After a 2022 spent recovering from injuries that saw him finish no better than 55th in the four majors, Brooks Koepka appears to be back in form, co-leading the Masters after Thursday’s first round. Here the Masters Update
But those who have been paying attention to Koepka on the LIV Golf circuit know he’s back on top of his game. His win last weekend at the LIV Golf Orlando event made him the first two-time winner in that league’s short history.
He followed that up with a 7-under 65 in the opening round at Augusta National Golf Club.
“It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked, just trying to get back,” Koepka said, “because I felt like I was on the cusp of it, and it was nice to know that I was able to get through [the recovery process].”
Viktor Hovland was out early in the day and started strong with an eagle on the par-5 second hole. He completed a bogey-free round and set the pace at 7-under. It was his first round in the 60s in his 13th at this tournament.
Jon Rahm started out the exact opposite of Hovland, four-putting on the first hole for double bogey. He responded well by birdieing the next two holes and also finished at -7 with a 65.
Rounding out the top five are Jason Day and Cameron Young—both two shots back at -5. Day hasn’t won yet this year but has been a consistent part of the top 10 at nearly every tournament he’s played at. Young is coming off a runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Going into Friday’s round two, Rahm is the new favorite, Koepka is at +600, and Hovland has the most value among the leaders at +1100.
The defending champion and co-favorite going into the tournament, is tied for sixth at -4. Also shooting a 68 on Thursday were the likes of Xander Schauffele (+2200), 2019 Open Championship winner Shane Lowry (+4000), and Match Play champion Sam Burns (+2800).
Jordan Spieth & Tony Finau are at -3 but didn’t yet play the 18th hole before darkness fell at Augusta.
Who was the other co-favorite with Scheffler, now stands at +2000 after shooting even par in the first 18 holes.
In all, 26 players shot under par in the opening round. Last year, just eight finished under par, so expect things to get more difficult as the weekend progresses.
Players in good form going into this event are staying hot, so it’s worth backing Koepka, Young, and Burns at this stage. Viktor Hovland at +1100 as the co-leader also represents great value. If you’re looking for someone to mount a comeback in round two, Rory McIlroy and Cameron Smith (+5000), who is 2-under, are solid choices.
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