Hoffman leads by four shots

Johnson withdraws; wind results in big first-round numbers

AUGUSTA, Ga. — During the toughest opening round at the Masters in 10 years, it all looked easy for Charley Hoffman.

For the better part of three hours Thursday, in a ferocious wind at Augusta National that made the Georgia pines creak, Hoffman seemed to find the right yardage for the perfect club to hit every shot he wanted.

He made the putts, too, carding seven birdies over his last 11 holes for a 7-under-par 65.

It was 10 strokes better than the day’s average score, and gave him a four-shot lead — the largest for the opening round at the Masters in more than six decades.

“For lack of any better words,” Hoffman said, “it was a dream.”

It was even more surreal for Dustin Johnson. He didn’t even get to hit a shot.

Johnson, ranked No. 1 in the world and playing the best golf of his life, was a few minutes away from his tee time when his head overruled his heart. He left the practice green and took a sharp turn away from the first tee toward the clubhouse to withdraw because of a back injury.

“My heart is in it and wants to play,” he said. “The more I thought about it, I just wasn’t going to have a chance.”

Johnson was still trying to digest the last 24 hours, as shocking as any for a top-ranked player going into a major. Johnson was in his rental home Wednesday when he went to move his car in a downpour because his 2-year-old son was on his way back from day care. Wearing only socks, he slipped on the hardwood steps and crashed onto his left elbow and lower back.

Even as he tried to warm up on Thursday, he slowly shook his head because of the pain he felt when he struck the ball.

Masters newcomer William McGirt was in second place at 69. Lee Westwood, who has the credentials as the best player to have never won a major, ran off five straight birdies late in the afternoon and salvaged a 70.

Hoffman’s four-shot lead was the largest at the Masters for the opening round since Jack Burke Jr. had a four-shot lead in 1955.

Rory McIlroy, needing only a green jacket to complete a career Grand Slam, opened with a 72. Jordan Spieth, who won the masters two years ago, had a quadruple-bogey in a round of 75.