We look back on a hot and humid first round at the 2023 Masters where three players currently top the leaderboard
It was a hot and humid day on the Augusta National fairways as the 87th edition of the Masters got underway. At one point Tiger Woods looked like he may need a change of shirt as the sweat dripped down his face as he went on to shoot a first round 72 and start in a tie for 54th on two-over-par.
Although it was hot, scoring conditions were good and many took advantage with nearly half the field shooting even par or better.
Three players sit atop the leaderboard with Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka all at seven-under-par. Cameron Young and Jason Day sit one further shot back, whilst a group of seven players are at four-under-par, including defending champion Scottie Scheffler.
Hovland, Rahm and Koepka - top the Masters leaderbaord
The round of the day has to go to Viktor Hovland, who not only shot his first sub-70 round at Augusta, but it was also bogey free.
Playing his round with Tiger Woods, the Norwegian got up and down five times and credited his chipping as one of the most important parts of tackling Augusta:
"I don't care how good you hit it out here, you have to chip the ball. You have to have a short game, especially on that back nine when I hit a lot of bad shots. To be honest, I managed to keep myself in it by hitting some really nice chips and making some really nice putts.
Recovery of the day has to go to Jon Rahm, after a shocking four putt for double bogey on the first, it seemed he would have an uphill battle but with his incredible mindset, he followed with two birdies and played the rest of the course in nine-under-par!
On his round, the Spaniard said:
"If you're going to make a double bogey it might as well be on the first hole, so you have 71 to recover. Walking to the second tee I remembered Seve's quote when he was asked how can you four-putt when you're so good and he said 'I miss, I miss, I miss, I make'.
"I'm mostly super happy with what I've done today. I didn't expect to hit a great three wood, a good second shot and four-putt the first hole, but to overcome that and shoot nine under on the next 17 holes was something to be proud of. Hopefully, I can just keep it going."
Brooks Koepka has a point to prove, but more to himself than to those against his move to LIV golf. After a shattered knee cap and torn ligaments in 2021, he has had a long road to recovery and he credits the reduced LIV schedule to helping him:
“I don't think I've rediscovered anything. I just think I'm healthy, so I can move the way I want to. If your body won't allow you to do the things you want to do, it's frustrating and all of a sudden you create a lot of bad habits and then try to work out of the unhealthiness, takes a while, and then all of a sudden you have to get out of those bad habits. When you break free, it's kind of nice.”
“I don't really think about it. It's just a major. It's Augusta National. So, you know, it's the Masters. You'd better show up. I kind of just count out the last two years, not feeling good. But yeah, if you win, you're fine.”
Rules are made to be broken?
Maybe it would be good to celebrate Koepka finding form at just the right time. But his seven-under-par round is going to have to come second to the potential rules infraction that took place on the 15.
It appears that Ricky Elliott, Koepka's caddie, tells Gary Woodland’s caddie “five,” as in 5-iron, for the club that Koepka just played.
Communicating which club a player used on any shot would constitute giving advice and would be a rules violation. The rule states that during a competition round a player may not give advice to anyone who is playing the course, and a player’s caddie is an extension of them. In this case Koepka could get a two-shot penalty.
This was reviewed and the players were spoken to and no rules violation was deemed to have taken place. But the evidence says differently and trial by Twitter will continue to rumble on.
Also, in the rules and Twitter fallout was Collin Morikawa, who is tied 13th at three-under-par. This time though, he was deemed to have definitely played by the rules when his ball moved on the green...
One final story from the Masters first round was the withdrawal of Kevin Na after nine holes. He had been out in the first group with Mike Weir. Withdrawing with an undisclosed illness at this stage.
Another withdrawal was Will Zalatoris, which some had picked to play well this week. He did not even start his round, and it is believed this is due to an injury.
With inclement weather forecast for Friday, tee times for the second round have been moved 30 minutes earlier with the first group scheduled to tee off at 7:30am (EST).
The players who have made an early move, may find this an advantage, with Hovland stating this after his round:
"If you start with a really low round and it gets very difficult, it's kind of easier to protect the score a little bit compared to if you're five, six, seven shots back. It's really difficult to make up that much ground if this place is playing very difficult, so obviously getting off to a nice start is key this week."
View the full Masters leaderboard here.