Rahm, Hovland, Koepka Share First-Round Lead in 87th Masters at 65

Third-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain stumbled out of the gate and then broke into a full sprint.

Rahm (pictured) made a double-bogey 6 on the first hole, but then shot seven-under par 65 to tie Viktor Hovland of Norway and Brooks Koepka for the lead after the first round of the 87th Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

“If you’re going to make a double bogey, it might as well be on the first hole, so you have 71 to recover,” Rahm joked of his four-putt on the opening hole. “Walking to the second tee, I remembered Seve’s (Ballesteros) quote when he was asked how can you four-putt when you’re so good and he said: ‘I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.’

“I’m mostly super happy with what I’ve done today, right. I didn’t expect to hit a great three wood, a good second shot and four-putt the first hole, but to overcome that and shoot nine-under-par on the next 17 holes was something to be proud of. Hopefully, I can just keep it going.

“Obviously, there’s a long way to go.”

Rahm, whose only major title came in the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines South in La Jolla and has a Masters best of solo fourth in 2018, followed his rough start with birdies on the next two holes among the seven he collected in his round, and also made a four-foot eagle putt on the eighth hole.

The ninth-ranked Hovland, who has won seven times as a pro but is seeking his first title in the majors, sank a 15-foot eagle putt on the second hole and added five birdies in his bogey-free round.

“I don’t care how good you hit it out here, you have to chip the ball,” said Hovland, whose only top-10 finish in a major was a tie for fourth in the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews last year. “You have to have a short game, especially on that back nine, where I hit a lot of bad shots. To be honest, I managed to keep myself in it by hitting some really nice chips and making some really nice putts.

“Obviously the greens are receptive, but this place is always — if you get a little too cocky and you want to push a few spots that you probably shouldn’t, it will punish you very quickly. You know a good score is out there, but you can’t really force it. You’ve just got to let it happen, and if you have some makeable putts, you’ve got to make them and then you can get into a rhythm.

“It  could have been really low, but I’ll take it.”

Koepka, one of 18 players in the field who have jumped from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf, made fourth birdies on each nine and had his only bogey at No. 13.

The four-time major champion has never won the Masters, with his best result a tie for second in 2019, when he closed with a 70 and wound up one stroke behind five-time winner Tiger Woods in a three-way tie for second.

“I got off to a good start today,” said Koepka, who has won twice in the LIV Golf League, including last week in the LIV Golf Orlando tournament. “Any time you’re two-under-par through three holes, it’s a good start. So it felt good. I just kind of just piggybacked off that momentum and am very happy with the way I played.

“It could have been really low but I’ll take it because 65s pretty good. I don’t really think about it too. It’s just a major. It’s Augusta National. So, you know, it’s the Masters. You’d better show up. I kind of just count out the last two years because I was not feeling good (because of a knee injury). But yeah, if you win, you’re fine.

“I loved to finish with two birdies like that and kind of hopefully I can ride that into tomorrow. I just get myself in contention with nine holes to go on Sunday. That’s the whole goal.”

Jason Day of Australia, the 2015 PGA champion, posted a bogey-free 67 and is two strokes back in a tie for third with Cameron Young, the 2021-22 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, who birdied the first three holes and added four more birdies on the back nine.

Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, the defending Masters champion, sank a three-foot eagle putt on the second hole and added three birdies to lead a big tie for sixth at 68 along with seventh-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, who had six birdies; amateur Sam Bennett, who chipped in for an eagle at No. 2 and added two birdies in a bogey-free round; Shane Lowry of Ireland, who birdied the last three holes of the front nine; 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia, who had three birdies and an eagle at No. 15; 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, who made six birdies, and Sam Burns, who had four birdies and an eagle at No. 2.

Sixth-ranked Cameron Smith of Australia birdied the last hole for a 70 and is in a tie for 17th that includes 10th-ranked Justin Thomas, who made two birdies on each nine, while fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA birdied the last hole for a 71 and is in a tie for 26th that includes fifth-ranked Max Homa, who eagled No. 15 and closed with a birdie.

Second-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who needs to win the Masters to complete the Career Grand Slam, made two late birdies in a 72 and is tied for 37th, and five-time Masters champion Woods struggled to a 74 and is tied for 54th.

Seventh-ranked Will Zalatoris withdrew before the start because of an injury and Kevin Na of Diamond Bar pulled out because of an illness.

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