© Reuters. The Masters
By Andrew Each
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) – Dustin Johnson was 4 pictures behind the early first-round Masters leaders on Thursday because the defending champion confronted a lot fiercer situations at Augusta Nationwide in comparison with the toothless structure he triumphed on 5 months in the past.
This Masters has a way more acquainted look as it’s again in its conventional April slot because the 12 months’s first main whereas followers have been welcomed again, albeit in restricted numbers and with protocols in place to scale back the danger of COVID-19 transmission.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, bolstered by an eagle on the par-five eighth the place his method settled 23 ft from the cup, South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout and South Korea’s Kim Si-woo shared the early lead at three beneath.
World primary Johnson opened his title defence with a bogey on the first gap the place his method shot rolled off the again of the inexperienced however hit again with a brief birdie putt on the par-five second.
Johnson dropped one other shot on the par-four fifth gap after his tee shot discovered a deep fairway bunker earlier than stringing collectively 4 consecutive pars to succeed in the flip at one over.
Victory for Johnson would put him in elite firm as Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods are the one three gamers to win again to again Masters titles.
Taking part in one group behind Johnson is world quantity three Jon Rahm, who’s competing 5 days after his spouse gave beginning to their first youngster and was even par by way of eight holes.
Rahm was grouped with world quantity six Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy, whose seventh bid to finish the profession Grand Slam obtained off to a tough begin after three consecutive bogeys from the fifth.
Bryson DeChambeau, whose bid to overpower Augusta Nationwide final November when he was the pre-tournament favorite failed, had but to begin his spherical.
Justin Thomas, who has improved in every of his 5 Masters begins and completed fourth final November, was as a consequence of exit within the day’s penultimate group at 1:48 p.m. ET (1748 GMT).
Former champion Jordan Spieth, recent off his win final week on the Texas Open, was scheduled to tee off at 2:00 p.m. ET within the day’s ultimate grouping.
Festivities started hours earlier when a clearly moved Lee Elder, who in 1975 grew to become the primary Black man to compete within the Masters, was warmly welcomed as he joined Nicklaus and Gary Participant as a brand new honorary starter for the 2021 match.
A superb solar had barely risen over the clubhouse when 86-year-old Elder was pushed to the primary tee in a golf cart as a brand new main season dawned.
“I feel it was one of the crucial emotional experiences that I’ve ever witnessed or been concerned in,” Elder mentioned.
“It’s actually one thing that I’ll cherish for the remainder of my life as a result of I’ve liked coming to Augusta Nationwide and enjoying right here.”
Elder has restricted mobility and didn’t hit a tee shot.
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