AUGUSTA, Ga. — The first day of the 2019 Masters couldn’t have been prettier. The rain and lightning of earlier in the week gave way to sunshine and gentle breezes, and the players responded with some sharp Thursday play.
The last 13 Masters champions were in the top 10 after the first day, so starting strong is a strong predictor of future success. Let’s run down the best of Day 1:
Brooks Koepka shuts up critics: The two-time defending U.S. Open champ took some heat this week for his massive weight loss (which is attributed to him wanting to be fit for a photoshoot). His response? A 6-under 66 to grab a share of the first-round lead.
Who’s in the top 10? Just about everyone who teed off in the afternoon, when the course seemed to relent. When Tiger Woods ended his round, he was one shot off the lead. By the end of the day, he stands 4 back. Here’s the top 10: Bryson DeChambeau (-6), Brooks Koepka (-6), Phil Mickelson (-5), Ian Poulter (-4), Dustin Johnson (-4), Justin Harding (-3), Adam Scott (-3), Jon Rahm (-3), Kevin Kisner (-3) and Kiradech Aphibarnrat (-3).
Tiger Woods steps up: Over the course of four shots, Woods went from deep in the pack to the top of the leaderboard, birdieing 13, finding his way into and out of the pines on 14, and then birdieing that one, too. He gave one back on the 17th, missing a short birdie, but he finished his round at -2, one stroke off the clubhouse lead, carding a 70 to close out the day. For historical perspective, Woods scored 70, 70, 70 and 74 in his Thursday rounds in the four Masters where he emerged victorious.
Rory McIlroy falters late: You know the book on McIlroy: needs only the Masters to get a full sweep of major victories, but can’t get over at Augusta despite every opportunity to do so. He ended the day with five bogeys against four birdies, with two of the over-par holes coming in the last two of the day, to end the afternoon at +1. Not an ideal way to start one of his best opportunities to win the tournament at last.
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