Harry Derham cannot believe his luck that the first horse his two superstar new owners Graeme McDowell and Brooks Koepka became involved with is heading to Kempton with a live chance in the Coral Adonis Juvenile Hurdle.

Derham played in a Pro-Am golf tournament with McDowell and ended up with a horse after the fledgling trainer won a nearest to the pin wager with the 2010 US Open hero on the way round.

The unlikely outcome was McDowell’s involvement with Givemefive, and he got Koepka involved as well, adding a bit of stardust to his new yard. The fact their horse is more than useful is a big bonus.

“As with any ownership, if you’re new to the sport, then you’re hoping to get a horse like him. He has had two runs, two wins and he looks really exciting,” Derham told OLBG.

“Obviously, being in Florida makes it difficult for them to come and see him but in the WhatsApp group they are really excited about this weekend.

“Graeme is coming over this weekend to watch, which is great, and I think any ownership pays more attention when they’re winning.”

A winner at Market Rasen in December, the former Johnny Murtagh inmate really impressed at Warwick last time out, showing soft ground will be no issue this weekend.

“It makes a lot of sense for us to go for the Adonis,” said Derham. “There are a few four-year-olds who have won the Dovecote but we will stick to our own age group, we are second-favourite.

“Kalif Du Berlais is a very smart horse but has to give us 5lb, which is handy, and we are really looking forward to it.

“This is a big step up in grade, we are really excited for it. I’m 15 months into my training career and I have a second favourite in a Grade Two, it’s brilliant. I am really excited, he has schooled very well and we will give it a really good shot.”

In a time of dwindling ownership, it is not lost on Derham how big a boost for the sport as a whole it is to have two such high-profile patrons in his yard.

“Brooks and Graeme said when they bought him that they just want to do the right thing for the horse. We are not going for the Adonis as a prep, we are going to have a good go. If he comes out of it well, then we will consider Cheltenham, but it is not the be all and end all,” he said.

“New owners are massively important. If you can give them a good experience, then great, but you can’t always guarantee them a nice horse. But for their ownership journey to start with Givemefive, it couldn’t have gone much better. Hopefully he keeps progressing and giving them a lot of fun.”

Kalif Du Berlais is trained by Derham’s uncle, 14-time champion Paul Nicholls, and he created a big impression when winning on his UK debut.

“He was bought to be a chaser and could hardly have been more impressive on his first start in this country over hurdles last month at Kempton,” said Nicholls.

“He was in control the whole way, jumped fluently and stretched clear for a decisive success. Kalif is very smart, worked great this week and has an obvious chance of defying a 5lb penalty. We will see how he runs before making any plans about Cheltenham or Aintree.”

Nicholls also runs Swift Hawk, another who made a winning start for the stable – but the ground may have turned against him.

“Rated 72 on the Flat, he made a pleasing winning debut for us over hurdles at Taunton at the end of December. But this is a big step up in class for Swift Hawk, who would not want too much more rain at Kempton and I wouldn’t be keen on running him if it gets testing,” Nicholls told Betfair.

In the Coral Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle, Ben Pauling’s Fiercely Proud will attempt to return to winning ways, having finished third to the highly touted Jeriko Du Reponet at Doncaster.

“I thought we were going to win that race at Doncaster quite nicely – we were the last horse on the bridle and travelling the best, and I just think he was a bit green when Brian (Hughes) asked him,” said Pauling.

“I do honestly think it was just greenness, he certainly wasn’t tired, and he’s got a lot of speed, so I think Kempton will suit him more than Doncaster.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on, he’s in very good form going into the race and I think it’s a good opportunity for him to try and get a one by his name in a decent race.

“He was in the Supreme at Cheltenham early doors, but we just feel he’ll be better going here and then Aintree, so we’ve taken him out of the Supreme.”

Panjari runs for Nicholls but he is giving weight to all his rivals.

“He has improved with experience, is growing up all the time, and put up his best performance in cheekpieces when cruising clear at Musselburgh early this month,” Nicholls said.

“We found he had a problem with ulcers after a below par run at the same track on New Year’s Day. Panjari is definitely going the right way and must have a leading chance despite carrying a 3lb penalty at a track which is quite similar to Musselburgh. We are very happy with him.”

Brooks Koepka admitted his fifth major title was the “most meaningful” after winning the 105th US PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

Koepka won his first four majors in the space of eight events from 2017 to 2019, but suffered career-threatening injuries and a loss of form before joining LIV Golf last year.

The former world number one also felt, in his own words, that he had “choked” by failing to convert a four-shot lead after six holes of the third round of the Masters at Augusta National.

There was no repeat of such failings at Oak Hill as Koepka held off the challenge of Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler to claim a third US PGA title and move into the automatic qualifying places for the US Ryder Cup team.

“It feels damned good,” Koepka said. “Yeah, this one is definitely special.

“I think this one is probably the most meaningful of them all with everything that’s gone on, all the crazy stuff over the last few years. But it feels good to be back and to get number five.

“When I look back at where we were two years ago I’m just so happy right now. I’m kind of at a loss for words. This is the coolest thing.

“There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that have gone into this one. Life has changed a lot for me but this one is super gratifying for me.

“I don’t know how many guys have won five times but to be in with those names is incredible. I’m not sure as a kid I even dreamed about doing it.”

Quote of the day

“There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that have gone into this one” – Koepka reflects on his fifth major title after overcoming various injuries.

Shot of the day

Club professional Michael Block’s amazing week included making a hole-in-one on the 15th while partnering Rory McIlroy in the final round.

Round of the day

Five players shot 65 in the final round but Koepka’s 67 was compiled amidst the highest pressure and he responded superbly to every setback.

Statistic of the day

Club professional Michael Block made many, many times his usual hourly rate for lessons with his amazing performance at Oak Hill.

Easiest hole

The reachable par-four 14th offered up an essential scoring opportunity, with three eagles and 27 birdies leading to a scoring average of 3.632.

Hardest hole

The par-four seventh played as the toughest hole with runner-up Scottie Scheffler making one of just four birdies on the final day. Winner Brooks Koepka was one of 31 players to make bogey as it played to an average of 4.421.

When is the next major?

The US Open takes place at Los Angeles Country Club from June 15-18.

Brooks Koepka said it will take a while to get over missing out on winning the Masters after seeing Jon Rahm take the green jacket after Sunday's final round.

Koepka had led for the first three rounds at Augusta, only to finish tied for second with Phil Mickelson, four shots behind eventual winner Rahm.

Speaking after his final three-over round of 75, the 32-year-old did not believe he played well enough, but also failed to get "good breaks".

"Obviously it's super disappointing," he said. "I didn't play good enough to win. Hit some shots where I also feel like I didn't get some good breaks, the ball on nine; on four and six, I hit some good shots and just ended up in some terrible spots where it was quite difficult.

"Then 12, it was just kind of interesting, Jon hit nine and I hit a wedge over the green. Then 14, I felt like I just had to make a run for it. Didn't feel like I did too much wrong, but that's how golf goes sometimes."

Koepka also claimed that the pair in front of him and Rahm – Patrick Cantlay and Viktor Hovland – were slowing them down, saying: "Yeah, the group in front of us was brutally slow. Jon went to the bathroom like seven times during the round, and we were still waiting."

With two LIV Golf players in Koepka and Mickelson in the top three, the former said it proved they can compete just as well as their PGA Tour counterparts.

"I mean, we're still the same people," he said. "I know if I'm healthy, I know I can compete. I don't think any of the guys that played this event thought otherwise, either. When Phil plays good, we know he's going to compete. [Patrick] Reed, the same thing.

"I think that's just manufactured by the media that we can't compete anymore; that we are washed up."

He added: "The way Jon played today was pretty impressive. I don't know, the game, it's so good right now, everybody, it's amazing to see all these guys compete. When they are at their best, they are all tough to beat."

Having also finished tied for second at the 2019 Masters, Koepka said he will not initially see the positives in such a high finish at a major, but will eventually do so.

"Probably not. Not today. Probably not for the next few days. But eventually it will be a positive," he said. "I'd say probably give it a week, and I'll start to see some positives out of it and carry this over to the PGA, the US Open and The Open.

"But right now, it's kind of tough to see, if I'm honest, probably for the next few hours and the next few days."

Jon Rahm capitalised on a miserable Sunday for Brooks Koepka to race clear and win the Masters by four strokes with a score of 12 under.

Rahm, 28, had a disappointing finish to his third round early on Sunday morning, with a pair of bogeys in the last six holes meaning he would start his final trip around Augusta National Golf Course at nine under, two off the lead.

But Koepka would make two early bogeys, and Rahm tied things up with birdies on the third and eighth holes.

Rahm and Koepka both bogeyed the ninth, but while Koepka continued to head in the wrong direction, Rahm got back on track and opened up a four-stroke buffer with back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th, and he closed the show with par on 18.

Koepka ended up finishing at eight under in a tie for second, where he was surprisingly joined by Phil Mickelson after an historic round from the 52-year-old.

Mickelson shot a seven-under 65 in his last round – including five birdies from his final seven holes – to reach eight under for the tournament.

In doing so, Mickelson set the record for the lowest round in Masters history by a player aged 50 or older, finishing his day as the leader in the clubhouse.

He needed an epic collapse from Rahm to make things interesting down the stretch – who at the time only led by two strokes – but it never arrived.

Sunday's other top performance came from Jordan Spieth, putting together a round 66 – with nine birdies and three bogeys – to shoot up the leaderboard into a tie for fourth at seven under.

He was joined by fellow former Masters champion Patrick Reed as well as Russell Henley, with Viktor Hovland and Cameron Young one further back tied for seventh at six under.

Sahith Theegala produced a Tiger Woods-esque chip-in birdie on the 16th hole to claim outright ninth place at five under, with major champions Matt Fitzpatrick, Scottie Scheffler and Collin Morikawa being joined by world number seven Xander Schauffele in a tie for 10th at four under.

Shot of the day

It was impossible to watch Theegala's chip-in run down the 16th green without remembering Woods' famous birdie in his 2005 victory, putting it in the perfect spot to replicate the historic moment.

Jon Rahm reached the turn on Sunday at the Masters with a two-shot lead as he swept ahead of Brooks Koepka.

Coming into the final round at nine under, two behind Koepka, Rahm birdied the par-four third hole and the par-five eighth to reach 11 under.

Meanwhile, after starting at 11 under, Koepka bogeyed the fourth and sixth to fall to nine under. They then both bogeyed the ninth, leaving Rahm at 10 under, and Koepka at eight under with the back nine to come.

Spain's Rahm, 28, stood potentially just nine holes away from the second major title of his career after also securing the 2021 U.S. Open.

It would also be his fourth win of the year after victories at the Tournament of Champions and The American Express in January, and the Genesis Invitational in February.

Koepka is coming off a win at last week's LIV Golf Orlando, and he was at 13 under when dismal weather brought an early end to Saturday's play, but by Sunday afternoon he looked to have run out of scoring power, with his last birdie coming on the eighth hole of his third round.

Two big names stormed up the leaderboard, with Jordan Spieth shooting a six-under 66 to reach seven under for the tournament and Phil Mickelson going one better with a 65 to get to eight under and set the clubhouse standard, moving level with Koepka.

 

After starting the day in the top 10, Jason Day capitulated with four double bogeys to be eight over for his round through 13 holes.

Brooks Koepka carried a two-shot lead into the final 18 holes of the Masters after the third round was completed before lunch on Sunday in Augusta.

An early start, made necessary after torrential rain curtailed play on Saturday, meant there was plenty to play for before the players set out on their final circuit of the Georgia course.

Koepka fell back from an overnight 13 under par to 11 under, while nearest rival Jon Rahm reached the 54-hole mark on nine under, with both men signing for rounds of 73. Viktor Hovland was one shot further back in third place after a two-under 70.

The prospect of a LIV Golf player landing the Green Jacket therefore remained a strong possibility, with Koepka among the players widely characterised as rebels for defecting to the Saudi Arabia-backed tour.

LIV CEO Greg Norman spoke before the tournament of the prospect of players from the breakaway circuit mobbing the winner on the 18th green in the final round if he came from within their ranks, rather than from the PGA Tour or elsewhere.

Koepka was on the seventh hole in round three when play was suspended on Saturday afternoon, and at that stage he held a four-shot lead. That dominance was reined in when the action resumed.

Rahm closed to just one behind, 11 under to Koepka's 12 under, by the time the leaders reached the 13th tee, but a bogey six from the Spaniard there knocked him back one shot.

Hovland improved to eight under with five birdies in a row from the 11th, moving ahead of Patrick Cantlay who was early into the clubhouse on six under after a 68.

At 15, Koepka saw his ball roll back off the green and towards water, only to hold up on the damp grass.

That spot of good fortune would be followed by Koepka stretching his lead to three at the short 16th when Rahm sprayed his tee shot the wrong side of a greenside bunker. The world number three could not stop his chip close enough to the hole, missing the putt back.

Koepka's first three-putt of the tournament followed at the 17th, where a par from Rahm cut the deficit back to two, and both men parred the last to set up a titanic battle for glory in the afternoon, scrapping against each other with the backdrop of it being a LIV Golf versus PGA Tour head-to-head.

Twice a winner of the US PGA Championship, and twice a U.S. Open champion, Koepka was bidding to become the 20th golfer to reach five men's major triumphs.

Rahm is also a former U.S. Open winner, while Hovland has yet to win a major.

The final day's play from Augusta did not feature Tiger Woods, as the 15-time major winner and five-time Masters champion withdrew due to injury, having toiled his way to nine over, limping as he struggled in the rain on Saturday.

Sam Bennett is having quite the week at Augusta, and is "just trying to enjoy it" as he remained in third place at the end of Saturday's play at The Masters.

The 23-year-old amateur shot back-to-back rounds of 68 to start the tournament, the second-lowest 36-hole score by an amateur in Masters history, and featured in the final group of the third round along with leader Brooks Koepka and second-placed Jon Rahm.

Play was stopped early due to heavy rain, with the trio only able to play six holes, Bennett dropping shots on the first two before producing four pars.

He ended the day on six over par overall, seven behind Koepka and three off Rahm, but however his Masters ends, he is determined to have fun.

"I'm just trying to enjoy it," Bennett said after Saturday's play. "I feel comfortable out there. The bogeys on one and two weren't because of nerves. They were simply just bad swings."

The third round will resume on Sunday ahead of the final round, which will hopefully be played to completion given the more favourable weather forecast.

"Everybody coming into the week was, 'Yeah, hope you get Low Am,'" The U.S. Amateur champion added. "That's pretty much all they were saying. I just wanted to put two good rounds up. I knew my golf was good enough to compete out here.

"I've found myself in a situation that now I've got a golf tournament that I can go out and win."

No amateur has ever won The Masters, while an amateur has only ever finished in second place three times: Frank Stranahan (1947), Ken Venturi (1956) and Charles R. Coe (1961).

"Hopefully the weather, it's sunny, and the course is going to be soft. So I think it's going to be gettable," Bennett said.

"I'm sure there's going to be some mud balls out there... I'm just going to try to have fun."

Brooks Koepka agreed with the decision to call off play at the Masters on Saturday, with weather disrupting play for a second day in a row.

Inclement weather led to the action being halted at 3:15pm local time at Augusta National, when Koepka was on the seventh hole.

He had extended his lead over Jon Rahm to four strokes by the time Saturday's play came to an end, with a mammoth Sunday lying ahead if the tournament is to finish as scheduled.

While a second day of disruption will cause headaches for tournament organisers – the final group have 29 holes to play if the Masters is to avoid a Monday finish for the first time since 1983 – Koepka feels the decision was the right one.

"It's obviously super difficult. The ball's not going anywhere," he said. "You've got rain to deal with, and it's freezing cold. It doesn't make it easy.

"You've got to make some pressure putts. You know it was going to be a difficult day. You've just got to grind through it and try to salvage something.

"That seventh green was soaked. It was very tough. I thought I hit a good bunker shot, and it looked like it just skidded on the water. So, I'm glad we stopped.

"I think it was spot on. Maybe I couldn't have hit that bunker shot on seven, but at the end of the day, it's fine. I'm okay with it."

The Masters will resume at 8:30am local time on Sunday, dependent on the condition of the course and overnight rain, with the final round expected to begin at 12:30pm local time.

Brooks Koepka extended his lead at The Masters to four strokes before play was suspended for a second day in a row.

Entering the day with a three-stroke advantage, Jon Rahm reduced the lead to two on Saturday morning as one of the players returning to finish their second rounds, posting a two-under 70 to move to 10 under.

Koepka extended his lead when the third round got underway, sitting four ahead of the Spaniard and one under through six holes before officials suspended play for the rest of the day at 3:15pm local time.

Rahm, who had back-to-back bogeys at the fourth and fifth, sits one over in his third round, with third-placed amateur Sam Bennett two over but with a one-stroke advantage over Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay and Viktor Hovland in the overall standings, as the Norwegian continues to fall after his opening round of 65 on Thursday.

Five-time champion Tiger Woods dropped to nine over par in soaking conditions, with the weather resulting in a mammoth day of action on Sunday if the tournament is to avoid a first Monday finish since 1983.

The final group must play 29 holes if the tournament is to finish on time, though the weather forecast looks more favourable.

Shot of the day

Lining up with Sam Burns and Jordan Spieth for the day, Cameron Young joined the duo by missing the green in regulation on the opening hole, which left the trio all turning to the wedge.

It seemed it would be pars all round but Young had other ideas, chipping the ball over the mound and watching it find the hole, resulting in the first roar of the round.

A little birdie told me...

Fred Couples had only half a hole to play on Saturday morning, having hit his drive on the 18th in Friday's second round before play was suspended due to inclement weather.

A bright and early start did not deter the veteran, who finished with a bogey to end 1-over par through 36 holes, ensuring he made the cut.

At 63 years and 183 days, Couples became the oldest player to make the cut in Masters' history.

Tiger Woods matched a Masters record as he made the cut at Augusta National on Saturday.

The five-time champion made the cut for a 23rd consecutive attempt, equalling a feat previously achieved by Fred Couples and Gary Player.

This is Woods' 25th tilt at the Masters, and he has only missed the cut once – on his second visit in 1996.

He added a 73 to his opening 74 this time, completing his second round on Saturday morning in Georgia after play was suspended due to dismal weather on Friday.

On a wet morning, Woods steered clear of trouble until he bogeyed 17 and 18, the latter after mishitting a drive "right off the neck" and finding rough in a position that ruled out reaching the green in two.

He was in danger of missing the rest of the weekend, hovering under the cut mark at one point after completing his round, but three over eventually proved sufficient for the 47-year-old, whose last triumph at this tournament came four years ago.

Woods said: "I've always loved this golf course, and I love playing this event. Obviously I've missed a couple with some injuries, but I've always wanted to play here. I've loved it."

Speaking after his round, while his fate was in the balance, he added: "I hope I get a chance to play this weekend."

Correcting himself, realising it was Saturday, Woods said: "I'm sorry, I got a chance to play on the weekend. I wish I get a chance to play two more rounds."

Woods was far from the business end of the leaderboard, being 15 strokes behind leader Brooks Koepka, who completed his second round before the storms curtailed play on Friday.

Jon Rahm led the chasers and was playing the 10th when play was called off on Friday, three shots behind Koepka at that point.

Spaniard Rahm closed the gap to one shot early on Saturday, but a bogey at 18 meant Rahm had to settle for a round of 69 to sit two back through 36 holes, with amateur Sam Bennett two shots further adrift in third spot.

Friday at Augusta National Golf Club was the Brooks Koepka show as the four-time major champion raced out to a three-stroke lead heading into the weekend at the Masters.

Koepka, who opened his week with a seven-under 65 to grab a share of the lead through 18 holes, followed it with a five-under 67 as part of the lucky morning wave who were able to get their rounds in before the harsh weather arrived.

After eight birdies and one bogey on Thursday, Koepka put together a bogey-free round with three birdies and an eagle as he continued his momentum from last week's victory at LIV Golf Orlando.

Jon Rahm was not so lucky to avoid the strong winds and rain arriving later in the day, but he handled it as well as anyone. He started his second round with seven consecutive pars, before birdieing the eighth and ninth to move to nine under right before his round was cut short.

The winds were blowing in with such force that multiple large trees were blown down in spectator areas, but luckily there were reported no injuries.

One further back from Rahm in outright third is 23-year-old amateur Sam Bennett, shooting his second 68 in a row as he bounced back from his first bogey of the week on the fourth hole to go four-under through his final 14.

Two-time major champion Collin Morikawa and top-10 talent Viktor Hovland (through 10 holes) are tied for fourth at six under, and while Jordan Spieth and Jason Day are still in the hunt at five under, Day will feel he let a golden opportunity slip.

Through 14 holes, Day was in outright second at nine under, but he finished with a double-bogey on 15, a bogey on 16 and another bogey on 18 to slip into a tie for sixth, seven shots off the pace.

In more strong representation from the LIV Golf players, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Joaquinn Niemann are all in the tie for 10th at four under.

Shot of the day

Cameron Smith started his second round with three bogeys from his first seven holes, but his last hole before play was cancelled was one to remember.

On the par-five eighth, Smith found the bunker with his tee shot, but instead of laying up he opted for the aggressive route and hit his fairway wood, trickling its way onto the side of the green and feeding back towards the hole to set up an eagle.

A little birdie told me…

Rookie Bennett made it to the end of his round in solo second at eight under, and if Rahm slips up, Bennett could become the first amateur since 1958 to hold solo second heading into the weekend.

In fact, his score is the second-best 36-hole mark by an amateur at Augusta, bettered only by Ken Venturi in 1956 (nine under), and they are the only amateurs to ever reach the weekend here with a figure better than three under.

Brooks Koepka was pleased with his form after carding a round of 67 to end Friday as the clubhouse leader at The Masters, and suggested his confidence is back after his knee surgery.

Koepka is on 12 under par after two rounds, though with play suspended early due to bad weather, second-placed Jon Rahm still has half of his second round to play, and will resume on Saturday three shots back on nine under.

The American suffered from a knee injury that required surgery, and he explained after his round how that had previously impacted his game.

"In 2021 I was just trying to figure out the best areas to walk because this place is quite hilly," Koepka said. "Downhill was a killer because my knee would get in front of my heel and that's where the MPFL [medial patellofemoral ligament rupture] that's stitched is still in there... [it] would just tighten, and everything was quite painful.

"But I don't have to worry about that any more, which has been great. I feel really good. I like the way I'm swinging the golf club, putting it, chipping it, driving it, iron play is solid. It feels really similar.

"I've got a completely different knee, but swing-wise it still feels the same. I'm able to do everything I need to. And the confidence is there. The confidence was lost just because of my knee and that was it."

Koepka has four majors to his name, but still needs to add The Masters and The Open Championship to complete a grand slam, and is aiming to do just that, starting in Augusta this week.

"Yeah, the whole goal is to win the grand slam. I feel like all the greats have won here and they have all won Open Championships as well," he said.

"I guess it's one more box for me to tick to truly feel like I've done what I should have accomplished in this game."

The 32-year-old was left frustrated at last year's Masters, missing the cut after two rounds of 75, and he revealed how badly he took it at the time.

"Last year, I don't even know if I should be saying this, but I'm pretty sure I tried to break the back window of the car with my fist," he said. "I tried to put it through the back window, not once but twice.

"First time it didn't go, so I figured I'd try it again. The window did not break. Apparently [I'm] not strong enough.

"The ride home was pretty silent. But yeah, I guess Mercedes makes a pretty good back window."

Brooks Koepka held a three-shot lead halfway through his second round of The Masters and Rory McIlroy is facing a battle to make the cut.

Koepka was joint-top of the leaderboard along with Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland after starting with a seven-under 65 at Augusta National on Thursday.

The four-time major champion had the chance to go out on his own on Friday, with Rahm and Hovland starting later in the day, and he was sitting pretty at 10 under through nine holes.

Koepka arrived in Georgia full of confidence following a victory at LIV Golf Orlando and the American has given himself a great opportunity to win a first Masters title.

He birdied the second hole after an excellent third shot from a green-side bunker and eagled the par-five eighth following a majestic approach shot to move into double figures.

Jason Day surged into a share of second place courtesy of gains at the second and third holes, while a couple of early birdies took Collin Morikawa to five under on a day on which tee times were brought forward by half an hour due to the forecast of inclement weather.

Amateur Sam Bennett was six shots back from Koepka along with Sam Burns, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Gary Woodland.

McIlroy's hopes of completing a career Grand Slam this weekend look to be over as he was back on two over through three holes following bogeys at the second and third holes.

Defending champion and world number one Scottie Scheffler dropped back to three under.

Brooks Koepka feels he is finally back to full health following a serious knee injury that had crippled him over the past two years, claiming a share of the lead after Thursday's opening round at the Masters.

Koepka, a four-time major champion, shot four birdies on his front-nine and four more on his back-nine to go with a solitary bogey in an impressive seven-under 65.

There were warning signs that the 32-year-old may be in for a good week, coming off a victory at LIV Golf Orlando where Koepka became the new tour's first ever two-time winner.

His performance this time was in stark contrast to his efforts at the last two editions of the Masters, where Koepka missed the cut both times, but he told the media after his round that his health made those years complete write-offs.

He shared details of the darkest moments from his recovery, where he could barely get out of bed, and would be in tears while biting down on a towel as his physical therapist tried to bend his knee.

"I just wrote the last two years [at the Masters] off," he said. "I came here three weeks after surgery [in 2021], and last year I wasn't anywhere near it, but I'm healthy now, I've put that behind me, and I'm not too worried about the last two years.

"It's all injury-based. Any athlete, anybody that's going through something where you can't even bend your knee. 

"I'll spare everybody the details of what actually happened – it was pretty gruesome, right – and they told me I could have a surgery that would be pretty much a year and a half [recovery time].

"Then you create bad habits, and there's frustration, and you just feel like you're never going to be healthy.

"I wish I had celebrated the kind of little milestones along the way, instead of thinking I could just power through it… so yeah, it was definitely frustrating, but once you feel good, everything changes."

He said he realised early that he was in for a great day after making a sharp start on a course that was "quite gettable".

"Honestly I think it was just the start," he said. "I got off to a good start – any time you're two under through three it's a good start – so I felt good, and I just kind of piggybacked off that momentum.

"I'm very happy with the way I played. I drove the ball nicely, left it in some good spots, and even missed quite a few putts… it could've been really low, but I'll take it. Seven's pretty good."

Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka and Viktor Hovland are tied for lead at seven under after Thursday's opening round at the Masters.

It was a shaky start for world number three Rahm as he stumbled to a double-bogey on the first hole, but he birdied the next two to quickly even out his card, before rattling off another five birdies and an eagle the rest of the way.

Koepka, a four-time major champion, is riding high after emerging victorious in last week's LIV Golf Orlando to become the breakaway tour's first ever two-time winner, and he looked terrific with eight birdies and one bogey.

Hovland was the only of the trio to go bogey-free, with the 25-year-old Norwegian now in a great position to make a run at his first major title.

They have a two-stroke lead on the chasing pack, with Australia's former world number one Jason Day shooting a bogey-free, five-under 67, and he is joined in a tie for fourth by Cameron Young.

Tiger Woods carded back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th holes to salvage a disappointing two-over 74, leaving him with work to do on Friday if he is to make the cut.

World number one Scottie Scheffler is part of a loaded logjam tied for sixth at four under, which also includes world number seven Xander Schauffele, former Masters champion Adam Scott, WGC Match Play winner Sam Burns, and surprising rookie Sam Bennett.

Three-time major champion Jordan Spieth is at three under with two-time major champion Collin Morikawa, reigning British Open champion Cameron Smith is at two under with reigning PGA Championship victor Justin Thomas, and Phil Mickelson is joined at one under by fellow Masters champions Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson.

Shot of the day

While Bennett's eagle chip-in, or Rahm's long iron setting up a five-foot eagle putt were worthy contenders, neither had the degree of difficulty of Hovland's par save on the 10th hole.

Landing in a horrible spot in the rough behind a bunker, with almost no green to work with, Hovland played a feathery flop into the fringe and allowed it to trickle next to the hole for an unlikely par.

A little birdie told me… 

It was a memorable day for Bennett, as the 23-year-old amateur began his first round at the Masters with a birdie on the first, an eagle on the second and another birdie on the sixth to tie the best front-nine score by an amateur at Augusta (32).

Meanwhile, after his best major finish last season with a T4 at The Open, Hovland tied his best round at a major, and set a new personal best around Augusta with his seven-under 65.

Joining him at the top of the leaderboard, Rahm will be trying to make history as the first player to ever win the Masters after double-bogeying their opening hole.

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