PGA: Masters Tournament - First Round

Good morning to everyone but especially to...


Sometimes, it takes a while for the world's best to get comfortable at Augusta National. Not this time.

With ideal playing conditions, many of the brightest stars in the sport got off to terrific starts at the Masters on Thursday, leaving us with an absolutely loaded leaderboard:

  • T-1: Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Brooks Koepka (-7)
  • T-4: Cameron Young, Jason Day (-5)
  • T-6: Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Adam Scott, Shane Lowry, Gary Woodland, Sam Burns, Sam Bennett (-4)

Of those 12 players, 11 are either in the top 15 of the Official World Golf Rankings or have won at least one major. The only one who doesn't fit the trend? Bennett, a fifth-year senior at Texas A&M whose 68 was the best opening round by an amateur at the Masters since 2001.

But that's not all. Plenty of big names loom just behind, that top group including...

  • Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa, Justin Rose, Tony Finau (-3)
  • Justin Thomas, Cam Smith (-2)
  • Dustin Johnson (-1)
  • Rory McIlroy (even)

The three 65s -- tied for the most ever in a single Masters round -- came about differently. Rahm, for example, posted the lowest round after opening with double-bogey in Masters history. That's right: He four-putted the first hole to drop two shots but then finished with seven birdies, an eagle and nine pars. The response was as good as we've ever seen from Rahm, even by the lofty standards he's set, writes our Patrick McDonald.

By the way, Rahm is now the favorite to win.

However, it's Koepka's 65 -- seemingly out of nowhere given his knee issues -- that caught our Kyle Porter's attention.

  • Porter: "I have a theory: Brooks Koepka is terribly scared of failure. Like the rest of us. It's just that his fear of failure plays out on bigger stages and has higher historical stakes than our own. That's a difficult concept with which to deal. ... So now, sometimes what you see is somebody who is surly, somebody who has existential dread and somebody who has convinced himself that the only thing keeping him from more major championships is an element of his game he mostly cannot control: his health."

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for...

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Of course not all of the big names got off to a good start at Augusta National. The biggest name in the sport, Tiger Woods, limped home with a two-over 74, putting him nine strokes behind the leaders and in danger of missing the cut for the first time as a pro at the Masters.

  • It was his worst opening round at the Masters since 2005. Of course, Woods rallied to win that year -- his fourth of five career green jackets -- but a similar rebound seems unlikely this time around.
  • Woods hit 32 putts and had a pair of three-putts. After getting things somewhat on track with birdies on 15 and 16, he bogeyed 18.
  • Woods has made 22 consecutive cuts at the Masters, one short of tying the record by Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer.

Making matters worse is that after going off early in perfect conditions Thursday, Woods tees off late today, when rain and potential thunderstorms are expected.

Not so honorable mentions

Ryan Nembhard enters transfer portal, causes Creighton to slip in Top 25 And 1 🏀

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Creighton vs Baylor

This may be the first weekend without college basketball, but with the transfer portal exploding with talent, there really is no offseason. So this weekend, be on the lookout for plenty of action off the court, with visits and, potentially, commitments on the way.

The latest major addition to the portal is Creighton point guard Ryan Nembhard, who comes in sixth in David Cobb's updated transfer rankings.

  • Nembhard played two seasons at Creighton. He won Big East Freshman of the Year in 2021-22 and then improved on his numbers across the board as a sophomore as the Bluejays made a run to the Elite Eight. He had 30 points in their Round of 32 win over Baylor.
  • He is the younger brother of current Pacers point guard Andrew Nembhard, who also transferred after two seasons, going from Florida to Gonzaga.

Here's who's ahead of Ryan Nembhard in the rankings:

  • 1. C Hunter Dickinson
  • 2. G Max Abmas
  • 3. C Kel'el Ware
  • 4. G LJ Cryer
  • 5. G Tramon Mark

As a result, the Bluejays dropped from sixth to ninth in Gary Parrish's Top 25 And 1.

Who's off to a more concerning start, Mariners or Phillies? ⚾

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In baseball, it's still early until it isn't. When does it change, exactly? The All-Star break? The trade deadline? September? It's certainly not any time soon.

But that doesn't mean slow starts aren't frustrating, especially for teams like the Mariners and Phillies, both of whom are coming off breakthrough 2022 seasons. Seattle made the playoffs for the first time since 2001, and Philadelphia went from Wild Card to World Series appearance, its first since 2009. This season, they're 2-5 and 1-5, respectively.

Whose start has been more concerning, though? That's what our baseball experts answered in their weekly Batting Around roundtable. Here's Mike Axisa's take:

  • Axisa: "I would say the Phillies. They won't have Bryce Harper for another little while or Rhys Hoskins at all this year, plus I always get nervous about pitchers following a World Series run. Those guys throw a lot of extra high-stress innings and they have a shorter offseason to recover too, so the slow starts for Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler are suboptimal. Also, the Phillies are stuck in a division with the Braves and Mets."

The common theme between all of the answers, though? It's early. Super early. No need to get too concerned... yet.

Where will Lionel Messi end up next? ⚽

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Lionel Messi is one of the greatest players ever, is coming off of a magical World Cup title and is still a highly productive star for one of the world's premier teams, PSGBut that last part might not be true for long.

Messi is likely on his way out of Paris as the club has to cut wages this summer. That coincides, of course, with Messi's contract expiring. You can do the math. There's no shortage of suitors, with teams from across the globe showing interest. Saudi Arabian side Al-Hillal has offered a €400-million contract. And that's not €400 million total. That's €400 million... per year. He's also not the only one being offered big bucks.

But what about Barcelona, the club where he rose from promising young talent to a legend? Our James Benge says returning is "the chance to right the great wrong of his career.."

But James also says the storybook ending is far from a sure thing.

  • Benge: "There are some players worth upending systems for. Messi may well be one of them. Argentina eventually found a way of being defensively rigid whilst milking just enough from their best player at the other end of the pitch but even the best international tournaments do not require the tactical rigor of the Champions League. That ultimately is what Messi would be aiming for were he to return to Barcelona, a decision that would mean the heart has triumphed over the head (and indeed the wallet)"

What we're watching this weekend 📺

⛳ We're watching the Masters all weekend. Here's how.


🏀 Grizzlies at Bucks, 8 p.m. on NBA TV
🏀 Suns at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. on NBA TV


🏒 Penguins at Red Wings, 1 p.m. on ABC
🏒 Golden Knights at Stars, 3:30 p.m. on ABC
Rangers at Cubs, 4:05 p.m. on FS1
🏒 Devils at Bruins, 8 p.m. on ABC


🏀 Hawks at Celtics, 1 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Jazz at Lakers, 3:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Bruins at Flyers, 6 p.m. on TNT
Padres at Braves, 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Avalanche at Ducks, 8:30 p.m. on TNT