As David Lynn dropped a five pence coin to mark his ball on the 17th green, his father, Ron, peered at the leaderboard. A smile burst on his face. His son was leading the Masters at 5 under par.
“In your wildest dreams, did you ever think you’d see that?” a family friend, pointing at the leaderboard, asked Lynn’s proud father.
“I always knew he had it in him,” his father replied, the smile still stretched across his face.
So did Lynn.
“I’ve always believed that I could perform well,” he said. “I just don’t do it consistently enough, and why I don’t know.”
It was Lynn’s caddie who first informed him he held the lead while playing the ninth hole.
“He just looked at me and smiled,” Lynn said. “I said, ‘I’d rather be leading it Sunday afternoon.’ ”
Time will tell, but before Lynn finished speaking to the press, Australian Mark Leishman already had assumed the lead at 6-under. Still, Masters rookies like Lynn aren’t supposed to shoot 4-under 68 in the opening round.
Lynn, a 39-year-old veteran of the European Tour and rookie on the PGA Tour this season, has shown a comfort level in the majors – not that he has much experience. This is just his third career major. He finished runner-up at the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah, which earned him a spot in the Masters field.
Lynn said it had taken “a golfing lifetime” to reach Augusta. Among his guests this week is Glen Jones, one of his earliest supporters who sponsored Lynn in his first six years as a professional. When asked his first recollection of the Masters, Lynn flashed back 25 years ago to Sandy Lyle’s victory. Lynn already had begun playing at that point under the tutelage of his father, an avid golfer.
“He was a natural,” Ron Lynn said. “He just watched me.”
Lynn took his two boys to a school field near their home in England and taught them the fundamentals, but refused to take them to the course until they were properly schooled in etiquette.
“We’d hit balls at each other, basically,” said Lynn’s younger brother, Simon, who had collected more than a half dozen souvenir plastic cups bearing the Masters logo. That’s nothing compared to his father’s autographed golf glove collection of more than 700 tour pros. They’re all kept in boxes in alphabetical order. He has every Masters champion from 1959 to present with the exception of Jack Burke Jr., Bob Goalby, Hubert Green, and Mike Weir, and was intent on tracking them down.
Lynn’s father also took credit for his son David’s wicked sense of humor. Lynn is a self-described prankster, but admitted he’s on his best behavior at Augusta National. There will be no planking, though he called the Hogan Bridge the obvious place to do so, if given permission.
“Have to be careful this week,” he said. “I’d like to come back.”
But Lynn couldn’t resist having a little fun on the course. He was the last golfer practicing Wednesday afternoon. When he reached the par-3 16th, he took part in the tradition of attempting to skip balls across the pond. He emptied his bag of eight balls.
Make no mistake: Lynn is serious about his game. Explaining why he skipped Wednesday’s par-3 tournament, he said, “I’m here to prepare myself as best I could for playing the tournament, which I had to be disciplined in doing.”
His preparation paid early dividends. Lynn jumped out to a good start, hooking a wedge from 143 yards to 8 feet on the first hole and sinking the putt for birdie. After a series of pars, he caught a break on his second shot to the par-5 8th hole.
“I sort of pull-drew this thing going towards the woods. But had enough on it and missed everything, and it ran through the pine needles and came through the other side, and actually left me in quite a nice place where I just hit it a little lob,” he said.
Lynn got up and down for a birdie, then knocked an 8-iron six feet below the hole at No. 9 and made it to tour the front in 33.
He stumbled at No. 10 with his first bogey but bounced back by rolling in a 40-footer for birdie at No. 11, as he followed the instructions of his longtime friend and former European Ryder Cupper David Gilford.
“Don’t be too intimidated by the greens. There are birdies out there. Try and be aggressive when you can be,” Gilford texted.
Lynn took that advice to heart and parked a wedge to 5 feet in making birdie at the 12th. He made his final birdie of the day at No. 15, laying up to 90 yards and knocking his third shot to six inches. Lynn stood at 5 under when his father marveled at his son’s name atop the leaderboard. But Lynn nursed a delicate chip to 4 feet at No. 17 and missed his par putt. With a more confident stroke at the last, he rescued par after going long with his second shot.
Lynn is well aware of the task ahead of him. No competitor has won in his first Masters attempt since Fuzzy Zoeller. Could he defy the odds?
“I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to be there Sunday night,” he said, “but deep down, I know that I’ve got performances in me that could put me there Sunday.”