By Andrew Both
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Jason Day justified his billing as one of the Masters favorites when he reeled off five successive birdies on route to an opening round five-under 67 at a steamy Augusta National on Thursday.
“It was a good stretch of holes,” the understated Australian told reporters after ending the day equal second, three strokes behind American leader Jordan Spieth.
Day, 27, played in the final threesome with Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler, immediately behind a grouping that included Tiger Woods.
But Day, who twice came within a whisker of winning the Masters (in 2011 and 2013) and Garcia (who shot 68) made sure their group was not completely forgotten.
After bogeying the 11th, Day picked up birdies at the next five holes, an impressive stretch, though well short of the tournament record of seven consecutive birdies notched by Steve Pate (1999) and Tiger Woods (2005).
Only once in 13 previous rounds, round two in 2011, when he shot 64, did Day record a better score, though he was helped Thursday by benign conditions and greens as soft as many players could remember.
The mowers were already out in force on other holes by the time Day made a deft par-save at the last, getting up-and-down from behind the green as rain began to fall.
“I just knew that if I could be patient and give myself opportunities, especially on the back nine, I could get something going,” Day said.
“Then to get up-and-down on the last hole to kind of cap off a good round, it was good to get that momentum going into tomorrow's round.
“With how the greens were, I knew that there was going to be scores out there. I didn't realize there was going to be an eight-under, but it was getable today.”
(Editing by Steve Keating.)