It sounds like the start of a joke. A scientist, fitness guru and old man meet on a golf course.
Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson were on the same Augusta National grounds Thursday afternoon, albeit in different groups, and where they met was at the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the 83rd Masters.
DeChambeau and Koepka are tied at 6-under-par 66, including a 5-under 31 on the back nine, and Mickelson carded a 67. There is a cluster of talent behind them as 43 players shot par or better.
Always the analytical one, DeChambeau, 25, said he spent a 14-hour day last week at his home club of Dallas National to figure out why he was “on the wrong side of the spin loft curve.”
“After careful observation and some deep, deep thinking about what’s happening and some cool depictions of how the club was moving through the ball, we started to realize it was something we could do with the shafts,” he said. “So we went the other way with my previous logic, which I don’t really want to give too much about it out, but we went the other way with the way I was previously thinking, and it actually started to work.”
All the novice needs to know is he had eight birdies, including a kick-in on the 18th hole when his approach shot struck the pin.
“Oh, my gosh,” DeChambeau said as he watched a replay for the first time during an ESPN interview. “I guess I should have pulled the flagstick.”
There was some irony there since DeChambeau is among the most ardent disciples of the new rule that allows players to leave the pin in when putting.
Koepka, 28, who was bogey-free, was fueled by four straight birdies on the back.
He has won three of the past seven major championships — Koepka owns just two other PGA Tour victories — and silenced critics who believed a weight loss had caused his recent slump.
“I lift too many weights, and I’m too big to play golf,” Koepka said. “Then when I lose weight, I’m too small. I’m too big and I’m too small. Listen, I’m going to make me happy. I don’t care what anybody else says.”
Then there is Mickelson, who at 48 years, 9 months would be the oldest major champion ever should he win his fourth Masters championship on Sunday.
Mickelson had a typical Phil round. He birdied all of the par-5s, got into trouble by spraying his drives on 10 and 11, then thrilled the patrons with a 10-foot birdie on the final hole.
The last time Mickelson shot 67 in the first round, he won his third green jacket in 2010.
“It looked like after bogeying 10 and 11, that would kill some momentum,” said Mickelson, whose second shot on 11 found the water. “It was the other way around, because I made two great bogeys that should have and could have been doubles. When I got to the holes that I could birdie, I took advantage of it with some good shots.”
On a day when the average score was 72.9, less than a stroke above par, there was plenty of congestion below the leaders.
Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter are tied for fourth at 68. Five players posted 69s, including 2013 winner Adam Scott.
Then there was a group of 10 at 2 under, led by Tiger Woods, who seemed happierwith his 70 than he would have been with 66.
“I’ve only shot under 70 (in the first round) one time,” said Woods, who opened with 68 in 2010, “but I’ve shot 70 the four times that I have won here.”
(Augusta National, Augusta, Ga.)
Friday: Second round (ESPN, 3-7:30 p.m.)
Saturday: Third round (CBS-6, 3-7 p.m.)
Sunday: Final round (CBS-6, 2-7 p.m.)
Well, not quite. He shot 70 in the first round of his 1997, 2001 and 2002 victories, but he started with a 74 in 2005.
The group that matched or broke par did not include pre-tournament favorite Rory McIlroy, who stumbled to a 73.
“I can accept some mistakes,” McIlroy said, “but six bogeys out there is a little too many. I’m just going to need to tidy that up over the next few days.”
No one can win a 72-hole tournament on the first day, but some may have shot themselves out.
World No. 1 Justin Rose and 2015 champion Jordan Spieth each shot 75. Paul Casey, one of the hottest players entering Augusta, is next-to-last after shooting a 9-over 81 and almost assurently won’t make the cut.
“I can still get to 11 or 12 under,” Rose said. “This golf course offers a Sunday charge, and there’s a 64 out there, if you can hit the right shots at the right time. I’ve just got to give myself the opportunity if I do play a dream round.”
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Published at Fri, 12 Apr 2019 00:55:00 +0000