MASTERS OFF TO ROAR­ING START

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka shoot 6-un­der 66 to share lead af­ter a siz­zling open­ing round at Au­gusta.

AU­GUSTA, GA.

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.”

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