Masters 2017: Charley Hoffman leads after beautiful first spherical, as Danny Willett and Rory McIlroy battle again into competition


Defending champion Danny Willett and Rory McIlroy each produced battling performances on a extremely eventful first day of the Masters, however nonetheless discovered themselves nicely adrift of impressed chief Charley Hoffman.

Hoffman defied swirling winds which gusted as much as 35mph at Augusta Nationwide to card 9 birdies and two bogeys in a surprising 65, 10 pictures higher than the sector common.

That gave the Las Vegas-based 40-year-old the biggest first-round lead within the Masters since 1955, with compatriot William McGirt his nearest challenger 4 pictures again on three below.

Lee Westwood, who completed runner-up to Willett final 12 months, led a robust European problem on two below after 5 birdies in a row from the 13th in his 70, with compatriots Andy Sullivan, Matt Fitzpatrick and Justin Rose all one below.

Spain’s Sergio Garcia additionally completed one below, with McIlroy, Soren Kjeldsen, Thomas Pieters, Paul Casey and Shane Lowry on stage par.

World primary Dustin Johnson withdrew simply moments earlier than he was as a consequence of tee off, the US Open champion failing to get well from a again damage suffered in a fall at his rented home on Wednesday.

McIlroy had been three over with six holes remaining however birdied the 13th, 15th and 16th, whereas Willett recovered from being three over after two holes, aided by an eagle on the 13th.

“When I was stood on the third tee, if someone had said I would shoot 73 I would have ripped their hand off, walked up the hill and gone inside and had a cup of tea,” Willett stated.

“It was a lower than ideally suited begin, not what I had envisaged the final 12 months beginning out my defence, however I fought again rather well, dug my heels in and hit some actually good golf pictures.”

Fitzpatrick was three below par when he reached the 18th tee, however was distracted by spectators leaning over the ropes to get a greater view and pulled his drive into the timber.

“I just didn’t really feel comfortable over the tee shot,” stated Fitzpatrick, whose drive travelled simply 166 yards.

“My low one’s lower than everyone else’s, so I can actually kill someone at head high. I should have backed off it and got everyone to move.”

A 3-putt from lengthy vary compounded the error and resulted in a double-bogey six, however the 22-year-old nonetheless outscored taking part in associate Jordan Spieth by 4 pictures.

Spieth held a five-shot lead with 9 holes to play 12 months in the past, solely to comply with dropped pictures on the 10th and 11th with a seven on the par-three 12th after hitting two balls into Rae’s Creek.

And though the 23-year-old managed a stable par on the identical gap on Thursday, he ran up a quadruple-bogey 9 on the 15th after spinning his strategy off the inexperienced into the water.

Pieters had threatened to set a frightening goal when he raced to the flip in 32 and in addition birdied the 10th to achieve 5 below par.

Nonetheless, the 25-year-old Belgian – who received a report 4 factors from his 5 matches in Europe’s defeat at Hazeltine – then bogeyed the 11th and double-bogeyed the 12th after discovering water off the tee.

Hoffman completed ninth within the Masters in 2015 after opening rounds of 67 and 68 meant he performed within the last group with Spieth on day three.

“I’m going to feed off that the rest of the week,” he stated. “As we speak you simply kind of go along with it. There wasn’t, I would not say, a ton of strain in the present day. You are simply making an attempt to make ends meet actually.

“Clearly going to sleep on the lead at a serious championship right here at Augusta Nationwide is just not going to be the best factor. I sit up for it, and I sit up for the problem the subsequent three days.

“I was a little bit lucky. I was able to make some longer putts, which you’re just trying to die it up there close to the hole, and they were able to go in.”