Wyndham Clark hits from the fairway on the second hole...

Wyndham Clark hits from the fairway on the second hole during the first round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Thursday, April 11, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. Credit: AP/Ashley Landis

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Wyndham Clark was not just unperturbed after a first-round 73 at the Masters left him eight shots back of Bryson DeChambeau on Thursday. The U.S. Open champion was brimming with confidence that he could still overtake the LIV Golf star.

“We’ve got 54 holes. In LIV Golf they only play 54,” said Clark, taking a swipe at the Saudi-funded tour and its three-round format. “We’ve got a lot of golf left. As you can see, someone shot 7 under. I could do that tomorrow.”

Clark might be one of the most accomplished Masters rookies ever.

Not only did he triumph last year at Los Angeles Country Club for his first major, he also won the Wells Fargo Championship earlier in the year at Quail Hollow. Clark added another victory at Pebble Beach in February, finished second at both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship, and shot a final-round 66 in the Houston Open in his last start before the Masters.

No player has won his Masters debut since Fuzzy Zoeller 45 years ago.

“I was pretty calm. I felt great out there,” Clark said. “If I played the par 5s a little better and maybe make one or two putts here and there, we’d be having a different interview right now. I felt like I played great. My game feels good.”

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Wyndham Clark waits to hit on the 17th hole during...

Wyndham Clark waits to hit on the 17th hole during the first round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Thursday, April 11, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. Credit: AP/Matt Slocum

History suggests that the key to going low at Augusta National is to take advantage of the par 5s, but Scottie Scheffler took a much different approach: He played the four exceptionally difficult par 3s in 3-under par.

Perhaps it helped that he was able to hit 8-iron into all of them.

The swirling wind made the 177-yard fourth hole, played from the forward tee box, play the same as the 192-yard sixth. And the two par 3s on the first nine played the same distance as the famed 155-yard 12th over Rae's Creek and the 165-yard 16th, where water fronting the green again comes into play.

“I felt like I definitely stole some shots there on the par 3s today,” Scheffler said. “You do have to take advantage of the par 5s out here. Most of them are reachable. So you definitely have to do your best to take advantage of those.”

Scottie Scheffler watches his tee shot on the 18th hole...

Scottie Scheffler watches his tee shot on the 18th hole during the first round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Thursday, April 11, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. Credit: AP/David J. Phillip

PICKING UP MOMENTUM

Patrick Cantlay was having a ho-hum day Thursday, offsetting four bogeys with three birdies, when he arrived at the par-4 17th. He had 146 yards, the perfect distance for his pitching wedge, and one swing changed just about everything.

Cantlay holed out for eagle, taking him from 1 over to 1 under in an instant, and he finished with a par for a round of 71. That left the eight-time PGA Tour winner feeling much better as he chases his first major championship.

“Rode the wind and fortunately went right in,” said Cantlay, who has one top-10 finish in seven tries at the Masters. “I think momentum can be real. Definitely getting it under par for today, I think it’s going to play difficult again tomorrow, so put four rounds together under par, have a good chance.”

ONE IN THE RED

The only amateur among the five in this year's Masters to post a round under par Thursday was Neal Shipley, the runner-up in the U.S. Amateur, who reached 2 under before a late bogey left him with a round of 71.

That was three shots better than Christo Lamprecht and Stewart Hagestad, who each finished at 2 over.

“I’m really an experienced tournament player, especially at the amateur level,” said Shipley, the first player from Western Pennsylvania to reach the U.S. Amateur finals since Arnold Palmer in 1954. “I've had to deal with conditions and hitting all these different shots under pressure. This week is going to be no different. It's just golf.”

RAHM'S REPEAT BID

Jon Rahm’s bid to become the first repeat Masters champion since Tiger Woods 22 years ago is off to a rocky start after a rough back nine left him eight shots back.

“It’s a difficult golf course. That’s all I can say,” Rahm said. “It’s not easy. You’re not really having the luxury out there of being able to miss shots, especially tee shots. Unfortunately on that back nine I missed a few too many shots.”

Rahm was 3 under after eight holes but made four bogeys on the back nine to finish with a 73. A year ago, Rahm opened with a 65 and went on to win his first Masters.

“I struggled to put himself in position to make birdie all day,” he said.

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AP Sports Writer Steve Reed contributed to this report.

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