Commentary

Greens sapped score out of my round

Originally Published: April 9, 2009
By Ryuji Imada | Special to ESPN.com

Round 1 is in the books, and it was a bittersweet day. I shot a 1-over-par 73, bogeying 16 and 18 coming in. I drove the ball well and hit good iron shots but just couldn't convert on the greens, thus letting some shots slip away.

Masters correspondent Ryuji Imada


Masters rookie Ryuji Imada will make his first stroll down Magnolia Lane as a competitor on Thursday. All week, the 32-year-old Tampa, Fla., resident will share his insights into being inside the ropes at Augusta National with ESPN.com.

Imada has one PGA Tour victory (the 2008 AT&T Classic) and has earned more than $6.5 million since joining the tour in 2005.

While attending the University of Georgia, Imada was a first-team All-American in 1999, leading the Bulldogs to their first NCAA championship. He was the runner-up in the individual competition.

Imada moved from his native Japan to Florida when he was 14 and captured his first junior tournament at 15.

Make sure to check back daily during the Masters for Imada's commentary on the year's first major championship.

Earlier diaries

• Something still to play for

• Pressure-packed 18th

• Thursday's frustrations

• Ready for Thursday

• Prep started in November

I had pretty much the same nerves and feelings as I normally would on the first tee. Of course, I've been waiting and dreaming of this day, and I'm going to enjoy the moment and this event. But my focus is on competing and coming back here for a long time to come. I won't let myself get too caught up in the atmosphere or the moment and sacrifice my play.

I got off to a great start, hitting a nice drive and a 6-iron to 10 feet to birdie No. 1. I noticed my approach shot held nicely, more so than in the practice rounds. I knew that the greens were going to be a bit more receptive and that the conditions were there to make birdies. There were a lot of front pins that could be accessed with good shots, and it's obvious the tournament committee wanted to see some good scoring.

I gave myself chances for birdie on 2, 3, 6 and 8 on the front nine, but just couldn't convert. The slower speed of the greens surprised me, and it was difficult to match pace with line when I was expecting them to be much faster.

At any major, you can't press. You have to take what the course gives you. I gave myself chances at 10 and 12 before finally making birdie on 13. I laid it up to 80 yards and made a 15-footer for the bird, only to give it back on the next.

No. 15 was a birdie hole today, and I hit a great drive and a 3-wood from 250 feet for a two-putt birdie. I've seen that hole and watched players hit that shot so often, it was fun to be in the moment and capitalize the way I've envisioned so many times. I three-putted 16 and had to lay up on 18 after my only poor drive of the day. I made bogey there, as well.

All in all, it was a frustrating day because I played well and thought well, but just didn't get the score out of my round. It was fun to watch some coverage after I got done and see how well some of the veteran players fared today.

There is no doubt that knowing the way the course plays and responds is valuable. The conditions set up so that you could score if you placed the ball in the right spots, and that's what those guys are able to do because they've been here and seen a pin 25-50 times, seen how the greens break and respond. Conditions might quicken a bit tomorrow and the rest of the week, so it will be interesting to see how that knowledge helps under different circumstances.

As I said earlier in the week, I'm a fan of the game and it's great to be here and be a part of something I've wanted for a long time. There's no doubt that some players always play well here for a reason, and I hope to become one of those guys.

I only putted after finishing my round today. I spent about an hour on the green just getting my feel down. I'm excited about getting back out there tomorrow and getting a bit of revenge on the greens. It's a long tournament and I'm playing well, but I have to stay patient and use the information I've gathered from today. You can play as many practice rounds as you want and get as much advice as you can, but nothing replaces the experience of tournament rounds here.

Thanks for keeping up with me this week. I'll check back in Friday.

Ryuji Imada joined the PGA Tour in 2005. You can visit his official Web site for more information.