AUGUSTA, Ga. — On his way to the second tee Thursday at the Masters, Jon Rahm thought of the famous quote from his Spanish idol, Seve Ballesteros, who once four-putted at Augusta and said, “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.”
“If you’re going to make a double or four-putt, it might as well be the first hole — 71 holes to make it up,” Rahm said.
That he did.
Rahm overcame a four-putt double bogey on the opening hole with a sublime display of shot-making, following with seven birdies and an eagle to finish at 7-under 65. He joins Viktor Hovland and Brooks Koepka atop a leaderboard filled with red numbers and the ominous “weather warning” signs that figure to play a big role this week at the Masters.
Rahm’s 65 was the lowest score in Masters history by anyone who started with a double bogey.
“It’s still a long way to go. I’m mostly super happy with what I’ve done,” Rahm said. “I’m really happy I started the way I did and gave myself a solid start to the week.”
The forecast has been talked about almost as much as how 18 players from Saudi-backed LIV Golf would perform amid the high-stakes pressure of a major over 72 holes with a cut.
Hovland was among the early starters and played bogey-free, the highlight being a 25-foot eagle putt on the second hole and being 7 under through 13 holes until he cooled at the end. The Norwegian star also stood out for other reasons. The azaleas are starting to lose their color from an early bloom. Hovland made up for it with his shirt.
“It’s definitely a little bit out there,” Hovland said. “But I think I’d rather take these than the pink pants I had last year. So we’re making progress.”
Koepka had two birdies in his opening three holes and never really slowed, finishing with back-to-back birdies to finish his 65. He is coming off a victory Sunday in LIV Golf, making him the first multiple winner in the fledgling circuit.
Defending champion Scottie Scheffler, trying to become only the fourth player to win back-to-back, was in the group at 68 that included major champions Shane Lowry, Adam Scott and Gary Woodland, along with Xander Schauffele and U.S. Amateur champion Sam Bennett.
Missing from the red numbers was Tiger Woods, who has never missed the cut as a pro in the Masters and will have some work to do if he wants to keep that streak alive. He made only one birdie over 14 holes, but had a late spark until finishing with a bogey for a 74.
Rory McIlroy, needing a Masters green jacket to complete the career Grand Slam, took a double bogey from the trees on the par-4 seventh and had three more bogeys to offset his good play. He wound up with a 72, already 7 shots behind a world-class leaderboard.
Rahm only a month ago was playing so well he looked unstoppable — three wins on the PGA Tour over his first five starts, all against strong fields. And then he dropped from No. 1 to No. 3 in no time as Scheffler and McIlroy surged.
Consider his opening round — even the four-putt double bogey — to be a reminder that his game is sharp and his passion is burning hot to be the next Spaniard to win the Masters.
That he could recall a funny line from Ballesteros so soon after a crushing start was a good sign. He thought his putting stroke was good on all of them. So he moved on. Rahm hit every fairway and missed only one green.
He hammered a 4-iron from 249 yards on the par-5 eighth that caught the ridge side of the green and fed down to 4 feet for eagle. He birdied four of his last six holes, finishing with an 8-iron to 3 feet on the 18th.
“The one on 18 takes the cake,” Rahm said. “The one on 18 was just perfect drive, great second shot and tap-in for birdie. You don’t usually get a walk-off birdie over here, and those two swings were about as good as they could feel.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.