The 2019 Masters is off and rolling with major champions at the top of the leaderboard and four-time Masters champion, Woods shot a 2-under 70, matching his first round score from each of his first three Masters victories. Woods has traditionally won these big tournaments, shooting in the low 70s on Thursday and then hitting the gas on low on Friday and / or Saturday before defending a 54-hole lead on Sunday. The only problem is that, in 2019, the competition is much better than it was in 1997, 2001 or 2002. That first-round 70 has him hanging on with 10 other players just outside the top 10.
The top-10 status is important. 13 Masters winners has come out of the top 10 at the conclusion of the first round. So while tiger's score and his story suggest he's got a chance to win this thing, there's a lot of work going on to the tea on Friday afternoon for his second round.
The story of the afternoon was Brooks Koepka, who answered criticism of his weight loss in dominant fashion as he grabbed a share of the 18-hole lead late Thursday in his first Masters start as a major champion. After a mostly uneventful first nine, Koepka ran five birdies in six holes to start the second nine and grab the tournament by the throat. But he's not alone. Bryson DeChambeau was equally impressive, holding T1 alongside Koepka after four straight birdies to end his opening round with a 6-under 66.
In total, there are 20 players within four strokes of the lead. Thursday did not do much to sort out the top, but it did not stop many players were watching heading into the week. Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth Paul Casey Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia all carded 1-over 73s. It's hard to imagine that you're going to make it to the top of the leader board, it's hard to imagine it.
After the first round of the 2019 Masters.
T1. Brooks Koepka (-6): When Koepka played last in the Masters, he had one PGA Tour win, no majors and was ranked 25th in the world. Koepka himself looks ahead to the 2018 Masters at home as a motivating factor in a renewed commitment to the game. Ever since, there has not been a better major championship player on the planet, and he seems extra motivated by the talk about his weight coming into the week.
T1. Bryson DeChambeau (-6): Absolutely stellar rally from DeChambeau here in his third start. He finished with six birdies over the final seven holes, nearly dunking a hole-in-one on 16 and chipping in from the green.
3. Phil Mickelson (-5): Strong finish from Phil, who had to pull out all the stops over the second nine during his charge. Giving the wave of good scoring in the afternoon and playing in the zone, carding five birdies over the last seven holes, including being one of the few golfer's to get a birdie on the 18th.
T4. Ian Poulter (-4): At the age of 43, Poulter has found something in the last couple of years that keeps him competitive against the best golfers in the world. He rolled in five birdies with just one bogey and currently has his best leaderboard finish at the end of any round at the Masters.
T4. Dustin Johnson (-4): There's nothing to worry about, it just seems like he's falling behind head-to-head with DeChambeau down the stretch.
T6. Jon Rahm (-3): There what a point where it looked like cream what going to lose his cool. After two bogeys in four holes, including a 6 on the par 5 8th and a club toss after an errant drive, Rahm showed mental resiliency in a rally the rest of the way. Birdies on 9, 11 and 13 Put Rahm back in a great headspace, and he finished the round all smiles as the leader among his group that included Woods and Haotong Lee.
T6. Justin Harding, Adam Scott, Kevin Kisner, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (-3): Harding and Scott held the clubhouse's early morning act like they would hold until the birdie festival that dominated the afternoon. Kiz and Aphibarnrat were making a part of that birdie festival, making late afternoon charges on the leaderboard.
T11. Tiger Woods (-2): As Koepka gets the lead out on Thursday, Tiger might have been thinking about two or three short misses on the green during his first nine. His or her best-in-class is the best he has ever done.
T11. Rickie Fowler (-2): It's a solid start for Fowler. He struggled with a couple of tea balls. There's room for improvement, especially on the par-5s, he's still in distance on a day where the trick is tricky for even the game's biggest stars.
T11. Jason Day (-2): On the No. 2 tee, Day needed to be stretched out for a back injury reported while lifting one of his children near the putting green. He responded well to the treatment with a birdie on 2 and then birdies on two more par-5s (No. 8, No. 13) and another on no. 16th
Others at T11. Corey Conners, J.B. Holmes, Lucas Bjerregaard, Gary Woodland Cameron Smith, Patton Kizzire, Francesco Molinari (-2): Molinari heading into Friday.
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