AUGUSTA, Ga. — Sitting at opposite ends of the Masters leaderboard, Craig and Kevin Stadler shared little more than a sense of relief Thursday.
Kevin, the 34-year-old Masters rookie, finished the tournament’s opening round comfortably at 2-under and sat near the top of the leaderboard as the early groups finished play.
“I’ll take 2-under all day, every day,” he said. “I’ll never get tired of it.”
Craig, the 60-year-old veteran and 1982 Masters champion who shot 10-over 82, said he is taking some solace knowing he no longer has to struggle on the course each spring now that he and his son both made the field.
“Probably this is it if I keep playing like this,” said the elder Stadler, whose 6-over on the front nine included three-putts on Nos. 2 and 5. “I’ve embarrassed myself five years in a row, and it felt like it today.”
Craig was pleased to hear Kevin avoided his struggles and said he thought his son’s game fit well with Augusta National’s demands.
“When I played with him on Tuesday, he was driving it really good,” Craig Stadler said. “He’s evolved into a wonderful iron player. And he hits it high. He does what you need to do around here. It’s kind of just a matter of how friendly his putter is day and day out.”
Kevin’s putter was amicable enough Thursday. His two bogeys came on the par-3 sixth hole and par-4 11th, and he never needed more than two putts, making birdies on Nos. 5, 7, 12 and 13.
“The greens were holding just enough and were very quick,” Kevin said. “And to think (there was) a few inches of rain a couple days ago is kind of scary. It’s going to get tough over the weekend.”
If he wants to find out firsthand how tough the weekend conditions get, he’ll have to do so without much advice from his father. He said they have shared few conversations about the course this week.
“I think he was really wanting me to really find my own way around here and, I suppose, he was not wanting me to over-think everything out here by not telling me where and where not to go, just letting me feel my own way around,” Kevin said. “He really stressed the fact that you don’t know the spots you don’t want to be until you hit there, and that’s just something that comes with a lot of experience around here.”
A dramatic shift will be needed if Craig hopes to be playing Saturday rather than possibly just watching his son, but he said he enjoys being outside of Augusta National’s ropes more and more each year.
“It’s a lot more fun than being inside in this place, for me anyway,” Craig said. “I don’t mind. I don’t mind at all.”
In fact, the only thing that may bring him back into the field after this year is a guaranteed pairing with his son, something he said was unlikely but probably the only way he’ll play the tournament again.
“If they call the week before and say we want to pair you guys together, absolutely,” Craig said. “But even with him or anybody else, I don’t enjoy going out there and shooting 80s and 82s.”
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