Bryson DeChambeau leads Scottie Scheffler by 1 at Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Augusta National Golf Club finally played like a par-67 course for 2020 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. 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.

World No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler was 1 stroke back after carding a 6-under 66.

Play was suspended around 8 p.m. ET Thursday because of darkness with 27 golfers still on the course, including five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods, who was 1 under after 13 holes. The first round will resume on Friday at 7:50 a.m. ET (ESPN). The second round will begin at 8 a.m. ET.

Norway’s Nicolai Højgaard, who is 5 under after 15 holes, and Max Homa, who is 4 under through 13, also are among the players yet to finish the first round.

England’s Danny Willett, the 2016 Masters champion, finished his round and 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.”

Thursday’s round 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 two, 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 to 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 2019 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.”

Scheffler, the 2022 Masters champion, posted a 2-under 34 on the front and then had birdies on four of the last seven holes. He made birdies on three of the four par 3s and three of the four par 5s.

“I wasn’t really thinking too much about my score out there,” Scheffler said. “I mean, it’s the first day of the tournament. Like I said, I was just trying to hit good shots and stay patient out there. You cannot force yourself into making birdies around this golf course. It just doesn’t really lend itself to that, especially with the high winds.

“And so, I mean, I saw that [DeChambeau] shot 7-under, and I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that’s a really good round of golf,’ and I kind of put my head down and focused on what I was doing.”

Scheffler arrived at Augusta National with a boatload of confidence after capturing victories in two of his past three starts — he missed a 5-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole of the Texas Children’s Houston Open and tied for second.

Scheffler’s biggest concern this week is that his wife, Meredith, is pregnant with their first child and her due date is later this month. Scheffler has said he’ll leave for home if she goes into labor.

“As far as her going into labor, I wouldn’t say I’m very concerned,” Scheffler said. “We haven’t seen any of the early signs, but pregnancy is weird. It can happen at any time. Yeah, open lines of communication and she can get a hold of me if she needs to. Yeah, I’m ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

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