Brilliant Charley Hoffman Takes Historic Lead at Masters
Post by Golf Writer Kieran Clark
Charley Hoffman produced an incredible 65 to secure one of the most impressive first round leads in Masters history. Blustery conditions ensured that the opening round of this year's Masters Tournament would be one of the most challenging in recent memory, with gusty winds pushing the average score to 75.
Remarkably, the 40-year-old American, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, was ten shots ahead of the field average, and will take a four-stroke-lead into the second round of the first major of the year. Sitting at one-over through his opening five holes, the reigning Texas Open champion birdied the par three sixth, before adding two more on the eighth and ninth to complete the front-half in 34.
Making pars on the difficult tenth and 11th holes, the Las Vegas resident cracked the jackpot with a stunning barrage coming home, picking up a two on the famous par three 12th, before embarking on a brilliant run of four consecutive birdies from 14th to 17th, with a near-miss on the last seeing the Californian complete a sensational back-nine of 31 for an opening 65.
The leader's 65 in under 3 minutes pic.twitter.com/NoCCcOG3u4— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) April 6, 2017
Best rounds vs field average at Augusta (since 1970)— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) April 6, 2017
+10.4 Norman (63 in 1996)
+10.2 Clarke (66 in 2003)
+10.0 Hoffman (65 in 2017) pic.twitter.com/QK3Cw9aZip
Though a somewhat unexpected leader, Hoffman was in the final pairing alongside eventual winner Jordan Spieth in the third round of the Masters two years ago, and crucially has experience of the grandest stages. His advantage over compatriot William McGirt - who is making his debut - was an appropriate conclusion of an unpredictable but entertaining day that had seen world number one Dustin Johnson withdraw from proceedings just minutes before his tee time.
England's Lee Westwood - a runner-up to Danny Willett last year - made five-successive birdies on the second nine to ascend from the pack into a strong position at two-under, five shots back of Hoffman. The 43-year-old is still seeking his first major championship title, and there would be few more sentimental choices than the 23-time European Tour winner.
Russell Henley, Kevin Chappell, Andy Sullivan, Matt Fizpatrick, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner, Sergio Garcia and three-time champion Phil Mickelson are the only other players under-par after a testing Thursday, but eyes will fall on Rory McIlroy, seeking to complete the career Grand Slam this week, who scrambled and fought his way back from a poor start to a more than credible level-par round of 72.
Elsewhere, last year's winner Danny Willett battled back from a double-bogey on the opening hole to shoot 73, while former world number one Jason Day is a shot further behind on two-over, an astonishing nine strokes behind Hoffman. Jordan Spieth - looking for redemption after his dramatic collapse on the 12th last year - was briefly in a tie for the lead, before a shock quadruple bogey on the 15th saw him fall sharply down the leaderboard. Scoring is expected to remain a challenge on Friday - with gusty breezes once again forecast - and it will be a vital second round for the field, who are looking to gain ground on a somewhat unexpected leader, who has created an impressive platform for himself to potentialy secure the Green Jacket.
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