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Scheffler, McIlroy chase history as six share Masters lead

Scottie Scheffler of the United States plays his shot from the fourth tee during the first round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2024 in Augusta, Georgia. Photo by Andrew Redington / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Bryson DeChambeau was among six players to share the early lead on Thursday at the 88th Masters as top-ranked Scottie Scheffler and world number two Rory McIlroy teed off in a showcase group.

DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open champion, birdied the first three holes and shared the lead on 3-under through seven.

Alongside him were 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett of England, South African Erik van Rooyen, New Zealand’s Ryan Fox, South Korean An Byeong-hun and South African Christo Lamprecht, the 23-year-old British Amateur champion from South Africa.

McIlroy missed a 10-foot birdie putt at the first hole, matching Scheffler with an opening par.

Rain showers delayed the start by two and one-half hours at Augusta National, while gusting winds kept tree limbs dancing across the famed 7,555-yard layout.

Late starters in the field of 89, including 15-time major winner Tiger Woods, were not expected to finish the opening round before sunset.

DeChambeau, a 30-year-old American and two-time winner last year in LIV Golf, was the first to three-under.

He dropped his approach six feet from the hole at the first, pitched to three feet at the par-5 second and landed his approach five feet from the hole at the third, sinking his birdie putts each time.

Fox and An, both without a top-15 major finish, also opened with three birdies — all of their putts from six feet or less.

Van Rooyen had been the first player on the course once conditions cleared.

Scheffler, seeking his second green jacket in three seasons, and four-time major winner McIlroy, who would complete a career Grand Slam with a Masters triumph, teed off with Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele, chasing his first major victory.

McIlroy, who last won a major in 2014, could join a select group including Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan.

Scheffler, who won twice and finished second last month in PGA Tour events, could join Woods as the only players to win the Masters twice while atop the world rankings.

Schauffele, the highest-ranked player without a major title, hopes for a breakthrough week under the Georgia pines despite an opening bogey.

Woods, returning to major golf after right ankle surgery last April but still struggling to walk 72 holes, will try to make the Masters cut for a record 24th consecutive time to break to mark he shares with Player and Fred Couples.

Rahm eyes second jacket 

Defending champion Jon Rahm, who opened with a par, could become only the fourth player to capture back-to-back Masters triumphs after Woods, Nicklaus and Nick Faldo.

Spaniard Rahm, who jumped in December from the PGA Tour to Saudi-backed LIV Golf, joined 2023 PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka and Australian Cameron Smith, the 2022 British Open winner, among 13 players in the field from LIV, competing against PGA Tour stars in a rare moment during golf’s civil war.

With last year’s three top Masters finishers all playing for LIV now, eyes will be on LIV results as merger talks continue between the PGA Tour and LIV’s backers, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund.

There are 20 first-time Masters starters hoping to become the first rookie winner since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

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