Bryson DeChambeau sets testing target as Scottie Scheffler leads chase at The Masters

Bryson DeChambeau beat his personal par by two shots as a relentless Scottie Scheffler made an ominous start to his bid for a second Masters title.

Almost three and a half years after claiming that Augusta National was a “par 67 for me” due to his prodigious hitting, DeChambeau carded a seven-under-par 65 on a windswept opening day which followed a lengthy weather delay.

But that was only good enough for a one-shot lead over Scheffler, the world number one and 2022 champion posting a bogey-free 66 that left playing partner Rory McIlroy trailing in his wake.

McIlroy, who is making his 10th attempt to win the Masters and complete a career grand slam, made four birdies and three bogeys in his 71, while defending champion Jon Rahm bogeyed the last two holes in a 73.

Scottie Scheffler made a blemish-free 66 (Getty Images)

Former champion Danny Willett posted a superb 68 in his first event since undergoing shoulder surgery in September, the 36-year-old only deciding on Sunday that he was ready to compete in the year’s first major.

DeChambeau birdied his first three holes and bounced back from his only dropped shot of the day on the ninth with a back nine of 31, which included birdies on the 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th.

The 30-year-old’s par-67 comment came two months after he won the 2020 US Open, but left him open to ridicule after he could only manage a best score of 69 and finished 18 shots behind winner Dustin Johnson, now a fellow LIV Golf player.

“Regarding the 67 comment, you know, You mess up, I’m not a perfect person,” DeChambeau admitted. “Everyone messes up.

Bryson DeChambeau was at his best in round one (Getty Images)

“You learn from your mistakes and that was definitely one.”

Asked if his comment actually had merit given his round today, DeChambeau was not about to take the bait.

“You’re trying to pigeonhole me into saying that again, aren’t you?” he said with a smile. I’m not going to comment on that.

“Sure, if you want to line the math up that way, that is a perspective you can take. It was a perspective I had, and it cost me a lot of slack, I guess you could say. It definitely hurt some things.

“But look, I’ll say this again. I shot 65 today, and that was one of the best rounds of golf I’ve played in a long time. There’s three more days to go, and I’m not losing sight of that fact.”

McIlroy will be pleased there are 54 holes remaining after battling to remain in red figures over the closing stretch, the four-time major winner having earlier been the subject of a mixture of criticism and encouragement from Jack Nicklaus.

Nicklaus said he believes McIlroy will win the Masters at some stage to complete the career grand slam, but also offered his opinion on why the Northern Irishman had failed to win a major since the 2014 US PGA.

Rory McIlroy endured a mixed day (Getty Images)

“I only have one criticism of Rory,” Nicklaus told Golf Channel. “You have to concentrate 100 per cent of the time.

“For some reason, Rory always has a little bit of a lapse somewhere around the tournament. He’ll find a double bogey or triple bogey that sneaks in there.

“I don’t know how he does it or why he does it, but it happens. And I wish that wouldn’t happen.”

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