AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRCB) -- Steven Fox did his best to hover around even par for most of his debut round at Augusta National, but his putter provided little help.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior struggled on the greens on the back nine en route to a 4-over 76 Thursday in the first round of the Masters. Marc Leishman and Sergio Garcia are the early leaders at 6-under par after opening rounds of 66.
"I struck the ball the best I have all week and was pretty confident all day, but my putting let me down today," Fox said after the round. "I definitely have to fix that tomorrow if I want to stick around for the weekend."
Fox spent all week wondering what it would feel like to tee off in his Masters debut alongside defending champ Bubba Watson and Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter.
Usually known for his calm demeanor, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion admitted feeling the effects of playing on the biggest stage of his young career.
"I didn't feel any nerves on the practice tee before the round, but once you get up to the first tee besides those guys, (the nerves) came up real quick," Fox said. "I was confident out there and felt good -- after the first two tee shots. Before every shot I would take a deep breath to just calm my nerves down."
Fox bogeyed the par-5 second hole but made the turn at level par following a birdie on the par-5 eighth. It proved to be his only birdie of the day.
The reigning U.S. Amateur champ carded back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 11 and 12 in his first career pass through Amen Corner to drop to +2. He had chances to battle back at Nos. 15 and 16, but missed birdie putts on each.
Fox then closed with two straight bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18 to finish at 4-over for the day.
"Playing out here, you learn where you can miss it and where you can't," he said. "Me and Ben (Rickett), my caddy, we learned from every shot we had. Where can you hit it? When to fire at a flag and when not to? That's the biggest thing out here, playing smart.
Fox managed to hit nine of 18 greens in regulation despite finding just four of 14 fairways off the tee. He was able to avoid a three-putt in his Masters debut, but still averaged 1.72 putts per green.
Fox's big-name playing partners didn't fare much better on a beautiful afternoon at the game's most historic course.
Watson struggled to a 3-over 75, his second-worst career round at Augusta. Poulter also struggled, matching Fox with a 4-over 76.
Fox's score ranks second among the six amateurs in the field, behind only 14-year-old Tianlang Guan's impressive 1-over 73.
Fox's score leaves him tied for 70th after the first 18 holes. The top 50 players and ties, as well as those within ten shots of the leader, after Friday's second round will make the cut.
"I'm ready for tomorrow," Fox said. "My confidence is up and I feel great. I just need to work on my putting and I'll be here for the weekend."
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