A year after missing the Masters for the first time since debuting at the event in 2011, due to his world ranking plummeting outside the top 150, Jason Day is back in contention at Augusta National.

While Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka each fired a 65 to take the first-round lead at seven under par, Jason Day was the top Australian at five under (67). Day is tied fourth with Cameron Young. Australians Adam Scott (four under) and Open champion Cameron Smith (two under) were also under par.

Runner-up in 2011 and the outright leader with three holes to play when Scott won in 2013, Day had only once previously broken 70 in his opening round, which was at the 2015 Masters. Coming into Augusta with four top-10 results on the PGA Tour this year, Day is right back among the world’s elite golfers.

But they’re also high on the leaderboard at the 87th Masters. Chief among those names is Koepka. It is the 14th time he has led or co-led after a round in a major since 2017. From 2017 to 2019, he won two US Opens and two PGA Championships. No other player has more than eight rounds of leading in that span.

Defending champion Scottie Scheffler is lurking having shot 68 to sit at four under.

“You look at the leaderboard, it’s very, very stacked right now,” said Day. “I mean, any one of those guys can win easily and there’s big names on that leaderboard right now. I’ve just got to keep my head down and keep pushing forward.

“It’s nice to be able to get off to a good start, but you can’t get too far ahead of yourself. It might end up turning into a marathon if we have a pretty wet kind of windy conditions on the weekend.”

Ten years after his epic 2013 Masters heroics, Adam Scott is steel feeling the good vibes after surging into early contention at Augusta National with his best ever opening round.

Without a top-25 result on the PGA Tour this year, Scott found form to fire a four-under 68 to be three shots behind the lead midway through the first round on Friday morning (AEST).

The 42-year-old Scott was running smoothly with two birdies in his opening three holes, before another at the 14th preceded a stunning eagle at the par-five 15th. He nearly made an ace at the par-3 16th. Despite a bogey at No.18, Scott is well in the mix.

“I don’t know for a fact, but it’s probably my best ever opening round,” Scott said. “So I have to be satisfied with that.”

It is indeed Scott’s best opening round, beating the 69 he had shot in several Thursdays at the Masters.

“You want to put yourself in the right spot early,” Scott said. “Any week you want to get off to a good start. But we just don’t know what’s going to happen and how the weather might affect the rest of the week. So if you’re hanging around right from the start on a week like this, it’s probably helpful.”

Scott said the memories of his 2013 triumph were still vivid whenever he competed at Augusta National, even suggesting a Masters magic sees former winners get favourable bounces.

“I think all the former champions feel it here,” Scott said. “I think you even get good breaks from it. My ball bounced out of a bunker and onto the first green today. I think there’s some good vibes being a Masters champion and coming back here, and it’s appreciated and it’s certainly felt by those champions.”

World No.6 Cameron Smith was also solid on opening day, with a two-under 70 that was only stalled by several short putts he missed for birdie and bogeys at the par-4 10th and iconic par-3 12th.

“It was all going to plan through the front nine,” Smith said after a two-under front nine ” I just got a little bit greedy on 10 and it was a poor swing on 12. I made a couple of crappy errors that cost me a couple of shots. All in all it was really good, pretty solid.

“The course started to firm up a little bit and it was nice to see. I don’t think we’re going to get that the next few days,” Smith said of forecasted rain and cold temperatures the next three days. “I love this place, I love coming back here. There’s just something I feel really comfortable with. I haven’t felt good about my game, but the last couple of days it started to feel really nice again.”

Meanwhile, world No.48 Min Woo Lee and amateur Harrison Crowe, playing in his first Masters, both struggled to three-over 75s. They’ll have their work cut out to make the 36-hole cut.

Five-time Masters winner Tiger Woods signed for a two-over 74 after saying this week he doesn’t know if it will be his last Masters.