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  • Bryson DeChambeau Sets Early Masters Benchmark With Stunning

Bryson DeChambeau sets early Masters benchmark with stunning 65

Bryson DeChambeau beat his personal par by two shots to set a daunting early target on day one of the 88th Masters.

Almost three and a half years after claiming that Augusta National was a "par 67 for me" due to his prodigious hitting, DeChambeau carded an opening 65 to hold a three-shot lead over 2016 champion Danny Willett.

DeChambeau birdied his first three holes and bounced back from his only dropped shot of the day on the ninth with a back nine of 31, which included birdies on the 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th.

Willett also birdied three of the last four holes to post a superb 68 in his first event since undergoing shoulder surgery in September, the 36-year-old only deciding on Sunday that he was ready to compete in the year's first major.

DeChambeau's par-67 comment came two months after he won the 2020 US Open, but left him open to ridicule after he could only manage a best score of 69 and finished 18 shots behind winner Dustin Johnson, now a fellow LIV Golf player.

"You mess up, I'm not a perfect person," DeChambeau admitted. "You learn from your mistakes and that was definitely one.

"I shot 65 today and that was one of the best rounds I've played in a long time. There's three more days to go and I'm not losing sight of that fact.

"Winning at Winged Foot helped me understand how to win big tournaments but a lot of patience is needed on this course where you think its gettable but can be super tricky.

"I've learned to be a little bit smarter on the course and not go for every flag, but play from the right position. I've made a lot of big numbers out here so taking that off the radar has been leading to some success for me."

Pre-tournament favourite Scottie Scheffler was ominously poised on four under par after 13 holes, with playing partner Rory McIlroy one under alongside defending champion Jon Rahm.

McIlroy needs to win the Masters to complete a career grand slam and was already out on the course when 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus offered his opinion on why he had failed to win a major since the 2014 US PGA.

"I only have one criticism of Rory," Nicklaus told Golf Channel. "You have to concentrate 100 per cent of the time.

"For some reason, Rory always has a little bit of a lapse somewhere around the tournament. He'll find a double bogey or triple bogey that sneaks in there.

"I don't know how he does it or why he does it, but it happens. And I wish that wouldn't happen."

During an earlier press conference with fellow honorary starters Tom Watson and Gary Player, Nicklaus said he believed McIlroy would win the Masters at some point, but pointed out that Watson and Arnold Palmer both missed out on a career grand slam after failing to win the US PGA.

"I mean, is Tom Watson good enough to win the grand slam? Absolutely," Nicklaus said.

"Was Arnold Palmer good enough to win the grand slam? Absolutely. Is Rory McIlroy good enough to win the grand slam? Absolutely. But they have got to do it, and they all know that.

"Do I think Rory will win here? Yeah. He could win this year. He could win next year. He's just too talented not to. But then again, they (Watson and Palmer) were too talented not to win those, too. You just never know."

Play had been delayed for two and a half hours due to bad weather, meaning the first round would not be completed on schedule on Thursday, the last group of Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa and Tommy Fleetwood not teeing off until 16h30 local time.

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