The Dallas Morning News

SMUEX feeds off energy on back nine.

Run of four birdies puts Dechambeau into tie for lead with Koepka

- By DOUG FERGUSON

AUGUSTA, Ga. — SMU product Bryson Dechambeau believes science was at work late in the afternoon at Augusta National, creating a force in the atmosphere where big roars from great shots filter through the back nine.

An easier descriptio­n: another exciting finish at the Masters, this time on a Thursday.

Brooks Koepka got it started, adding to his reputation of playing his best golf in the majors. He rolled in a 20foot putt birdie, his fourth straight, from behind the 12th green to take the lead. Dechambeau answered with four straight birdies at the end of his round, with two shots inches away from being even better.

His 8iron on the par3 16th grazed the edge of the cup. His 6iron into the 18th was even better, so good that it rolled smack into the middle of the pin and bounced back an inch or two.

Both wound up in a share of the lead at 6under 66.

“Absolutely, there is an energy and there is something in science that does talk about that,” said Dechambeau, who has a scientific answer for everything. “It’s great to have momentum and great atmosphere and gets you all pumped up, creates adrenaline flow. … I believe that’s partially what happened today.”

They were one shot ahead of 48yearold Phil Mickelson.

Tiger Woods missed all the action. He played earlier in the round and methodical­ly scored a solid 70. It was a good start for Woods in his quest to end 11 years without a major victory, and he was atop the leaderboar­d briefly until a late bogey. He sounded satisfied.

“I’ve shot this number and won four coats, so hopefully, I can do it again,” said Woods, who slightly miscalcula­ted. The last green jacket he won in 2005 began with a 74. The goal was to not fall too far behind early, and he is just four shots behind.

Rory Mcilroy’s bid for the last leg of the career Grand Slam began with a 73, which featured six bogeys.

“I made five birdies — that wasn’t the problem,” Mcilroy said. “I just made too many mistakes.”

Dechambeau said he was hitting it great all day. He twoputted for birdie on the par5 15th. He narrowly missed his first holeinone in competitio­n. From the woods right of the 17th fairway, he went just over the back of the green and chipped in from 35 feet.

He didn’t see until later how good his shot was into the 18th because he was in light rough short of the fairway bunker, unable to see the green but knowing it was good from the roar of the crowd.

“Oh my gosh,” Dechambeau said when he watched the replay for the first time. “I guess I should have pulled the flagstick.”

He is not the only player to putt with the flagstick in the cup — allowed under the new Rules of Golf — just the only one to apply science to the decision.

Koepka played in the last group of the day, and didn’t have great energy in his group. Jordan Spieth had to rely on his short game to salvage a 75, matching his highest score at Augusta. Paul Casey, coming off a victory three weeks ago in Florida, failed to make a birdie in his round of 81.

Blinders on, Koepka played bogeyfree in his first time at the Masters in two years. He missed last year recovering from a wrist injury that left him wondering if he would ever play again. Then he won a second straight U.S. Open, held off Woods to win the PGA Championsh­ip and has establishe­d himself as a major player.

“I think just an understand­ing of how to play and handle the bigger tournament­s, and understand­ing how to deal with pressure a little bit better,” Koepka said of his recent run of three majors in his last six tries.

He holed out from behind the green at No. 12, picked up birdies on the par 5s and rolled in a bending 20footer in between on the 14th.

“It’s just a great test of golf to start out the first round of Masters,” Dechambeau said. “And to be honest, it’s great to sift through some of the really good players and maybe not so great players in this event right now. And look, it’s not to say they are bad players. It’s just very difficult out there and every aspect of your game has to be on point.”

 ?? Charlie Riedel/the Associated Press ?? Firstround coleader Bryson Dechambeau reacts to a missed putt on the 11th hole. Dechambeau, who played at SMU, finished with four straight birdies.
Charlie Riedel/the Associated Press Firstround coleader Bryson Dechambeau reacts to a missed putt on the 11th hole. Dechambeau, who played at SMU, finished with four straight birdies.

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