Sat, Apr 13, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Koepka, DeChambeau beat crowd on Day 1


Justin Rose shoots from the 18th tee during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday in Augusta, Georgia.

Photo: AFP

Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau on Thursday burst out of the crowd at Augusta National, firing six-under-par 66s to share a one-shot lead over Phil Mickelson after the first round of the Masters.

Hours after 14-time major champion Tiger Woods electrified fans by briefly putting his name atop the leaderboard, Koepka lit up the fabled course with five birdies in six holes to break free atop a crowded leaderboard that at one point saw nine players sharing the lead.

However, DeChambeau had an answer, roaring home with four straight birdies — and six birdies in his last seven holes.

Mickelson, a three-time Masters winner who at 48 could become the oldest major winner ever, kept pace with five birdies in the last seven holes in his five-under 67.

He nearly aced the par-three 16th and a birdie at 18 put Mickelson one shot in front of Ian Poulter and Dustin Johnson, who shared fourth place on 68.

Former champion Adam Scott of Australia, Spain’s Jon Rahm, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, South African Justin Harding and American Kevin Kiser were a shot back on three-under 69, with Woods heading a big group on 70.

Rory McIlroy, seeking a breakthrough Masters that would make him just the sixth player to complete a career Grand Slam, was left regretting six bogeys in a one-over 73.

As he departed the course, the Northern Ireland star expressed surprise that no one was taking advantage of the rain-softened layout.

“It’s there for the taking,” McIlroy said.

Cue Koepka and DeChambeau.

Koepka, winner of a second straight US Open title last year along with the PGA Championship, did not put a foot wrong.

“I don’t want to say you kind of black out, but you’re not really thinking about anything,” he said of his hot stretch.

DeChambeau kept up the pressure.

“What a magical back nine,” said DeChambeau, who had never posted a round in the 60s at Augusta. “Wind started to pick up, right around Amen Corner, and it was tough, but we just stuck to what we knew we should have done.”

Woods said he was pleased with his two-under effort — which matched his first-round score for three of his four Masters triumphs.

He thrilled fans with back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14 to join a big leading group on three-under, but he could not make a further gain.

“I felt like I played well and I did all the things I needed to do today to post a good number,” Woods said.

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