Sungjae Im, the 24-year-old South Korean known for rarely missing the center of the club face, ran off three straight birdies at the start, recovered from a pair of bogeys with a 12-foot eagle putt on the 13th and added a late birdie for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Masters on Thursday.
Im is the first player representing South Korea to hold a lead after any round in Masters history.
“I feel comfortable when I come to Augusta,” he said through his translator. “I feel I can play well here every time.”
Im was one shot ahead of Cameron Smith, playing for the first time since winning The Players Championship a month ago. The Aussie with the mullet had the most dynamic round of the day with his eight birdies, all between a double bogey at the start and the finish.
Dustin Johnson, who held off Im and Smith when he won the Masters in November 2020, was 4 under through 10 holes and poised to present a daunting target with the scoring holes ahead of him. He had to settle for pars, dropped a shot late and was in the large group at 69.
Also at 69 were former Masters champion Danny Willett, world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Joaquin Niemann, who holed out for eagle on No. 9 and still didn’t get the biggest roar of the round. He was playing with Tiger Woods, who carded a 71 in his return to competitive golf.