Sam Bennett likely has many rounds in his future at The Masters, but he'll never forget his first one.
The reigning U.S. Amateur champion from Texas A&M followed a birdie on the first with a chip-in eagle on the par-5 second en route to a bogey-free 68 and at 4-under, is tied for sixth place, three shots behind leaders Viktor Hovland, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm.
Bennett is the first amateur since Ryan Moore in 2005 to reside in the top-10 following the first round of The Masters and his opening round 68 was lowest round by an amateur at a major since Viktor Hovland's final-round 67 at the 2019 U.S. Open.
The 23-year-old from Madisonville, Texas, who lost his father to early-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2021, has the last words his father ever said to him tattooed on his forearm: "Don't wait to do something."
The advice has served Bennett well, as his road to the U.S. Amateur championship last summer took him through a gauntlet of highly-touted players, as he recorded five wins against players at No. 27 or better in the world rankings, including three opponents ranked in the top-10, on his way to winning the Havemeyer Trophy at Ridgewood Country Club to earn a ticket to Augusta.
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With his Texas A&M coach Brian Kortan on his bag, Bennett wasted no time in serving notice he's playing more for just the Silver Cup, which is awarded to the low amateur at The Masters. Playing alongside defending Masters champion Scottie Scheffler and Max Homa, Bennett birdied the first and eagled the par-5 second to move to 3-under after just two holes.
He added a second birdie on the par-3 sixth hole and finished off his round with 12 straight birdies for an opening round of 68. His outward nine of 32 tied for the lowest first nine among amateurs in Masters history.
"I couldn't have dreamed of a better start," said Bennett. "Got out of the gates hot and then made a good one on 6, and from 6 on played steady golf. Hit a lot of good shots, give myself some looks, kept it under the hole. Bogey-free, that's something I love probably the most out of everything. To go around this place bogey-free is pretty cool."
Bennett's 68 was the lowest score posted on Thursday by the seven amateurs in the field by seven shots. Asia-Pacific Amateur champion Harrison Crowe and Ben Carr, who finished runner-up to Bennett at the U.S. Amateur, opened with 3-over rounds of 75. Latin America Amateur champion Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira finished at 4-over 76 while U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Matthew McClean, NCAA individual champion Gordon Sargent and British Amateur winner Aldrich Potgieter all turned in rounds of 77.
Playing in the second game out with 2000 Masters champion Vijay Singh and Scott Stallings, McClean birdied the first hole to momentarily lead the 87th playing of The Masters.
ABOUT THE The Masters
One of Golf's four professional majors
traditionally invites amateurs who have reached
finals of the US Amateur, or won the British
the US Mid Amateur. Also included are
the winners of the relatively new Asia Pacific
and Latin American Amateur.
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