Masters 2017: Charley Hoffman leads by 4, Lee
Westwood and Rory McIlroy in contention
- Unheralded American Charley Hoffman, pictured above. defied tricky blustery conditions to take a four-shot lead after day one of the 2017 Masters at Augusta National.Hoffman, 40, sank nine birdies in a seven-under-par 65 to lead from compatriot William McGirt.
Lee Westwood is third on two under, one ahead of fellow Englishmen Justin Rose, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy rallied with three late birdies in a 72, while 2015 champion Jordan Spieth carded 75.
England's defending champion Danny Willett started his defence with a double bogey and a bogey before fighting back to finish one over par.
Masters first-round leaderboard -7 Hoffman (US)
-3 McGirt (US)
-2 Westwood (Eng)
-1 Henley (US), Chappell (US), Sullivan (Eng), Fitzpatrick (Eng), Mickelson (US), Rose (Eng), Dufner (US) Garcia (Spa)
Level Casey (Eng), Els (SA), Lowry (Ire), McIlroy (NI)
+1 Fowler (US), Couples (US), Willett (Eng)
+2 Day (Aus), B Watson (US); +3 Spieth (US), Langer (Ger); +4 Knox (Sco), Matsuyama (Jpn), Woosnam (Wal), Fisher (Eng), Stenson (Swe)
+5 Lyle (Sco)
High winds at Augusta opener
Scoring was expected to be tough at Augusta with high winds forecast to become even stronger as the opening day progressed.
And that proved to be the case as it became a distinct possibility that no player would shoot under 70 in the opening round for the first time in 60 years.
But the tricky conditions proved little obstacle for McGirt and, particularly, Hoffman, who were the only players to score in the 60s.
Hoffman has only previously claimed one top-25 finish at a major, tying for ninth at the 2015 Masters, but put together a remarkable round.
The world number 52 closed the front nine with two birdies to move two under, then blitzed the back nine with a five-under 31 which included four straight birdies.
The Californian almost made it five on the last, only to see a 16-foot putt fall agonisingly short.
Nevertheless, his four-shot lead is the biggest first-round advantage at Augusta since 1941.
"The putts started going in the hole - as simple as that sounds," he said.
"I kept hitting my spots and in the wind I ended up getting 20 footers and I got some of them down the stretch."
McGirt marks debut with a 70
McGirt, making his Masters debut, became the first player to break 70 with four birdies and a bogey in a three-under 69.
The 37-year-old from South Carolina does not have much previous pedigree in the majors, having missed the cut at the US Open and the Open in 2016 before earning a 10th-place finish at last year's PGA Championship.
"It was pretty darn special. Any time to break 70 here is awesome," said McGirt, who is ranked a place below Hoffman at 53rd in the world.
"The few times I came down here to play in practice the wind direction was the same so this was not new to me today.
"I'm lucky enough to know a few members here and I've spoken to a few caddies and they've been happy to share their knowledge with me."
Westwood leads the British chargeDefending champion Willett is one of a record 11 English players in the 93-strong field at Augusta, but made a nightmare start to his defence with a double bogey and a bogey in the opening two holes.
Birdies on three and 10, with six successive pars sandwiched in-between, steadied the Yorkshireman's scorecard and a superb eagle on the par-five 13th moved him level par for the first time.
However, a bogey on the 18th pushed him back over par.
"Battling back from three over even if it was flat and calm round this place would have been great," said the world number 17, who has not won a tournament since claiming the Green Jacket.
"We gathered ourselves after probably the worst start we could have wished for. A score of 73 seemed like a good score."
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