Red-hot Dustin Johnson withdraw from Masters

Rory McIlroy was delighted to salvage an opening 72 in the Masters, even though it left him seven shots off the lead held by American Charley Hoffman.

McGirt, playing in his first Masters, went off in Friday's first group and was one-under through nine holes while England's 43-year-old Lee Westwood, third after an opening 70, and Spain's Sergio Garcia, who began on 71, teed off directly after Hoffman's group. Hoffman blistered through the back nine, with five birdies to take a four-stroke lead over William McGirt.

Most players found scoring hard in the swirling winds and England's Danny Willett made an ugly start to his title defence with a double-bogey six at the first hole, but he fought back strongly to finish on one over. James Hahn made the only birdie and the 445-yard hole played to an average of 4.548. He had won his past three events — two of them World Golf Championship titles — and felt he was in as good a shape as ever coming to Augusta National. The Northern Irishman sits in 12th place after 18 holes, well within striking distance of his first Masters title, which would give him the career Grand Slam.

Hoffman birdied the par-5 second but saw his huge edge collapse when he had five bogeys in a six-hole stretch starting at the par-3 sixth.

Only 11 players are under par heading into round two with his nearest pursuer Masters rookie Will McGirt. "You're going to really have to be careful where you hit it and just try to make pars". He followed that gaffe with a birdie-2 on the 16th and was at 75, certainly still with a chance to pick up more ground in the second round.

The weather forecast for the region, socked by powerful storms two of the last three days, calls for cool, overcast skies and steady winds of 20-30 miles per hour, with gusts up to 40 miles per hour.

While Woods went on to celebrate 14 major wins, Garcia has disappointed on golf's biggest stage, finishing runner-up a frustrating four times in the majors.

Nor did another top contender, former Masters champion Jordon Spieth, who suffered a repeat of last year's quadruple-bogey disaster.

McIlroy was one shot behind England's 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose, who was in an eight-way tie for fourth on 71.

"It sucks. I want to play", he said. He's record a second- and a fourth-place finish here.

"Obviously I'm going to sleep on the lead at a major championship here at Augusta National is not going to be the easiest thing", he said.

It was a tough day for everyone, including world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who withdrew with a back injury after falling on stairs late Wednesday afternoon at his rental house.

Eight players now are tied for fourth at 1-under, including Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. "I don't know if it just makes me focus a little bit more out here, but I definitely feel comfortable on this property". "I thought anything at par or better was going to be a great score and it is".

Spieth last year dumped two balls into Rae's Creek at the par-3 12th for a 7 while leading in the final round and effectively doomed his chances of winning for a second straight year. "And then once I got that on track, I started to believe that my alignment was good and I was able to see the putts start going in the hole and started visualizing good things instead of bad".

  • Julie Sanders