Brooks Koepka commanded the spotlight for much of his round until Bryson DeChambeau stole it on the final hole of an incredible first day in the 83rd Masters.
DeChambeau (pictured right) hit the flagstick with his approach shot at No. 18 and tapped in from about three inches for his fourth straight birdie and sixth in seven holes to shoot 6-under-par 66, tying Koepka for the lead at Augusta National Golf Club www.augusta.com in Augusta, Ga.
“I guess I should have had my caddie pull the flag,” joked the 25-year-old DeChambeau, from Clovis in California’s San Joaquin Valley. “I wanted to hit it into the middle of the green and it just had to much speed. But I’m excited to finish with a birdie.
“I just had to be patient on the front nine because I was hitting good shots, but just was not being rewarded. I just didn’t make any putts, but then on No. 12 I hit one to within five feet, then knocked it in and that got me started.”
While sixth-ranked DeChambeau is seeking his first major title, fourth-ranked Koepka, 28, has won three of the last six in which he has played, but he was forced to miss the Masters last year because of a left wrist injury.
On Thursday, he played the way he did while winning the last two U.S. Opens and the 2018 PGA Championship, also strung together four straight birdies on the back nine, the last at No. 15.
“Four birdies in a row on the back nine helps,” said Koepka, only two other PGA Tour victories other than his major titles. “I had a great warm-up and then stepped up and piped one down the middle on the first hole. I felt in control. This course is so beautiful and it’s fun to play. You have to give yourself uphill putts and I did that all day.
“I approach these (major) weeks a lot differently. It’s in the preparation. I’m trying to transition that into the rest of my tournaments.”
Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, 48, who can become the oldest major champion in history by winning, five of the last seven holes and is third at 67, while second-ranked Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter of England each had three birdies on the back nine and are tied for fourth at 68.
Eighth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain totaled 69 and is tied for sixth with 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia, Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, Justin Harding of South Africa and Kevin Kisner, who is coming off his victory in the WGC-Del Technologies Match Play.
Four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods opened with a 70 and is in a tie for 11th that includes seventh-ranked Francesco Molinari of Italy and ninth-ranked Rickie Fowler of Murrieta.
Two-time Masters champions Bubba Watson and Bernhard Langer of Germany finished 72 and are in a tie for 29th that includes 2003 Masters champ Mike Weir of Canada and amateur Viktor Hovland of Norway.
Third-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who can complete the Career Grand Slam with a victory, finished at 73 and is in a tie for 44th that includes defending champion Patrick Reed, 1988 Masters winner Sandy Lyle of Scotland, 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia of Spain, fifth-ranked Justin Thomas and 10th-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State.
Top-ranked Justin Rose of England struggled to a 75 and is in a tie for 63rd that includes 2015 Masters champ Jordan Spieth and 2016 Masters winner Danny Willett of England.
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