The Masters: DeChambeau seizes command with rock-solid 65 as rivals speak haltingly

The 2020 US Open winner played positive golf at Augusta to grab a three-stroke lead over 2016 Masters winner Danny Willett from England

By AFP

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ryson DeChambeau of the United States plays his shot from the fourth tee during the first round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday. - AFP
ryson DeChambeau of the United States plays his shot from the fourth tee during the first round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday. - AFP

Published: Fri 12 Apr 2024, 1:57 AM

Bryson DeChambeau reeled off five birdies in six holes on the back nine to seize command of the 88th Masters on Thursday while top-ranked Scottie Scheffler and world number two Rory McIlroy struggled in pursuit.

DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open winner, fired a seven-under-par 65 to grab a three-stroke lead over England's Danny Willett, the 2016 Masters winner who birdied three of the last four holes to stand second on 68.


DeChambeau birdied the first three holes, stumbled with a bogey to close the front nine, then began his birdie binge at the tricky par-3 12th to take charge.

"I felt like I placed the golf ball in the right places," DeChambeau said. "For the most part I drove it well, hit it well, hit my irons well and took advantage when the opportunities presented themselves."


DeChambeau, among 13 players from Saudi-backed LIV Golf in the Masters field, sank a 17-foot birdie putt at 12 and a 10-footer to birdie the par-5 13th.

The 30-year-old American grabbed the lead after missing a 40-foot eagle putt by inches at the par-5 15th and tapping in for birdie, then added a six-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th and an epic 31-foot birdie putt at 17.

Danny Willett of England lines up a putt on the second green during the first round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta . - AFP
Danny Willett of England lines up a putt on the second green during the first round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta . - AFP

"I wasn't expecting to make that," DeChambeau said. "But when it dropped it was pretty nice."

A closing par made his low Masters round the lowest major round in relation to par of his career.

Willett, who only decided to play Sunday due to a shoulder injury, made a bogey at 14 but birdied 15, 16 and 18 to stay in the fight.

"For the most part kept the ball under really good control and kept it in the areas we know we can score from," Willett said.

"Nice to come in having shot a decent score and just give yourself that little bit of confidence inside."

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy hits his approach on the 1st hole during the first round. - Reuters
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy hits his approach on the 1st hole during the first round. - Reuters

England's Matthew Fitzpatrick, the 2022 US Open champion, was 4-under after 13 holes while New Zealand's Ryan Fox was third in the clubhouse on 69.

Fox birdied the first three holes on putts from six feet or less and eagled the par-5 eighth on a 23-foot putt after reaching the green in two, but was undone by a bogey at 13 after plunking his approach into Rae's Creek and another at the 16th.

Rain showers delayed the start by two and one-half hours at Augusta National while swirling winds kept tree limbs dancing across the famed 7,555-yard layout.

Late starters in the field of 89, including 15-time major winner Tiger Woods, were not going to finish the opening round before sunset.

Woods, returning to major golf after right ankle surgery last April but still struggling to walk 72 holes, will try to make the Masters cut for a record 24th consecutive time to break to mark he shares with Player and Fred Couples.

Five-time Masters winner Woods sank an eight-foot birdie putt on the opening hole.

Scheffler, the 2022 Masters winner trying to match Woods as the only players to win the event twice while ranked world number one, was on 3-under through 12 after a nine-foot birdie putt at the par-5 second, an 18-foot birdie putt at the par-3 sixth and a holed 30-foot bunker shot at the 12th.

McIlroy, who would complete a career grand slam by winning the green jacket, was 1-under through 12 holes.

McIlroy, who last won a major in 2014, missed a 10-foot birdie putt at the first hole and hooked his tee shot into the woods at the par-5 second on the way to a bogey.

The four-time major winner answered with a six-foot birdie putt at the third only to find a bunker and make bogey at the par-3 fourth before rallying with birdies at eight and 12.

Defending champion Jon Rahm could become only the fourth player to capture back-to-back Masters triumphs after Woods, Nicklaus and Nick Faldo.

The Spaniard, who jumped from the PGA Tour to LIV last December, birdied seven and eight before a bogey at 10 dropped him to 1-under.

Leaderboard - Top three

-7 Bryson DeChambeau (65)

-4 Danny Willett (68), Will Zalatoris (15), Scottie Scheffler (13)

-3 Ryan Fox (69), Matt Fitzpatrick (14)


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