Masters 2023: What was the biggest surprise in Thursday’s opening round?

rory mcilroy walks during the first day of the masters

Rory McIlroy opened the 2023 Masters with an even-par 72.

Getty Images

Check in each day of this week’s Masters for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topic in the tournament, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com.

Three big-name players shot 65 to take the early Masters lead, Tiger Woods struggled in his opening round and we saw two mini rules controversies on Thursday at Augusta National. What do you think was the biggest surprise of Day 1?

Nick Piastowski, senior editor: All the folks here are going to say it was Brooks Koepka, but I know someone who picked him ahead of the tournament. (Me. Waits for applause. Gets none. Moves on.) With that out of the way, my biggest surprise was Rory McIlroy. This course is built for him. And Thursday was made for scoring. Little wind. Soft greens. Thursday pins. And a 72, bringing back the narrative of first-round jitters. We expected more. Shoot, he expected more. And he’s seven back.

Josh Berhow, managing editor: You’re right, Nick, it was Brooks Koepka! No one has dominated majors over the past five years like Brooks, so to see him fail to finish better than 50th in any major last year was a big shock. He was more open about his injuries in his press conference Thursday night, and he said it was never an issue with his game, it was always getting healthy enough to put four good rounds together. Koepka contending would make this a really fun week.

Dylan Dethier, senior writer: Biggest surprise? All those low scores! It’s hardly shocking to see a 65 at Augusta National, but seeing three had me properly impressed, particularly Jon Rahm’s version, which started with a four-putt double bogey. Yowza! Shooting 69 only earned you T13 on Thursday. These guys remain good.

Jessica Marksbury, senior editor: My colleagues nailed it. Brooks, low scores, Rory not taking advantage — all crazy! But how about young amateur Sam Bennett?! First we have that incredible birdie-eagle start, then the fact that he ultimately posted a round of four under, all while playing alongside the reigning Masters champ himself, Scottie Scheffler, and Max Homa. He’s T6, seven shots ahead of the next-best am. Could be a great storyline heading into the weekend.

Alan Bastable, executive editor: I’ll say Phil Mickelson’s one-under 71, because who knows what we were going to get from him. And he was one sloppy swing — a water ball from the middle of the fairway on 11 — from that being a 69! Seems whatever form Phil is in, there’s something about this place that brings out the best in him.

Jack Hirsh, assistant editor: Keeping with the theme of everyone not saying Koepka, I’ll go with Cameron Young. I know he was on a heater and I know new caddie Paul Tesori’s experience pays at Augusta, but after shooting 77-77 in his first try last year, I did not see him birdieing the first three holes and beating his previous-best start here by 10. Honorable mention to IBM Watson, which is predicting scores each round for players in the Masters app. Watson seems to hate everyone but Scottie Scheffler on Friday as it predicts him shooting 69 and expects Koepka to shoot 79.

generic profile image