Golf: Kiwi Ryan Fox cards two-under par on US Masters debut at Augusta National

Kiwi Ryan Fox has navigated the iconic Augusta National course for the first time under par, setting himself up for a weekend appearance at the US Masters.

Fulfilling a lifelong dream debut at the last remaining Major on his bucket list, Fox, 36, carded a rollercoaster two-under 70, featuring four birdies and two bogeys, tied for 17th after the opening round.

Playing alongside Americans Billy Horschel and Harris English, the world No.37 dropped a shot on the par-three sixth hole, after overhitting the green with his tee shot and leaving himself a long put for par. 

Ryan Fox in action at the US Masters
Ryan Fox in action at the US Masters. Photo credit: Getty Images

He recovered the stroke on the par-five eighth, then went into the red with consecutive birdies on the par-three 12th and par-five 13th, before bogeying on the par-five 14th.

Fox scrambled over the closing stages, often rescuing wayward tee shots with superb fairway play. He squandered an opportunity on the par-five 15th, when he left his third only a few feet short of the hole, but rimmed out his birdy put.

He capped his round with a birdie on the par-four 18th, chipping out of a greenside bunker to within a few feet. Harris returned a one-under 71 and Horschel one-over 73.  

Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka used a closing birdie to move into a three-way share of the clubhouse lead with Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland, while defending champion Scottie Scheffler lurked three shots back.

Koepka - one of 17 LIV Golf players left in the field, after Kevin Na withdrew midway through his round - shot a sparkling seven-under-par 65 in ideal scoring conditions to join Spaniard Rahm and Norway's Hovland in the lead.

"There's only really a couple things I care about, is going to work out and going to play golf, and that's it when we're here and nothing else really matters," said Koepka. "It's full focus on this and trying to walk out of here with a Green Jacket."

The only blemish on the scorecard for the four-time Major champion, who won last week's LIV Golf event at Orlando, came at the par-five 13th hole, where he carded a bogey, after an errant tee shot forced him to take an unplayable lie.

Finally looking comfortable after a knee injury that took a toll on his body, Koepka responded with birdies at the 15th and 17th, before draining an eight-foot birdie putt at the last.

Australian Jason Day and Cameron Young were two shots off the lead, while pre-tournament favourite Scheffler, world No.7 Xander Schauffele, and Major champions Shane Lowry, Adam Scott and Gary Woodland were among those a further shot back.

Hovland, who stood out as much for his play as the bold floral pattern on his shirt, fired his lowest score in a Major, while Rahm caught fire after a four-putt, double-bogey at the first hole.

Victor Hovland in action at the Masters
Victor Hovland in action at the Masters. Photo credit: Getty Images

Hovland made a fast start, as he rolled in a 25-foot eagle putt at the par-five second and added three birdies across a four-hole span from the sixth to reach the turn at five under.


Playing in a group with Tiger Woods and Schauffele, Hovland made a sensational par save at the 10th, after an errant approach left him with a tough chip without much green to work with and then padded his lead with a 37-foot birdie at the 11th.

Hovland picked up another birdie at the new-look par-five 13th and then capped his day with a string of pars for his first sub-70 round at Augusta National.

"I don't care how good you hit it out here, you have to chip the ball," said Hovland. "You have to have a short game, especially on that back nine, when I hit a lot of bad shots, to be honest, but I managed to keep myself in it by hitting some really nice chips and making some really nice putts."

Rahm overcame his shaky start with a pair of birdies on the second and third holes, and never looked back.

Tiger Woods (right) and Xander Schauffle cross Nelson's Bridge at August National
Tiger Woods (right) and Xander Schauffle cross Nelson's Bridge at August National. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Spaniard charged up the leaderboard, when he followed a birdie at the seventh with an eagle at the eighth, where he stuffed his approach shot to four feet, before capping his round with the fourth of his back-nine birdies.

Woods, who has never missed a cut at Augusta National as a professional, has played one event this year and it showed, as he rarely gave himself any opportunities and admitted to feeling sore after a 74 that was his worst Masters start since 2004.

The five-time champion made two late birdies, but closed with a bogey, after an unfortunate break off the tee that forced him to take an awkward stance for his approach with his right foot in the sand and the other in the grass.

"I felt like I drove it good," he said. "I just didn't do the job I need to do to get the ball close.

"Today was the opportune time to get the ball - get the round under par - and I didn't do that today."

Bidding to become the fourth player to repeat as Masters champion, Scheffler went out late, and mixed an eagle with three birdies and a bogey to put himself firmly in the mix going into the second round.

Rory McIlroy, who is making his ninth attempt at completing the career Grand Slam, opened with a 72.