Paul Casey of England opened the 2019 Masters by shooting 81 and wasn’t about to let that happen again this year.
The 43-year-old Casey went out in the morning wave after a three-hour rain delay and posted a bogey-free, 7-under-par 65 to take a two-stroke lead over third-ranked Justin Thomas, seventh-ranked Webb Simpson and eighth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.
There are no patrons, as they are called at Augusta, allowed on the grounds for the 84th Masters because of the Coronavirus pandemic, which forced the traditional first major of the year to be postponed from April to November.
The afternoon wave of 44 players was still on the course when darkness halted play. The first round will be completed Friday morning and those who were still on the course will turn right around and start round two.
“Last year was a blip, because I played some good golf that year, just not that week,” said Casey, who has never won a major title but posted his best result in the Grand Slam events by tying for second in the PGA Championship in September at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. “This season has been flat and I’ve looked forward to this week a long time.
“There’s no patrons out there, but it’s a golf course I like to play and the chance to play it in 2020 in a very different situation was something I was looking forward to, and I put together a great round of golf today. I’ve been hitting it so bad recently. I’ve generally worked really hard and the last few weeks are no exception.
“A lot of work in a small amount of time has paid off and it translated onto the golf course today.”
Casey started on the back nine and birdied four of his first seven holes, added a four-foot eagle putt at No. 2 and one more birdie at No. 6.
Simpson, who won the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, also eagled No. 2 en route to a 67, which Schauffele, who has never won a major but tied for second in the Masters last year, matched thanks to four birdies on the back nine.
Thomas, whose only major title came in the 2017 PGA, also was tied for third at 5-under after collecting six birdies and one bogey in his first 10 holes before play was stopped.
Defending champion Tiger Woods, who has claimed five Green Jackets, opened with a bogey-free 68 that is his best ever start in the Masters and is tied for fifth with Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Patrick Reed, 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Lee Westwood of England and Patrick Reed.
Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, was also in the tie for fifth at 4-under after 10 holes, while 21-year-old Matthew Wolff of Agoura Hills was 4-under through 11 holes and Dylan Frittelli was 4-under after nine.
“I was good all around, drove it well, hit my irons well and putted well,” said Woods, who has 15 major titles among his 82 PGA Tour victories. “I could have made more putts, but the putts are just not breaking.
“There was nothing I did poorly and I’m just looking forward to tomorrow, whatever time it is that I’m going to play.”
Second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain shot 69 and was in a tie for 13th that includes top-ranked Dustin Johnson, who was 3-under through nine, while sixth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis, the U.S. Open champion who was the pre-tournament betting favorite, totaled 70 and was in a tie for 21st that included 10th-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, who was 2-under after nine holes.
Ninth-ranked Tyrrell Hatton of England was in a tie for 34th at 1-under through 10, while fifth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, making his sixth bid to complete the Career Grand Slam by winning the Masters, was at even par after nine holes and in a tie for 51st that included fourth-ranked Collin Morikawa, the PGA champion from La Canada Flintridge and Cal, who was even through 10 holes.
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