AUGUSTA, Ga. — At golf’s most recent major, David Lynn barely sneaked into the PGA Championship, by virtue of being ranked No. 98 in the world. Then he tied for second, which gave him PGA Tour membership for 2013, the largest paycheck of his journeyman career, and a spot in the Masters.
Few knew much about the 39-year-old Englishman then, and with eight months having elapsed, few likely remembered him now. So Lynn reintroduced himself to the golf world Thursday, shooting a 4-under-par 68 at Augusta National Golf Club in his Masters debut. He was tied for fourth, two shots behind co-leaders Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman.
Until Leishman charged past him with five back-nine birdies on his way to a 66, Lynn held the Masters lead, a development that reportedly brought his mother to tears when she saw his name at the top of the large white leaderboards.
Lynn noticed it, too.
“I was on the ninth and my caddie [Wayne Hussellbury] said, ‘You’re leading the Masters,’ and looked at me and smiled,” Lynn said. “I said, ‘I’d rather be leading it Sunday afternoon.’
“It’s obviously not a bad thing to see your name up there leading the Masters, and something you could always look back on. But you know, there’s a lot to be done for the rest of the week, and hopefully I can keep my name up there.”
That’s something not many considered likely, assuming that his second-place tie at Kiawah Island last August was a fluke by an unknown European. Yet here Lynn is, right back near the lead at the very next major.
If Lynn is known for anything, it’s his passion for Wigan soccer and for being a prankster. Hussellbury is frequently the target, but Lynn likes to spread his mischief around. He promised to be on his best behavior here (“Have to be careful this week, I’d like to be able to come back”) unless given special permission by Augusta National.
He didn’t need any hijinks to gain attention Thursday, using a five-hole stretch where he made four birdies (on Nos. 8, 9, 11, and 12) to reach the top. If he was nervous at the start of his first Masters, he didn’t look it, making a birdie on No. 1.
Lynn’s only stumble came at the 10th hole, when he missed a 3-foot putt for par after a poor drive. Other than that, he was rock-solid.
“He’s hitting the ball really straight, everything at the flag, and he’s putting well,” said Ian Woosnam, the 1991 Masters champion who was paired with Lynn and opened with 80. “All he’s got to do is just not look at the scoreboard and play his own game. He’s getting more comfortable all the time.”
Chalk that up to a life-changing weekend in South Carolina. Finishing behind only Rory McIlroy at the PGA Championship — albeit by eight shots — and winning $865,000 gave Lynn much-needed confirmation that after 17 years as a professional golfer and one win on the European Tour, his best is pretty darn good.
“If you speak to more or less every golfer who is out here on various tours, they all believe that they have performances in them, as good as the top guys,” Lynn said. “I’ve always believed that I could perform well, I just don’t do it consistently enough.
“I’m enjoying it at the moment. Tomorrow is another day and I know I’m going to have to play well again. So I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to be there Sunday night. But deep down, I know that I’ve got performances in me that could put me there Sunday night.”Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.