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News broke late on Wednesday that World No. 1 Dustin Johnson had injured his back, making his status questionable for the Masters. Apparently Johnson slipped on a wood staircase at his rental home, causing him to fall and land on his elbow and back. Johnson went out to hit balls on the range Thursday, but was forced to WD from the championship due to lingering pain and an inability to “complete his swing.”
The players who did tee it up are now looking up at Charley Hoffman, who opened with a seven-under 67 in windy, brutal scoring conditions. Hoffman’s round was so good that Nick Faldo called it “one of the greatest rounds he has ever seen.” The closest pursuer to Hoffman is William McGirt who is playing in his first Masters. Full scores
Hoffman earned his spot in the field by way of his win at last year’s Valero Texas Open. The 40-year-old California native has been a fixture on the PGA Tour over the last decade and has a track record of going low but struggling on the weekends. Hoff has four wins on his career and has finished inside the top 30 in his previous three starts at Augusta National. He will tee off tomorrow at 10:01 AM EST and look to continue his hot run.
With DJ out, the focus shifted to Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, each of whom turned in up-and-down rounds. Spieth looked headed for another under-par round at Augusta until a quadruple bogey nine on the par-5 15th. Spieth’s opening 75 was the worst round in his career at Augusta. Meanwhile, Rory got off to a slow start, making the turn at 3-over before finding his form on the back nine and making three birdies to finish at even par.
The generation’s two best players without a major, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia, find themselves in the mix. Westwood rebounded from a tough front-nine 39, to fire a back-nine 31, which featured 5 straight birdies. Meanwhile Garcia was steady in the blustery conditions, making 17 pars and one birdie.
Two of the most impressive first-round performances came from European young guns, Thomas Pieters, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Jon Rahm. It looked as though Pieters would be the story of the day as the Belgian star birdied the 10th hole to reach 5 under. But he saw his hot round derailed by Amen Corner, bogeying the 11th and doubling the 12th on his way to an even-par 72. Fitzpatrick outshined playing partner Jordan Spieth, grabbing the lead in the morning at 3 under but a closing double bogey finished him at one-under. Rahm was spectacular tee-to-green, but struggled on the speedy undulating Augusta greens.
Last year’s first round saw a lot of carnage with big names like Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson shooting themselves out of the tournament with high scores. This year, it’s quite the opposite as most of the tournament’s big names played well enough to be in a position to make a weekend run.
What to watch today
The forecast again calls for heavy winds and difficult scoring conditions. Wednesday’s rain made the course relatively receptive to drives and approach shots, but expect that to change as the winds will dry the course out and give it more bite tomorrow.
What stars make their move
Tomorrow will be a pivotal day as Charley Hoffman will look to hold onto or extend his lead while the big names will look to close the gap. With so many studs in the hunt and Hoffman’s limited major championship pedigree, I expect us to see a few big names make their move.
Big Game Hunters
While not stars, Shane Lowry (E), Marc Leishman and Scott Piercy (+1) are making regular appearances in contention at major championships. Don’t be surprised to see one of these two make a move up the leaderboard tomorrow.
12 Angry Men
If you have to choose one camera feed on Masters.com tomorrow, I would suggest you dive into the Amen Corner feed, specifically for Hole No. 12. The strong winds have been giving players fits on 12 in particular because the towering pine trees make it nearly impossible to judge which way the wind is blowing. This indecision is leading to uncharacteristically poor shots from the world’s best and serve as a reminder that a par three doesn’t have to be 200+ yards to be challenging.
Apparently the only thing that can stop DJ from winning a golf tournament is a staircase. We’re going to miss him this weekend so we dug into the archives to create a compilation of him obliterating tee shots to hold us over.