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It was the comment that landed him in hot water with Masters fans and aged terribly, but – 13 rounds later – Bryson DeChambeau finally shot below his interpretation of par at Augusta National.

Nearly three-and-half years after his infamous “par 67” remarks, the American LIV Golf star tore around the fabled course with an opening seven-under 65 to race into a one-shot lead at the 88th edition of the major.

Storms had delayed the start of the first round by two-and-a-half-hours, but the 30-year-old wasted little time finding his rhythm despite windy conditions, tearing out of the blocks with three birdies before powering home with five more across the final six holes.

It marks big-hitting DeChambeau’s best round at Augusta since he controversially claimed that he viewed the course as a “par 67” – five strokes below its official scorecard number – as he could “reach all the par-fives in two, no problem.”

The November 2020 comments had come just two months after the renowned long driver had boomed his way to a six-shot victory at the US Open to clinch his first major title but have served to haunt DeChambeau ever since.

He finished tied-46th on his next outing at the major and missed the cut at the subsequent two tournaments, shooting below two-over 74 just once – a second round 67 in 2021.

Now, the golfer once dubbed “the Scientist” for his willingness to test new technologies is owning up to old errors. Though insisting the comment had been misinterpreted, DeChambeau admitted they were a “mistake.”

“I have a level of respect for this golf course that’s a little bit different than a couple years ago,” he told reporters. “Clearly today was a great test of golf, and I was able to conquer a very difficult golf course today.

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

DeChambeau has built a reputation for his thunderous drives.

Asked whether his blistering opening round proved that there was some truth in his former remarks, a smiling DeChambeau questioned whether the reporter was attempting to “pigeonhole” him into doubling down on his contentious assessment.

“Look, I’m going to go out and try to shoot the best score I possibly can,” he continued. “Sure, if you want to line the math up that way, that is a perspective you can take. It was a perspective I had, and it cost me a lot of slack, I guess you could say. It definitely hurt some things.

“But look, I’ll say this again. I shot 65 today, and that was one of the best rounds of golf I’ve played in a long time. 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.”

Ahead of the tournament, three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo had questioned Jon Rahm’s chances of defending the green jacket due to the relative lack of events on LIV Golf – whose 2024 season is comprised of 14 events played across 54 holes – compared to the PGA Tour.

Faldo told the Sky Sports Golf podcast that the Spaniard had “been playing resort courses in shorts for the past couple of months and hasn’t really been tested yet”, but DeChambeau – who joined the Saudi-backed tour in 2022 – has no concerns over his sharpness.

“That sort of schedule … has provided me good, ample time to get ready for tournaments like this,” said DeChambeau, chasing his second major title.

“It would be fine either way. I’m not going to side one way or the other. It is what is it. I just made good use of the time that I’ve been allocated on LIV to work on my golf swing, work on the equipment that I have, and getting to a place where I’m super comfortable going into the week.”

MAMARONECK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 20: Bryson DeChambeau of the United States celebrates with the championship trophy after winning the 120th U.S. Open Championship on September 20, 2020 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Bryson DeChambeau’s unique approach to the game of golf

Scottie Scheffler lived up to his billing as the tournament favorite with an ominously strong start, shooting a bogey-free 66 to keep within touching distance of his leading compatriot.

The world No.1 arrived at Augusta in scintillating form as he looks to add to his first and only major title he won at Augusta in 2022. The 27-year-old became the first player to ever defend The Players Championship last month, just one week after he had cruised to a dominant victory at The Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Scheffler looks primed to make yet another run at silverware.

Denmark’s Nicolai Højgaard could well overtake both Americans before his second round begins, having sat at five-under par before darkness suspended play with three of his holes left play at 7:51 p.m. ET.

He is one of several players who will finish their first rounds from 7:50 a.m. ET Friday, including Tiger Woods. The five-time champion opened with a birdie and was one-under through 13 holes, a strong start to the 48-year-old’s bid to set a new record for 26 consecutives cuts made at The Masters.

“The wind was all over the place. It was one of the most tricky days that I’ve ever been a part of,” Woods said.

“It was hard to get a beat not only on what direction it was going, but the intensity, and it kept switching all over the place … the timing was affecting putts on the greens. It was a very difficult day.”

Woods made a solid start to his first round.

Defending champion Rahm opened with a one-over 73, as McIlroy made a solid start to his latest pursuit of the career grand slam, shooting 71.

In his 16th start at Augusta National, the Northern Irishman is a green jacket away from joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Woods as the only players to win all four majors in the modern era.

Paired with Scheffler and world No.5 Xander Schauffele, who shot 72, the 34-year-old was pleased with his start.

“If you look at Scottie compared to the rest of the field, the amount of bogey-free rounds he plays and he shoots is phenomenal,” McIlroy, who won his fourth and most recent major in 2014, said.

“That’s the secret to winning major championships and winning big-time golf tournaments: more limiting the mistakes rather than making a ton of birdies.

“I made three bogeys today, which is fine out there in these conditions, but just need to tidy it up a little bit to try to keep up with him.”

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