In 2014, Bill Haas has three top-10 finishes through 12 PGA Tour Events, and seemed to find his game Thursday at Augusta. Haas was able to overcome some slow greens early on to finish at four under with a first-round 68. This was the good news for Haas; the bad news is that defending Masters champions Adam Scott and Bubba Watson are lurking right behind him on the scoreboard at three under.
If Haas is able to remain among the top three heading into this weekend, his confidence should remain high enough for him to play into contention for his first major victory, and subsequently his first green jacket. With only five career wins under his belt, Haas was not a favorite heading into the tournament, although he was able to play well on a day when the course seemed to get the better of the field; the average score so far through day one is three over par despite perfect weather conditions.
With the rest of the field struggling a bit, Haas has a chance to pull away slowly if he can match his success again on Friday. This could be key for a guy who has not played historically well in major tournaments throughout his career. Of course, Augusta has a way of leveling the playing field and no lead is usually safe, as Rory McIlroy found out the hard way at the 2011 Masters when he lost a four-shot lead on the final day.
For Haas, this tournament may come down to his mental toughness. Can he continue to play well with former champions Scott and Watson hot on his heels? We’ll find out soon enough.