Masters 2023: Rahm, Koepka and Hovland tied for the lead after 1st Round

Former U.S. Open Champion Jon Rahm illustrated his status as one of the favourites for the Masters as he sits in a three-way tie for the lead with Brooks Koepka and Victor Hovland after all three shot 65 in the first round.

World No. 3 Rahm whose best finish at the Masters was a 4th-place finish in 2018, came to Augusta as one of the favourites alongside defending champion and top-ranked Scottie Scheffler and World No. 2 Rory McIlroy. This was after a superb start to the year where he won 3 PGA-Tour Events in 7 weeks during January and February. He started off poorly with a double-bogey 6 at the first before playing the remaining 17 holes in 9-under par including an eagle at the Par-5 8th.

Hovland playing in his 4th Masters Tournament in which he has made the cut all three of his previous appearances, shot a bogey-free 65 in which he made 6 birdies following an eagle at the second by the time he had completed 13. He parred the final five holes including the Par-5 15th which was the only 5 on his scorecard all day. The Norwegian played in the final pairing at the Open, last July alongside McIlroy before shooting a 74 to finish in a tie for fourth will be hoping to use that experience to break through at Augusta.

4-time major champion Koepka who was runner-up to Tiger Woods in 2019, finished with a flourish on Thursday by birding 15, 17 and 18 to make it a three-way tie at the top of the leader-board at the end of play. The former World No. 1 who joined the controversial LIV-Golf Circuit in June and won last week in Orlando is attempting to complete the third leg of the Career Grand Slam after successive victories in both the U.S. Open (2017 and ’18) and the PGA Championship (2018 and ’19).

2015 PGA Champion Jason Day and the Open Championship Runner-Up Cameron Young finished Round 1 as the closest challengers to the three leaders after both men shot 67.

One of the biggest stories on Thursday was the performance of 23-year-old Amateur Sam Bennett. The reigning U.S. Amateur Champion shot a bogey-free 68 in his first career round at the Masters to sit in a tie for 6th at 4-under par. He had a dream start beginning with a birdie at the first and an eagle at the second before birding the sixth hole and made par on every other hole.

Also at 4-under, lurks the defending champion Scheffler, Adam Scott who won this tournament a decade ago, the Olympic Champion Xander Schauffele, the recent winner of the World Match-Play Championship Sam Burns and former major champions Shane Lowry and Gary Woodland. All of whom are poised to make a move throughout the rest of the tournament.

Despite finding the water twice around Amen Corner, Jordan Spieth managed to come in with a score of 69, four shots of the pace alongside 2-time Masters runner-up Justin Rose, 2-time Major Winner Collin Morikawa and Tony Finau.

McIlroy who comes to Augusta trying to complete the Grand-Slam, once again had a slow start. The Northern Irishman shot an even-par 72 to be 7 back after only 18 holes played.

Five-time champion Woods who played alongside Hovland and Schauffele, struggled to a 74 and will face a battle if he wants to make the cut once again at the Masters.

Other notable performances included England’s reigning U.S. Open Champion, Matthew Fitzpatrick who shot an 2-under par 70 which was matched by 2-time PGA Champion Justin Thomas, Fred Couples shot a 71, and Bryson DeChambeau who shot 74.

Scotland’s Sandy Lyle whom in 1988, became the first Briton to win the Masters in his final appearance at the tournament before retirement shot an 81.

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