Over the last 20 Masters, 27 different men have led or been tied for the lead after the first round a total of 32 times (Justin Rose three different years, Davis Love III, Chris DiMarco, and Larry Mize twice each). Only one of them has gone on to win the Masters – Trevor Immelman in 2008.
More often than not, Friday’s round has not been kind to the Thursday leader. The average score in round two for the first round leaders has been 72.6. In 2005, Chris DiMarco had the lowest second round score of any first day leader (67). DiMarco ended up losing to Tiger Woods in a playoff. Only twelve of 32 first day leaders have broken par in the following round in the last two decades.
While the leader has not fared well, the winner has more often than not come from someone lurking nearby. Only three of the Masters champions since 1993 were outside the Top 20 after one round, with Tiger in 2005 being the most recent. Fourteen of the 20 champs have been in the Top 10 after the first day.
The average strokes the eventual winner was trailing after the first day? Just 3.5. By the end of round two, that gap had closed to 1.8 strokes behind the leader on average. Still, only five of the 20 winners had a lead heading to the weekend rounds. The adage that you cannot win the Masters early, but can lose it early, has generally held. If you want to win on Sunday, stay close. Being the early pace car hasn’t generally worked out, though.