The countdown is over. Day 1 of the 2023 Masters is officially, gloriously, upon us, and we’re hoping you’re as excited as we are. There are so many big fat juicy storylines to follow this year—Can Scottie Scheffler defend his title? Is this the year Rory McIlroy finally wins a green jacket and completes the career Grand Slam? How will Tiger Woods perform in his 25th career Masters? Will the LIV golfers hold their own with their PGA Tour rivals? Will the lengthened 13th hole bring back the “momentous decision”?
Yep, like we said, so many big fat juicy storylines.
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Arguably the best part of this year’s Masters is the fact that many of the game’s most high profile players are in good form. Scheffler, McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking, are all reasonable picks to be around the leaderboard come Sunday.
The only blemish as we begin the first round: the weather forecast. Rain is looming, lots of it, as well as colder weekend temperatures that could create issues. But we’re sticking to the sky half clear approach for right now and hoping the Golf Gods talk some sense into Mother Nature and allow things to go off without too much of a mess.
OK … let’s get this thing started.
12:40 p.m.: Viktor Hovland is not messing around. The 25-year-old nips a wedge off a downhill lie from the left side of the fairway at nine to just three feet from the hole. He’ll have that to go out in five-under 31 … and he sinks it. He heads to the 10th tee with a two shot lead over Shane Lowry who’s having a bit of trouble at the 11th.
12:31 p.m.: That’s a new way to play the eighth hole. From the fairway, both Woods and Hovland go high over the trees on the left with a cut, leaving pitches over the mounds that border the front and left side of the green. Needing a circle on the card, Tiger almost holes his pitch and taps in for birdie. Hovland’s birdie wasn’t quite as exciting, but it was a birdie nonetheless, and more importantly, it moves him into the solo lead at four under.
12:08 p.m.: Brutal for Tiger at the seventh. A drive down the left-center of the fairway and an approach that landed some 10 feet right of the flag funnels down into a bowl. Putting up the hill, Woods smashes his birdie try five feet past the hole and his par putt hits the lip and stays out. It’s the second lip-out leading to a bogey in three holes for Woods, who is now desperately in need of a birdie on the par-5 eighth.
11:58 a.m.: Maybe the LIV players aren’t so rusty after all. Sergio Garcia makes the turn in two under and Patrick Reed is one under. You have to go back more than 15 years to find a Masters champ that wasn’t under par after nine holes in the first round so ther’s hope for these two.
11:50 a.m.: Mike Weir finishes with respectable even-par 72 but clearly Weirsy was taking his time. Despite playing the last nine holes as a single it took Weir 3 hours and 50 minutes to finish his round.
11:33 a.m.: Cameron Young is picking up where he left off. Runner-up in the Open Championship in 2022’s last major, Young has gone birdie-birdie-birdie to take the lead at three under par—a far cry from his 77-77 showing at last year’s Masters.
11:31 a.m.: You gotta love Sandy Lyle. The Scotsman has played the role of everyman at times at the Masters, including using a hickory-shafted putter in the past. Noticeable this year is the 1988 champ is using the ball marker attached to his rain glove that he is wearing in the humid conditions and that he wears while putting. Playing in his 42nd and last Masters, amazingly that win in 1988 was his lone top 10 in the event.
11:07 a.m.: Recent history says it doesn’t look good for a Tiger Woods win this year. Woods stands at one over par through three holes. In the last 13 Masters only Scottie Scheffler last year and Sergio Garcia in 2017 weren’t at least one under par through their first three holes.
11:01 a.m.: Oh my. Jon Rahm, the third-ranked player in the world, four-jacks the first green for a double bogey. Not exactly the start one would expect from one of the pre-tournament favorites.
10:52 a.m.: Who the heck is Adrian Meronk? Well, aside from leading the Masters at two under, in his first appearance, Meronk is the first player representing Poland to ever compete in the tournament. Has three top-15 finishes worldwide in 2023, with a T-4 in Ras al Khaimah, T-10 in Abu Dhabi and T-14 at the Honda Classic. So yeah, we all saw this coming. Moments later, Meronk is joined by Viktor Hovland, who eagles No. 2 after a bomb of a tee shot.
10:32 a.m.: Tiger fans can cheer after he makes a good par on the first hole to begin his round.
10:29 a.m.: As first off, Mike Weir and Kevin Na played as a twosome. All of a sudden Weir is playing as a single after Na withdraws. With a nod to Na’s status as a LIV player, a reply to the below tweet cleverly said, “You can’t miss the cut if you WD,” a reference to LIV’s no-cut events.
10:18 a.m.: Apologies to Patrick Reed, Adam Svensson and Sahith Theegala, but the first true power group of the 2023 Masters is about to go as five-time champion Tiger Woods, Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele make their way to the first tee amid a sea of patrons. Woods finds the fairway as do Hovland (wearing a shirt that looks like he’s should be hawking Hawaiian Punch) and Schauffele. NOW the Masters is truly underway.
10 a.m.: Tiger Woods has left the driving range after a half-hour session to warm up for his much-anticipated 10:18 a.m. Thursday tee time. His swing has looked good, but there is a limp in his step as he walks to the chipping and putting area.
9:36 a.m.: So Matthew McClean made bogey on the fifth hole and now he’s tied several at one under par, including Scott Stallings. We’re excited to watch him this week in part because of the crazy story about the delayed arrival of his Masters invitation earlier this year. You might recall that the mailing to Scott Stallings wound up in the “wrong” Scott Stalling’s hands. It had a happy ending for both, as the PGA Tour pro was able to get the realtor a ticket to a practice round this week.
9:09 a.m.: OK, we see you McClean. It doesn’t take 20-20 vision to notice that 13-foot birdie roll in on the par-3 fourth hole and get you to two under par.
8:40 a.m.: OK … who is Matthew McClean? Well you can catch up on him and all seven amateurs competing in the field this week right here. McClean, interestingly, is a certified optometrist.
8:32 a.m.: A first player in red figures. And if you had that being amateur Matthew McClean of Northern Ireland, well, we’re impressed. A birdie on the first hole and a par on the second puts the 29-year-old U.S. Mid-Amateur champion atop the leaderboard. If that happens on the course, he better have family and friends taking pictures.
8:20 a.m.: As the tournament first groups start to head off the first tee, we’re bound to see some interesting attire from Masters participants. And Vijay Singh starts us off with his choice of footwear:
8:09 a.m.: There’s lots of debate over who wins this week. Our experts have you covered here:
But really you should probably just read this post from our Mike Stachura, who used to be the kiss of death for any tour pro hoping to win a major, but has picked the last two majors correctly and is now going for the third leg of the Stachura Slam:
7:49 a.m.: The fanfare was minimal and but the moment fulfilling as the three legendary Masters champion officially get the 87th Masters underway. You can watch the full ceremony below. Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley spoke kindly of Gary Player, who has been surprisingly candid in recent weeks about some mixed feelings he had toward the club. Jack Nicklaus, while limping noticeably, was his gracious self. And Tom Watson quipped: “You don’t ride go-karts at my age.” It was a reference to the fact that he was seriously hurt in a go-kart accident in November, requiring left shoulder replacement surgery.
7:41 a.m.: Sustained applause rings out as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Gary Player make their way to the first tee for the honorary starters ceremony.
7:33 a.m.: A quick taste of what we’re looking at for the diehards. Here’s the first-round hole locations.