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Unlucky 13 sinks Garcia's hopes of retaining title as Ellis suffers horror debut despite Nicklaus' advice

By Phil Casey

Sergio Garcia's title defence effectively came to an embarrassing early end as he took an amazing 13 shots to play the 15th hole in the opening round of The Masters.

Garcia dumped five balls into the water on the same par-five where he made a vital eagle in last year’s final round, surpassing the previous highest score on the hole of 11 shared by Jumbo Ozaki, Ben Crenshaw and Ignacio Garrido.

The 38-year-old went for the green in two and then needed five more attempts to find the putting surface and hole out from nine feet to avoid any further damage.

Garcia was two over par before the setback, but with his catastrophe on the 15th his hopes of becoming the fourth man to win consecutive green jackets all but disappeared.

The 15th green slopes sharply from back to front, where there is water guarding the green. It was into this water that Garcia’s shots repeatedly spun.

His victory at Augusta last year was his first Major title after so many near misses, beating Justin Rose in a dramatic play-off.

Garcia did at least bounce back with a birdie on the 16th, but an 81 left him 86th in the 87-man field.

Even if he misses the cut at the end of the second round, Garcia will have to stick around to present the green jacket to this year’s champion, such is the tradition.

Danny Willett, who won the 2016 Masters, failed to make the cut last year when he was reigning champion.

Low scores were proving tough to come by yesterday.

Harry Ellis suffered a nightmare Masters debut after failing to apply the advice of six-time champion Jack Nicklaus.

Ellis, who won the Amateur Championship at Sandwich last year, sought out 18-time Major champion Nicklaus this week ahead of his opening round.

But the 23-year-old from Southampton carded six bogeys, three double bogeys and a triple bogey on the 10th as he struggled to a 14-over-par 86 which featured a solitary birdie.

“The score got massive but I felt pretty comfortable,” Ellis said. “The first tee was great. To look down the first and for them to announce your name was really cool. I just got off to a rough start and just hit some shots that I haven’t hit for a while.

“Last night with my coach here as well I was hitting it great, so I was very excited about going out there. It’s a bit hard when you know you get off to a rough start and then start a little rough on the back nine, you kind of lose momentum and what you were looking forward to.

“But I’m not trying to make it (the cut) tomorrow, I’m just trying to keep learning.”

Speaking about his meeting with Nicklaus, Ellis added: “To be able to sit one-on -one with him and listen to how he played the course and how he sees the course was great.

“The footprint of the course is still here, it’s lengthened over time, but the same principles apply. And the principles he told me I didn’t do, which was probably part of the problem.

“But when you have got a man who’s won 18 Majors and you listen to him talk, it’s inspiring.”

Belfast Telegraph

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