Justin Harding shines in Masters debut
Justin Harding’s first Masters Tournament round was a memorable one, even with what he called a “naughty” bogey on the final hole.
Harding, a South African who got in the field March 31 by being in the top 50 in the world golf rankings, was the leader through the early afternoon after 3-under-par 69.
“I’ll take it and run if I can - we’re not allowed to run here at Augusta,” he said. “But I’m pleased,”
He had five birdies, including one on his first Masters hole, when he rolled in a 10-footer.
“That one going in gave me a boost and calmed me down,” he said. “I told them early, I wanted to stop after one.”
His bogeys came on Nos. 5 and 18.
On No. 18, he hit his second shot into the right green-side bunker, blasted to 14 feet and miss the par putt.
“I was seeing stars in that bunker; that bunker is bright. It was a bit annoying on the last making bogey,” Harding said. “But at the end of the day I’ll take it."
The 69 was a continuation of form for the 33-year-old South African, who was 712th in the world at the start of 2018. He’s now 49th thanks in large part to his victory in the Qatar Masters on March 3.
“Golf is purely momentum based,” Harding said. “If you take enough confidence into the rounds then you’re bound to play well. Just pretty much need to get out of your own way.”
Harding’s meteoric rise in the last 15 months has meant he’s gotten into tournaments where he’s not familiar with the course, just like this week.
“From the way I’ve been playing, let’s call it the past 15 months, I’m seeing the golf course for the first time every single week. Not taking any real demons, any bad shots or bad memories into them helps, I suppose.
“But then again, I also watched the Masters a few times on TV,” he said. “We’ve played the golf course in our brains a few times. You know where to hit it. It’s just a matter of handling the nerves and executing the golf shots.”