MASTERS OFF TO ROARING START
Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka shoot 6-under 66 to share lead after a sizzling opening round at Augusta.
Bryson DeChambeau believes science was at work late during 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 20-foot putt birdie from behind the 12th green, the first of four straight birdies 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 8-iron on the par-3 16th grazed the edge of the cup. His 6-iron 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 48-year-old Phil Mickelson, who delivered thrills of his own.
Mickelson found some momentum after shots in the pine trees at No. 10 and in the water on No. 11, both leading to bogey when he thought it could have been worse. He answered with three birdies during the next four holes, including a shot into the 16th that stopped inches from the cup .
He had a 67, his best start since 2010, when he won his third green jacket.
“It looked like, after bogeying 10 and 11, that would kill some momentum. It was the other way around, because I made two great bogeys that should have and could have been doubles,” Mickelson said. “And then when I got to the holes that I could birdie, I took advantage of it with some good shots.”
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, and he was atop the leader board 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.”
Even more surprising to McIlroy was no one from the early starters took advantage of soft turf.
“It’s there for the taking, and I’m surprised someone hasn’t run off,” McIlroy said.
And that’s right about when Koepka and DeChambeau took off.
“Honestly, I was hitting it great all day,” DeChambeau said. “Just an accumulation of great golf that finally showed in the score.”
He two-putted for birdie on the par-5 15th. He narrowly missed his first hole-in-one 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. “I guess I should have pulled the flagstick.”