, in his first Masters, was five-under after 10 bogey-free holes and briefly led by four shots, but had two bogeys and two double bogeys in the last eight holes, a wind gust sending him into Rae's Creek at the par-3 12th.

"It's not really consistent. If you catch the wrong gust at the wrong time, then you look stupid -- like I did on 12," Pieters said. "But that's just Augusta, I guess."

England's Justin Rose, the 2013 US Open champion who opened on 71, said one could not fear gusts.

"If you didn't commit, there was something bad waiting for you on the other end," Rose said. "Anything around par today was a great start. It was very satisfying for me to birdie 18 to break par."

- Like a British Open -

England's Andy Sullivan, also on 71, found the conditions more like he would face in a British Open.

"It's brutal out there. It's more like an Open Championship than anything else," Sullivan said. "Just happy to get around under par. But the gusts are just killer.

"Adam (Scott) had a putt on 17 and it is straight down hill and it almost blew back up the hill. So it's so difficult to judge what's going to happen out there. You've just got to sort of try and guess when the gusts are going to come and try and hit it after it or before it sort of thing. It's so difficult.

"It's just really tough out there. You really got to manage your game and just be on it the whole time. One little slip can cost you a triple or quadruple around here easily."

Sullivan almost had a more costly delay after a birdie at 18.

"I was literally trying to run up the hill there to go to the restroom real quick. I was literally bursting. It was horrible."

by Jim SLATER

© 2017 AFP