Hovland, Rahm and Koepka set the early pace – The Masters

Round 1 

Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Brooks Koepka hold a share of the lead after a low-scoring opening round at The Masters, as Rory McIlroy made a slow start to his Grand Slam bid.

Rahm recovered from a four-putt double-bogey on his opening hole to card an eagle and seven birdies in a brilliant seven-under 65 at Augusta National, seeing him join Ryder Cup team-mate Viktor Hovland at the top of the leaderboard.

Hovland made a bogey-free start to his pursuit for a maiden major title, while Koepka made it a three-way tie at the top when he followed victory at LIV Golf’s event in Orlando on Sunday by firing seven birdies in a blemish-free 65.

The trio hold a two-shot cushion over closest challengers Jason Day and Cameron Young, who both posted opening-round 67s, as world No 1 Scottie Scheffler holed out for eagle on his opening hole as he started his title defence with a four-under 68.

Rahm recovered from a poor first hole to take the co-lead.

McIlroy is seven off the pace as he chases an elusive major victory that would make him only the sixth person in history to complete the career Grand Slam and first since Tiger Woods, who admitted he was in “constant” pain as he struggled to a two-over 74.

Hovland, playing alongside Woods, eagled the par-five second and made four birdies in a six-hole stretch from the sixth to charge up the leaderboard. The Norwegian looked set to threaten the course record of 63 when another birdie at the 13th took him seven under, with pars over the last five holes enough for him to set the clubhouse target.

Rahm responded to his nightmare double-bogey by birdieing his next two holes and then followed another at the seventh before making a stunning eagle at the par-five eighth, with the world No 3 taking advantage of both par-fives on the back nine to close on the lead.

The Spaniard picked up a shot at the par-three 16th and fired his approach to close range to set up a closing birdie, taking him to seven under, before Koepka moved alongside the European pair when he cancelled out a bogey at the par-five 13th by birdieing three of his last four holes.

Scheffler’s bid to become the first player since Woods to successfully defend his Masters title leaves him in the group tied-sixth that contains Shane Lowry, former champion Adam Scott and amateur Sam Bennett, with Justin Rose and 2015 champion Jordan Spieth both four off the pace on three under.

Lowry produced his joint best ever round of 68 at Augusta to get right in the mix.

McIlroy saw a birdie at the par-five second cancelled out by a bogey at the next and fluffed a short chip on his way to a double-bogey at the seventh, although responded to birdie the eighth and 10th to get back to level par.

The four-time major champion three-putted from long range to bogey the 11th but carded successive birdies from the 15th to briefly get into red figures, only to bogey the next and find himself tied-37th.

Woods looked rusty as he laboured to a 74 and was comprehensively outscored by playing partners Hovland and Xander Schauffele, with the 15-time major champion having work to do to avoid missing the cut at Augusta National for the first time as a professional.

“I didn’t hit my irons close enough today,” Woods said. “I didn’t give myself very good looks. I need to do a better job of that going forward to hopefully get myself back in this tournament.”

Kevin Na struggled to a front-nine 40 before withdrawing due to illness, leaving 2003 champion Mike Weir to finish his round alone, while Will Zalatoris also withdrew before the start of his round with a back injury.

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