Norway’s Viktor Hovland, Spain’s Jon Rahm and American Brooks Koepka shared the first round lead at the Masters on Thursday, taking advantage of easier-than-usual conditions to card seven-under par 65s.
Rain in recent days has softened Augusta National, making the often rapid and challenging greens much more benign, and the trio seized a two-stroke lead over American Cameron Young and Australian Jason Day. Favorite, defending champion and world number one Scottie Scheffler was one of seven players sitting three strokes behind the leaders after shooting 68. But five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods looked more likely to be fighting to avoid the cut than for the title after he shot a two-over par 74 in a round that included five bogeys.
Hovland, who was playing in the same group as Woods and Schauffele, got off to a flying start with an eagle on the par-5 second hole. “My game has been feeling good. But to shoot a 65 bogey-free out here, some things have to go your way… but I also hit a lot of great shots,” Hovland said.
Rahm’s score was even more impressive given that he started with a four-putt double bogey on the first hole. The world number three quickly made amends with successive birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth, where his 249-yard iron shot landed four feet from the pin. “If you’re going to make a double bogey, might as well do it on the first hole of the tournament when you have plenty of holes to make it up,” quipped Rahm.
Koepka, who plays in the breakaway LIV Golf League, made eight birdies with a bogey coming on the newly extended par-5 13th hole. He birdied the final two holes to join Rahm and Hovland atop the leaderboard.
Woods made three bogeys in his opening seven holes but he recovered slightly with a birdie on the par-5 eighth, where he almost chipped in for an eagle. After a bogey on the 11th, Woods again bounced back with birdies on the 15th and 16th before his efforts were a little undone by a bogey on the 18th, where he found himself in sand trouble. “I felt like I drove it good. I just didn’t do the job I need to do to get the ball close. Today was the opportune time to get the round under par, and I didn’t do that,” said Woods.
Scheffler got himself into the groove with an eagle on the second and despite missing some birdie opportunities was well placed for a second-round push. “I did a good job of controlling my emotions today and staying in check, and I didn’t get too frustrated on the greens. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t,” he said.
Also on 68 were Ireland’s Shane Lowry, Americans Xander Schauffele, Sam Burns and Gary Woodland along with Australian Adam Scott. Reigning US Amateur champion Sam Bennett had a memorable round, matching Scheffler’s score with his bogey-free round. World number two Rory McIlroy finished on even-par after an inconsistent round that saw him make five birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey on the par-4 seventh.
SOURCE: AFP NEWS