Greg Norman may have the last laugh. Given the trauma caused by the Augusta National to the Australian during his playing days, he would surely be an almighty roar.
Norman’s position front and center in LIV’s disruptive model means that a depiction of him as persona non grata at the Masters feels like the understatement of the year. The means for the former world number 1 to get even instead of getting angry is in the hands of LIV converts. Get into brooks koepkawho birdied three of his last four holes to join the party of day one leaders at seven under par.
They’d never admit it, but the Green Jackets would be awkward if the LIV brigade’s charge resulted in Masters’ glory. Others, who have been forced into the golf civil war, will inevitably find the scene quite amusing.
Koepka’s credentials will be well known to the rest of the field. This marks the 14th time the Floridian has led or co-leads at the end of a major round since 2017. He came to Georgia with one point to prove: that the jump to LIV hasn’t rendered him competitive irrelevance.
“Everyone on my team behind the scenes says they can see from the moment we land at a major, I kind of go quiet,” Koepka said. “I’m not talking. I’m very focused, disciplined, driven.
“There are really only a couple of things that matter to me; we’re going to exercise and we’re going to play golf, and that’s it when we’re here. Nothing else really matters. It’s a total focus on this and trying to walk out of here in a Green Jacket.”
The cordite puff was provided by a rules committee which verified allegations that Koepka’s caddy, Ricky Elliott, provided club information to a colleague on the 15th. The spikes quickly cleared Elliott of any wrongdoing. “All involved insisted that no advice was given or sought,” a statement said.
Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland had made their own 65 before Koepka putt from 8 feet on 18 to make it a three-way tie. Rahm’s day was notable because he started with a four putt for a double bogey of six. This is becoming a topic: Scottie Scheffler needed four putter strokes on the 72nd hole a year ago, when luckily victory was already secured. “If you’re going to double or four putt, it might as well be the first hole,” Rahm said. “Seventy-one holes to make up for it.”
Hovland had never shot below 70 at Augusta. The front half of him was completed in just 31 shots, which should be commendable given the Norwegian had tiger forest to play together. Woods limped in to a 74, which did nothing to dispel the idea that customers were looking at a final chapter.
The European flavor in the upper echelons of the scoring was maintained by Shane Lowry, who shot 68. Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Gary Woodland and Adam Scott matched Lowry’s tally. Cameron Young’s round of 67 raised the prospect of a first major tour win in one of the grandest settings of all. Young, who was runner-up at the Open last July, is a man for big occasions. Jason Day’s resurgence continued with a score identical to Young’s.
Sergio Garcia had reason to be disappointed with a 74, having been two under the turn. Garcia’s concern, instead, focused on the press, who he feels is stirring up trouble between his fellow LIV rebels and those loyal to the traditional golf ecosystem. “You must stop him,” Garcia insisted. “You guys are making a big deal out of this. I’ve had nothing but great things from every player I talk to. So please stop and talk about the Masters.” Milk saucer for the 2017 champion, who presumably thinks Norman’s legal battles and ostracism are figments of media imagination. Bryson DeChambeau, remember him? – Signed for a 74. DeChambeau can cite injury as the cause, but his slide into oblivion has been pretty big.
Fred Couples, 63, opened with a marvelous 71. “For all the top players here, I thought today was pretty easy,” Couples said. The 1992 champion was right. A mild day provided a great opportunity. Competitors should have enjoyed this while it lasted, with low temperatures, gusts and rain included in the forecast for the remainder of the tournament.
Kevin Na withdrew after nine holes due to illness. The injured Will Zalatoris didn’t even make it to the first tee. Northern Irish amateur Matt McClean led the Masters when two under after four. Reality duly struck; McClean closed at plus five.
Sandy Lyle and Larry Mize, both playing the Masters for the last time, signed for 81 and 79 respectively. Lyle snapped a club in half as he was playing his second shot on the first. “And he wasn’t even on my knee,” the Scotsman said with a smile. He is the first one that I break here. It took me 40 years to do it, but it happened.” Koepka could break the internet. Eighteen down, 54 to go.