| AUGUSTA, Georgia
AUGUSTA, Georgia In a field of golfing thoroughbreds, self-described plow horse William McGirt plodded his way up to second place at the U.S. Masters on Thursday after a gusty opening round at Augusta National.
McGirt, in his Masters debut, challenged the myth that experience matters at Augusta as the American journeyman grinded out a three-under 69, four strokes back of leader Charley Hoffman.
"I kind of plod my way around the golf course and take what it gives me," a humble McGirt told reporters. "I'm not the kind of guy that's going to go out and shoot a ton of 62s and 63s, but I'm going to go out and shoot a lot of 68s and 69s, and over the course of the year, I think that's going to do pretty well."
A slow and steady approach proved to be appropriate on a day when punishing winds baffled many of the world's best.
As usual there was nothing spectacular in McGirt's performance, just a workmanlike efficiency in challenging conditions that Fred Couples, playing in his 32nd Masters, described as the most difficult he had ever experienced at Augusta.
"I was not upset to see it blowing," admitted McGirt, who mixed four birdies with a single bogey. "I love it when it plays tough.
"I'm not the kind of person that's going to get in a shootout with anybody. If it's going to be 20, 22 under par, then I'm playing for about 15th.
"I love it when it's tough. And this place, when it plays like it did today, I mean, this can be one of the hardest golf courses you'll ever see."
After years of grinding away on golf's minor leagues and six full years battling on the PGA Tour, McGirt finally made his long awaited breakthrough last year with a playoff victory at the Jack Nicklaus-hosted Memorial tournament, earning a golden ticket to the Masters.
Having waited a lifetime to get into the Masters the 37-year-old is determined to embrace every moment.
He was up early for the ceremonial tee shot and admitted to giving his credit card a workout at the Masters merchandise shop.
"This is a lifelong dream and it's one of those things that when you're going through that, you don't know if this moment will ever happen," said McGirt. "There's been years and years, even since I've been on Tour that I didn't know if this moment would ever happen.
"It's just something that I've dreamed my whole life about playing in this tournament, and I'm going to enjoy it.
"Plain and simple."
(Editing by Andrew Both)