Saturday, June 23, 2018

Charley Hoffman leads Masters; Dustin Johnson withdraws with back injury (w/ video)

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Dustin Johnson withdrawing from the Masters was shocking enough. Then Charley Hoffman delivered a surprise of his own.

In a raging wind that left most players celebrating anything around par, Hoffman had seven birdies over his last 11 holes Thursday for 7-under 65 that gave him a four-shot lead over Masters newcomer William McGirt.

So tough was Augusta National in gusts that approached 40 mph that Hoffman and McGirt were the only players who broke 70. Hoffman, 40, did it after a pair of three-putt bogeys early in his round. "After that, I can't remember missing a putt," he said.

Johnson tried to play less than 24 hours after slipping on stairs at his rented home and hurting his back. Even after warming up, when he felt pain upon impact on two out of every three swings, he headed to the putting green to give it a shot. But that's as far as the world No. 1 got. "I can't do it," Johnson said. "I don't feel there's any chance of competing."

Back takes down DJ

All Dustin Johnson wanted to do was move his car. His effort ended up costing the world's top-ranked player a chance to win the year's first major.

Johnson pulled out of the Masters before teeing off, citing an injury to his left lower back suffered in a freak accident at the Augusta home he is renting. "Obviously, I can make some swings," he said after working on the practice range, "but I can't make my normal swing."

Johnson said he was hurt going outside to move his car Wednesday afternoon. Wearing only socks, he slipped on a three-step staircase and landed on his left side, also hurting his elbow.

Johnson, who has won his past three starts, was the favorite to win his first Masters. One of the most frustrating things about the injury, he said, was that he expected it to be fine by the weekend.

"It (stinks). It (stinks) really bad," he said.

Spieth's quad life

Jordan Spieth made quadruple bogey on the back nine at Augusta National again. But it came at the 15th hole instead of No. 12, and in the first round instead of the last, leaving himself plenty of time to recover. Maybe.

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. In the first round Thursday, Spieth was 1 over when his third shot on the par-5 15th hit the front of the green and spun back into the water. His fifth shot sailed over the green. He pitched long and went to the front of the green, then he three-putted for 9, the highest single-hole score of his PGA Tour career.

That put him at 4 over with three holes to play. He finished with 3-over 75.

"I was stuck in the '15th-is-a-birdie-hole mentality,' and it kind of bit me a little bit," he said.

No player has ever made worse than 7 on any hole in the Masters and won that week.

Number of the day

4 Stroke lead for Charley Hoffman, the largest first-round lead since 1955, when Jack Burke led by the same margin over Julius Boros.


"I love it."

Smiling Phil Mickelson, one of the few players who savored the conditions: wind gusts up to 40 mph. He shot 1-under 71.

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