DeChambeau sizzles from start, leads Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Augusta National Golf Club finally played like a par-67 course for former U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau in Thursday’s opening round of the 88th Masters.

In fact, it played like a par-65 course for the captain of the LIV Golf League’s Crushers GC.

DeChambeau carded a 7-under 65 on Thursday to grab a 3 stroke lead when his weather-delayed opening round ended. Despite Augusta National’s greens remaining firm and fast after rain and playing most of his round in swirling winds, DeChambeau had birdies on each of the first three holes and added five more on the second nine.

England’s Danny Willett, the 2016 Masters champion, was 3 back after carding a 4-under 68. New Zealand’s Ryan Fox posted a 3-under 69.

“I shot 65 today, and that was one of the best rounds of golf I’ve played in a long time,” DeChambeau said. “There’s three more days to go, and I’m not losing sight of that fact — that it’s right there in front of me. Just got to go execute.”

It was redemption for DeChambeau, who had struggled at Augusta National Golf Club since boasting four years ago that one of the most famous courses in the world wasn’t long enough for his game. At the 2020 Masters, DeChambeau famously said his strategy would be to play Augusta National as a par-67 course because he was hitting the ball so far off the tee.

“I’m looking at it as a par-67 for me because I can reach all the par-5s in 2, no problem,” DeChambeau said at the time. “If the conditions stay the way they are, that’s what I feel like par is for me. That’s not me being big-headed. I can hit it as far as I want to.”

The world-famous golf course had since delivered DeChambeau a healthy dose of humility. He tied for 34th at the 2020 Masters, 18 strokes behind winner Dustin Johnson. The next year, DeChambeau tied for 46th at 5 over. He missed the cut in each of the past two tournaments at Augusta National.

“For me, I have a level of respect for this golf course that’s a little bit different than a couple years ago,” DeChambeau said Thursday. “And clearly today was a great test of golf, and I was able to conquer a very difficult golf course.

“Regarding the 67 comment, you know, you mess up. I’m not a perfect person. Everybody messes up. You learn from your mistake, and that was definitely one.”

Slow starts doomed DeChambeau in each of his past three Masters starts — he was a combined 10 over in the first round from 2021-2023. That wasn’t a problem Thursday.

On the par-5, 585-yard second hole, he smashed a 350-yard drive down the middle. He hit his second shot over the green, but chipped to 3 feet and made a short birdie putt. Then DeChambeau nearly drove the green on the par-4, 350-yard third hole and chipped to 5 feet for another birdie.

DeChambeau had drives of 350 yards on No. 8 and 332 yards on No. 9. His only bogey came on the par-4 ninth hole. After hitting his tee shot down the right side, DeChambeau’s second shot was short and landed 70 feet from the hole. He three-putted from there for a bogey.

After making the turn, DeChambeau made birdie putts of 17 feet on No. 12 and 10 feet on No. 13 to move to 4 under. He had a good look at eagle on the par-5 15th, but left it short and settled for birdie.

After making a 6-foot birdie on No. 16, DeChambeau caught a huge break on the par-4 17th. He pulled his tee shot into the pines down the left side, but his ball bounced back into the fairway. He made a 31-footer for birdie to go to 7 under.

“The thing about Bryson — people don’t talk about it — [is] he’s always been one of the best putters in the world,” said former U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland, who played with DeChambeau on Thursday. “When he drives it like he did today. … I mean, he drove it really good and he makes putts. He’s obviously very good.

“It was a clinic. It was impressive. He didn’t get out of position hardly at all, and he rolled it very, very nice.”

Once known as the “Mad Scientist” because of his fascination with data and the intricacies of the golf swing, DeChambeau insists he’s now a more patient golfer who has entered a different phase of his career.

“I’m not trying new things, not doing new things,” DeChambeau said. “I’m just doing more of the same. That’s what’s been different from a couple years ago to now. I’m just doing the same thing every single day, day-in and day-out. I’m not trying something new. I’m not trying to figure something out. And that’s what I feel like has accumulated into playing some really good golf.”

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