APRIL 7, 2017

It’s not often that a major-championship field can be made to look inept, but that is what Charley Hoffman did Thursday at the Masters. He shot an opening-round 65 at Augusta National Golf Club to take a four-shot lead.

Hoffman rattled off five birdies on the back nine, including four consecutive at Nos. 14-17, before his birdie attempt at the par-4 18th turned away at the hole for a 31 on the inward nine.

William McGirt, who shot 69, was the only other competitor to break 70 on a cold and windy day when only 11 players bettered par 72. 


It isn’t every day, particularly at the biggest event in golf, that what transpires off the sport’s most-famous course is more scrutinized by the cameras than what happens between the ropes.

On Thursday, with nearly all of the 93 players all but bleeding out on an unusually punitive Augusta National, eyes instead were directed at world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. He never hit a shot in competition but nonetheless was the subject of more analysis and consternation than any player since Tiger Woods in his prime at the Masters.

Rightly so, too.


There was only one moment during a wild and blustery Thursdaywhen William McGirt wasn’t calm and at ease. It happened on the first tee of his first Masters.

“When I heard, ‘Fore, please! William McGirt now driving,’ I almost shed a tear,” said the 37-year-old Wofford College alumnus. “I tried my best to prepare myself. I didn’t want to not be able to get the ball to sit on the tee or not be able to get the driver to sit still.”

After that, the short-hitting McGirt parred the first, birdied the second and breezed around the Augusta National Golf Club course, excuse the pun. He relied on his deft short game, shot 3-under 69 and made only one bogey on a day so tough that Fred Couples, a veteran of 32 Masters, said, “I’ve never seen it like this.”


I finally can say I've rolled my rock on the greens of Augusta National. OK, maybe it wasn't the real deal, but these greens were as lightning quick as the real thing.

The replica putting greens of Nos. 7, 14 and 16 at Berckmans Place are the coolest thing this side of Rae's Creek and the highlight to what has to be The World's Best Sports Bar.  

Tucked in an oasis behind the fifth fairway at Augusta National is a modernized version of the famed white antebellum clubhouse. The sign at the entrance reads simply, "By invitation only," but what it really takes is a $6,000 weekly badge that is the ultimate golden ticket of the Masters.

Augusta National Golf Club (par 72, 7,435 yards; a-amateur)

Pos Player Score


Charley Hoffman



William McGirt



Lee Westwood


Friday’s second round (all times EDT; a-amateur)

8 a.m. — Rod Pampling, William McGirt

8:11 a.m. – Mark O’Meara, Hudson Swafford, Roberto Castro

8:22 a.m. – Ian Woosnam, James Hahn, a-Brad Dalke

8:33 a.m. – Ross Fisher, Pat Perez, Byeong Hun An 

8:44 a.m. – Jose Maria Olazabal, Ryan Moore, Webb Simpson

Keeping score


Number of bogey-free rounds posted among the 93 players Thursday in the Masters, by Sergio Garcia, who shot 1-under 71 at Augusta National Golf Club.


Number of honorary starters, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, on the first tee at Augusta National in the first Masters in 62 years to be played without the presence of Arnold Palmer, the three-time champion who died Sept. 25.


Number of Englishmen on the first page of the Masters leaderboard, with Lee Westwood (70) in solo third, followed by Andy Sullivan, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Justin Rose tied for fourth after 71s.


Number of times in the past 80 Masters Tournaments that the first-round leader or co-leader has gone on to win. Since 1985, only two have gone wire-to-wire: Trevor Immelman (2008) and Jordan Spieth (2015).


Scoring average in the first round of the Masters, the highest for an opening round since 2007.

Mickelson’s comments hit the mark

Congrats to Phil Mickelson for coming out and saying that (“Mickelson calls out Tour brethren for moving marks,” April 5, I'm a 30-year PGA professional and couldn't agree more.

The LPGA should be ashamed of its handling of the situation and the integrity of the game. In what other sport can a TV home spectator change the outcome of any event? I saw a holding penalty at the Super Bowl on Sunday. Can I call the NFL on Monday and change the outcome?

Golf doesn't have referees, as in other sports, to monitor the actions of the event. Maybe the answer is put a referee in every group to oversee each player’s actions. At the completion of the hole, with no contesting issues, the score is official.

April 6-9
PGA Tour: Masters Tournament
Augusta (Ga.) National GC
April 7-9
Symetra Tour: Northern California Classic
Windsor (Calif.) GC
April 12-15
LPGA: Lotte Championship
Ko Olina GC, Kapolei, Hawaii
April 13-16
European Tour: Trophee Hassan II
Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, Rabat, Morocco
PGA Tour: RBC Heritage
Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
April 14-16
Champions Tour: Mitsubishi Electric Classic
TPC Sugarloaf, Duluth, Ga.
April 19-22
Junior: Sage Valley Junior Invitational
Sage Valley Golf Club, Graniteville, S.C.
April 20-23
European Tour: Shenzhen International
Genzon GC, Shenzhen, China Tour: United Leasing and Finance Championship
Victoria National GC, Newburgh, Ind.
PGA Tour: Valero Texas Open
TPC San Antonio (Oaks Course)
April 21-23
Champions Tour: Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge
Top of the Rock, Ridgedale, Mo.
Symetra Tour: Sara Bay Classic
Sara Bay CC, Sarasota, Fla.
April 25-26
National Golf Day

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