AUGUSTA, Ga. — It was early Thursday at what was being advertised as the most electric and anticipated Masters since Bobby Jones was in knickers.
And all around the acoustically perfect Augusta National vale, where cheers tend to pool and amplify, there was the sound of ... silence.
It was crickets — metaphorical, of course, since every insect has been evicted from the grounds.
It seemed all the stars were aligning, conspiring to take the day off.
But sure enough, just as the sun sets in the west, the roars and the Q rating returned late in the day, mostly on the strength of Jordan Spieth and his ridiculous back nine.
Remember Spieth? Spieth was believed to be the only player capable of beating Spieth here at Augusta National (see the Rae's Creek incident of 2016). The guy who everyone was worried about, as if the kind of talent he can bring to bear was as easy to misplace as a set of car keys?
Why, it had been a whole eight months since he had won his last major (British). And coming up on three years since he won a Masters. Something had to be terribly wrong.
Well, there was a case of mono, which does sap the birdies right out of you.
Apparently he's over all maladies, both physical and athletic. Doubters may refer to the streak of five straight back-nine birdies late Thursday afternoon. And when his day was through and he had to stop taunting par, he came in at 6-under 66 and with a two-stroke lead after Day One.
This is what Spieth does at the Masters. Thursday was his fourth round of 66 or lower in a career 17 rounds at Augusta.
The 2015 champion (and two-time runner-up) is not quite ready to declare his second victory just yet.
"I think quick starts are important in any event. It's not unique to the Masters at all; it's any tournament," he said. "If you get off to a good start, you're in control of your own fate, versus needing a little bit of help.
"This tournament often feels like there's six rounds with how the weekend grind is. Well, really any major. I feel like I'm kind of one round down out of six, so I'm not getting ahead of myself. It's just it was a really good start."
The quality of the pursuit was buffed to a high shine by day's end as well.
Shooting 68, two back of Spieth, was the longest player on the PGA Tour and perhaps the toughest. Tony Finau seemed to have celebrated his way right out of his first Masters during Wednesday's par-3 contest when he dislocated his left ankle in a running, jumping celebration of a hole-in-one.
Barely able to put weight on his left side when he awoke this morning, Finau's worst fears were alleviated when a MRI showed nothing other than a high sprain. Determining he could do no further damage, he taped up the ankle tight and went out for a round of golf. Pay attention all in the contact sport business.
"To me, it's a miracle," Finau said. "My foot was out of place 24 hours ago, and I sit here in second place at the Masters.
"It's nothing short of a miracle for me. Just blessed."
Tied with Finau in second was another late-day finisher, former Georgia Tech player Matt Kuchar. Maybe he's getting the hang of this place in his 12th Masters at the age of 39. His parting statement 2017 was his lowest-ever Masters round of 67 that Sunday. Then he backed it up with a 68 one year later.
It wasn't the four birdies over his final six holes that excited Kuchar so much as the bogey he took on his fourth hole. Whatever works. "I made about a 15-footer for bogey, and I felt like that kind of made things OK. I was staring a double-bogey in the face and thought, this is going to be a rotten beginning to my Masters. But to make that putt, I thought, I'm still in it. I haven't kind of ruined a round. And I played really well from the eighth hole in."
An armada of seven players finished at 69, three back of Spieth. They included a fixture in the early-round discussion these last few years (Charley Hoffman), a venerated player who surprisingly has never finished better than 14th here (Henrik Stenson). Oh, and the fellow trying to flesh out a career grand slam, Rory McIlroy. Yeah, it got real interesting by the end of the day.
Let's see are we forgetting anyone?
Oh, yeah, Tiger Woods.
He put together what is becoming his typical comeback round, spraying his tee shots willy and nilly — he finished T-58 in fairways hit Thursday, with eight of 14 — but grinding out respectability from the chaos. He'd class his 1 over 73 as just "fine."
"By the end of the week this will be a pretty packed leaderboard the way the golf course is set up," Woods said. "They have it right where they want it. It's really hard to run away from it, but it's also really easy to lose it out there. By the end of the week there will be a bunch of guys with a chance to win this tournament."
One of those will not be defending champion Sergio Garcia, who in true "Tin Cup" fashion rolled five balls into the water on the par 5 15th Thursday on the way to taking a 13. That tied for the highest score on any hole at any time during the Masters. Without doing any further research, it is safe to say no Masters champion has ever sported a 13 on his card.
But, fear not. By the looks of late Thursday, many of the others with a chance to win this thing will be familiar to you.