The Latest: Koepka’s birdie binge gives him lead at Masters
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The Latest on the Masters (all times local):
Brooks Koepka has made three straight birdies on the back nine to jump into first place at Augusta National.
Koepka missed the 2018 Masters with a wrist injury, but won the U.S. Open and PGA Championship to emerge as one of the rising young stars on tour. The 28-year-old made the turn at 1-under, but made four birdies over the next five holes to move up the leaderboard in a hurry.
Koepka’s run at least temporarily broke a logjam at the top of the leaderboard that included nine players tied for the lead at 3-under at one point.
Ian Poulter, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson were tied for second at 4-under.
Tiger Woods finished his opening round at the Masters with a 2-under 70, one shot behind the leaders.
The 43-year-old Woods, who is a four-time Masters champion but hasn’t won since 2005, had climbed into a tie for the lead after back-to-back birdies on No. 13 and No. 14. On the second birdie, he made a good read to sink a difficult 25-foot putt .
The leaders at 3-under included Jon Rahm, who played with Woods, South African Justin Harding, 2013 winner Adam Scott and American Patton Kizzire, who came in as No. 97 in the world rankings.
Tiger Woods is close to the top of the leaderboard at 2-under after making a short birdie putt on No. 13. He reached the green in two shots on the 510-yard, par-5 and needed just a 2-foot putt for the birdie.
Justin Harding was tied for the lead at 3-under 69. Jon Rahm, who is in Woods’ group, is also at 3-under through 13 holes.
Woods is one of several players at 2-under, including Bernhard Langer, Ian Poulter and Louis Oosthuizen.
President Donald Trump says the Masters field has “never been so deep” and believes the tournament will be “great.”
Trump says he watched some of the coverage Wednesday night and he named players Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson during an appearance Thursday at the White House.
The president says today’s golfers are younger and stronger. Trump says “they’ve never hit the ball this accurately” and have “never putted better than they do now.”
He says “the whole thing is pretty incredible” and predicted it will be a “great Masters,” before adding: “I hope so.”
Trump is an avid golfer who owns golf clubs named after him in the U.S. and around the world.
Several of the expected contenders are about to begin their first round at the Masters. Justin Thomas, Justin Rose and three-time winner Phil Mickelson are in the 1:49 p.m. group.
Paul Casey, Brooks Koepka and 2015 winner Jordan Spieth are in the final group at 2 p.m.
Justin Harding was leading the tournament Thursday after shooting 4-under through 17 holes. Patton Kizzire was at 3-under through eight holes. Corey Conners, one of the few players to already finish their first round, had a 2-under 70.
Tiger Woods was at 1-under at the turn.
Tiger Woods has had an up-and-down start to his opening round at the Masters. He made a short birdie putt on No. 2, but missed a 7-foot par putt on No. 5 to fall back to even par.
The other players in Woods’ group Thursday are among the early leaders: Haotong Li is at 2-under while Jon Rahm as at 1-under.
Rory McIlroy got into some trouble on his first tee shot after landing right of the fairway in the trees. He eventually made bogey.
McIlroy, who has never finished higher than fourth at the Masters, made it back to even par after making a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 3.
Corey Conners made an eagle on No. 15 to move into the lead at 3-under par.
Justin Harding, Emiliano Grillo and Kevin Tway were at 2-under par atop the early leaderboard in the first round of the Masters.
Takumi Kanaya, an amateur from Japan, was also off to a good start at 1-under. He was tied with Branden Grace, Eddie Pepperell and Henrik Stenson.
Four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods is scheduled to tee off at 11:04 a.m. Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler are right behind him in the 11:15 a.m. group.
Gary Player got the best of Jack Nicklaus off the tee. Nicklaus had the last word in the press room.
The 83rd Masters began with honorary tee shots, a tradition that dates to 1963 at Augusta National. Player, with a new endorsement deal at age 83, drilled his tee shot halfway up the hill on the left side of the fairway. Nicklaus, 79, was next and hit some 30 yards shorter.
They spent the next hour in the interview room. One of the topics was on amateur great and Augusta National co-founder Bobby Jones. Player, who won nine majors, said he felt a player needed to win at least six majors to be considered great.
Nicklaus spoke next on Jones. He said he agreed with everything Player had to say, except that someone needed 10 majors to be considered a great player.
The banter never ends.
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