Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Brooks Koepka atop electric leaderboard at 2023 Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jon Rahm spotted the field two strokes, making a four-putt double bogey at the first hole, but rebounded to shoot 7-under 65 at Augusta National Golf Club and share the opening-round lead at the 87th Masters with Viktor Hovland and Brooks Koepka.

“If you’re going to make a double or four-putt or anything, it might as well be the first hole, 71 holes to make it up,” Rahm said. “After that, it was more, I was focused on the fact that all the strokes were good. The reads were good. The roll was good. Obviously the speed was off on the first two putts, so once I kind of accepted that there was nothing really to look into, I just got to work and I had 17 holes to make up.”

As he walked to the second tee, Rahm remembered that former Masters champion Seve Ballesteros, a fellow Spaniard and an idol of Rahm’s, famously had four-putted once at the Masters and delivered a memorable quote.

“I remembered Seve’s quote,” Rahm said. “Just kept thinking to myself, ‘Well, I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.’ Move on to the next. I carried a little bit of that negative energy into the tee shot on 2, hit it about ten yards further than I usually do and moved on with my day.”

Masters 2023 leaderboard: Get the latest news from Augusta

Rahm moved on to the tune of seven birdies and an eagle at the par-5 eighth hole. He hit 17 greens in all and at the one he missed, No. 7, he chipped in for birdie. Rahm tied his lowest round at the Masters in 25 career trips around Augusta National.

After posting a bogey-free 65 on Thursday, Hovland was asked how he would’ve fared if he had opened his tournament with a four-putt double-bogey?

“Is that what Jon Rahm did? That’s pretty impressive – not the 4-putt but the remaining golf after that. I mean, I feel like now that I have worked on my game, and I feel very confident about my game, I’ve done a way better job of not letting the bad shots affect me as much because I think if you’re a little insecure about your game, you start off with a double-bogey, and, ‘Oh, here we go’, and it’s going to be hard to get all those shots back. But if you feel good about your game, you’ve just got to keep pushing, and that’s obviously what Jon Rahm did.”

Hovland, 25, made an eagle at the second hole and “before I knew it, somehow I was 6-under through 11, and yeah, just kind of coast in to 65. So that was awesome.”

A display of skill from leader Viktor Hovland. #themasters

— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 6, 2023

So was being grouped with Tiger Woods for the first time. He found out Tuesday while on the range from his caddie Shay Knight.

“When he said we were paired with Tiger, my heart kind of went a little bit further up in the throat, and I just thought, ‘Wow, this is going to be exciting’. Heart rate started going up. After that, I calmed myself down and thought, this is going to be very exciting. You’ve just got to embrace it. You can’t be scared or anything like that,” Hovland said. “If you want to win this tournament, you can’t be scared about playing with Tiger. So you’ve just got to overcome things like that.”

Hovland hadn’t shot a round in the 60s in his previous 12 rounds at Augusta National.

Koepka, the 32-year-old winner of four majors, missed the cut at his last two Masters. He  also shot the lowest round of the 18 LIV golfers in the field Thursday. After winning last week at the LIV Orlando event, he proved to be in good form, making birdie on his final two holes to tie for the lead and set a career-low at Augusta National with that 65.

“I thought the course was quite gettable today,” said Koepka, who last held the first round lead at a major at the 2019 PGA Championship.

Brooks Koepka rolls in a birdie on No. 17 to move into solo third. #themasters

— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 6, 2023

On a warm, mostly sunny day, the majority of the field agreed with Koepka, taking advantage of the receptive greens to go low.

But not everyone did. Tiger Woods struggled to shoot 2-over 74, as did Bryson DeChambeau. Rory McIlroy, who is trying to complete the career Grand Slam for the ninth time, had gotten off to a slow start, too, and got into red figures but finished with an even-par 72 after a bogey-par finish.

Rain and cold weather are forecasted in the days to come making a good start doubly important.

“I think I might be able to squeak out a few more holes than everybody else before it starts dumping,” Koepka said. “I would say that’s probably the biggest advantage I’ve got going for me right now.”

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