Hoffman leads Masters as injury forces Johnson's withdrawal

Hoffman made four straight birdies from the 14th hole and had a chance to add another on the final green.

A birdie at the par-5 eighth got him to 1 under and strong par saves at No. 9 and 11 kept him there for the time being in tough conditions which knocked out a host of more-experienced players. Despite injuring his back in a freakish incident the day before, Johnson planned to make his 2:03 p.m. tee time in the first round of the Masters Tournament.

Charley Hoffman has seen his opening-round Masters lead cut to just one shot midway through the second round at Augusta National.

Johnson suffered a serious fall on the eve of the tournament but received prompt treatment and was up and ready to practice his swing as the Masters got under way.

Defending champion Danny Willett had a mixed day, the Englishman dropping three shots in the opening two holes before reeling his round back to finish on one-over. That narrows the list of potential winners down to Hoffman and McGirt.

The first is no bargain at the best of the times, but the tough conditions and a tricky pin made matters worse, with English amateur Scott Gregory and American Brian Stuard both taking seven.

After the rocky start, the former world number one lived up to his billing with confident pitching and solid work on the greens that allowed him to save par on a number of holes.

Unheralded Charley Hoffman snatched the first-round lead at the Masters on Thursday as high winds punished the world's top golfers and favourite Dustin Johnson withdrew injured. In fact, he birdied all four par threes, a sharp contrast to his nine over on those holes in his previous three appearances.

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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.

"Just when I step on the property, I feel good". 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. "I'm playing the best golf of my career, and I look forward to this tournament every year".

Playing with Westwood and also making a decent start was Sergio Garcia, who carded a one-under 71.

"It feels like in two days I'd be fine", he said.

"It's a day you're not going to go low, you just try to fight to stay around par and stay in it", said Mickelson, whose round included an eagle on the second hole. "Even though I didn't hit it my best, I scored really, really nicely", he said.

"So I didn't take my medicine, and hit it about 15 feet right with a club that takes the spin off".

Harmon picked out Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson as players to keep an eye on after reserving special praise for world No 52 Hoffman, who leads the way. "I'm just starting to believe".

Pieters reached 5 under until a pair of double bogeys on the back nine, including the par-3 12th, that sent him to a 72.


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