Unheralded Charley Hoffman takes a four-shot lead into Friday’s Masters second round after high winds punished the world’s top golfers and favorite Dustin Johnson withdrew injured.
Hoffman, 40, posted a seven-under par 65 in conditions described by one former Masters winner as ‘borderline’ unplayable.
He snatched the lead over second-placed fellow American William McGirt on a day of high drama that saw world number one Johnson pull out following a freak accident.
Hoffman’s four-stroke lead is the largest at the Masters after 18 holes since 1955, when Jack Burke led by the same margin over Julius Boros.
In the difficult conditions, Hoffman said he set out to shoot for par but ‘got a little bit lucky.’
‘For lack of any better words, it was a dream,’ he said.
England’s Lee Westwood, 43, still looking for a major title after 75 attempts, was in third place a shot further back on 70 on a day when top contenders suffered in difficult conditions on the 7,435-yard Augusta National course.
Johnson agonized for 24 hours before pulling out after a serious fall on the eve of the tournament left him in pain from a lower back injury.
‘I wanted to try and play but I’m not going to be able to compete,’ he said. ‘It just sucks.’
Reigning US Open champion Johnson had been the oddsmakers’ favorite in the year’s first major golf championship after winning his three prior starts but hurt himself in a fall down stairs Wednesday at a rental house.
Without the world number one, Northern Ireland’s second-ranked Rory McIlroy and Australian world number three Jason Day were tipped to be key contenders for the title.
However, neither had it their own way in the opening round.
Nor did another top contender, former Masters champion Jordon Spieth, who suffered a repeat of last year’s quadruple-bogey disaster.
The 2013 Masters champion, Adam Scott of Australia, said the conditions were beyond tough.
‘It’s very difficult conditions and borderline (unplayable),’ he said after returning a three-over 75.
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