Hoffman atop an unlikely leaderboard at Masters; Johnson withdraws
There was no single story line, but just a whole lot of them, which were interwoven into an opening day that had a bit of everything – emotion, drama, tragedy, some ghosts exorcised and some re-visited. In the end, there was a leader, Charley Hoffman, who would not have given himself a four-shot lead before the first round. Thus began the action-packed opening day of the 81st Masters. The 40-year-old Hoffman, generally acknowledged as a 'good player in windy conditions' was just that rolling in a seven-under 65 that gave him a four-shot lead, which is the second-largest first-round lead in Masters history. Hoffman birdied five of his final seven holes.
Hoffman was walking on air, as he said, "For lack of any better words, it was a dream," he said. "Obviously I was just trying to make pars, and while I was trying to make pars, I put myself in position to be able to make birdies. And I was able to convert those birdies and turn it into a fantastic round." The highest fist round lead is five by Craig Wood in 1941, and the only other four-shot lead was by Jack Burke Jr. in 1955. Both went on to win the Masters in those editions.
For the record, Hoffman, winner of four PGA Tour titles, contended in 2015, when Jordan Spieth won, and Hoffman ended Tied-ninth. As World No. 52 (Hoffman)
took the lead, No. 53 William McGirt was second with 69 and No. 54 Lee Westwood was third at 70. The morning was full emotion as Arnold Palmer's green jacket was draped over an empty chair before the ceremonial start by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, neither whom could help wiping their moist eyes, even as Nicklaus doffed his cap skywards to acknowledge "the King", Palmer. Six and a half hours later, Dustin Johnson, who hurt his back in a freak fall a day earlier, did make it to the tee, but then winced and did not tee-off and walked back to the clubhouse. He said: "It sucks. I want to play. I'm playing probably the best golf of my career, and this is one of my favorite tournaments.
I look forward to it every year. To have a freak accident happen yesterday (Thursday) afternoon, it sucks."