AUGUSTA, Ga. — There is no safe ground at Augusta National Golf Club.
The 81st Masters began Thursday on the chilly and extremely windy side and remained there throughout the day as scorecards took a beating.
Sustained winds reaching 20 mph with gusts reaching 30 mph coupled with temperatures barely reaching into the 60s had the players on edge from the first tee and so far has kept anyone from posting a round in the 60s.
The winds, battering tee shots and approaches, even influenced putts.
The conditions led to an assault on red numbers and produced big numbers. For instance, Jordan Spieth, who made a quadruple-bogey 7 on the 12th hole in the last round of the 2016 Masters, made a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 15th in his first round this year.
With only 12 of the 93 players in the field in red numbers, one has stood out among the rest. American Charley Hoffman skyrocketed up the leaderboard with five birdies on the back nine to claim the lead at 7 under par. Fellow American William McGirt is next, four shots back at 3 under.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson didn’t hit one shot during the first round. The winner of his last three PGA Tour starts was forced to withdraw from the tournament with a back injury. The reigning U.S. Open champion injured himself Wednesday falling on wooden stairs in his rental home. He was going outside to move a car when he slipped on wooden steps and landed on his lower back and both elbows.
After a night of rehabilitation full of ice and heat, he went to Augusta National to see if he could make his tee time. After hitting balls on the practice ground and making his way to the first tee, he decided he just couldn’t compete.
“It sucks. I want to play,” Johnson said. “I’m playing probably the best golf of my career and this is one of my favorite tournaments. To have a freak accident happen yesterday afternoon, it sucks. It really does. ...
“I want to play. The issue is I just can’t swing.”