Masters underway with handful under par early

Opening Round Update – 79th Masters Tournament – Augusta National Golf Club – Augusta, Georgia –

The 79th playing of the Masters is underway at Augusta National Golf Club.

Charley Hoffman leads at 2-under nearing the turn as players in the morning wave of tee times are drifting through the opening nine holes of the season’s first major championship.

Hoffman last won in November last year in Mexico and entered the week as a 200-to-1 long shot at to win the Green Jacket. He is the 63rd ranked player in the world.

A handful of players are 1-under and just a shot back including Ian Poulter, two-time Masters champion Vijay Singh, Keegan Bradley, Gary Woodland and Kevin Streelman. Defending champion Bubba Watson is on the course after a par on the first hole.

The Tiger Woods group, which includes Jamie Donaldson and Jimmy Walker, tees off at 1:48 p.m. local time in Augusta. Walker leads the FedEx Cup standings and has more wins than anyone on tour over the last two seasons including two weeks ago in Texas, but he will be an after-thought at least early on Thursday.

Woods, a four-time Masters champion, is returning to competitive golf for the first time in nine weeks.

Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Ryan Moore tee of at 10:41 a.m. local time. McIlroy is trying to win the career Grand Slam with a victory this week. Making his sixth start at Augusta, he has just one Top 10.

Other Golf news:

  • Players from 24 different countries — a Masters record – are playing this week. A total of 50 international players are in the field. Some 47 players are from the United States.
  • Five amateurs are competing at Augusta this week including Bradley Neil, the British Amateur champion.
  • Streelman captured Wednesday’s Par 3 Contest at Augusta. No Par 3 Contest winner has ever gone on to triumph that week at the Masters. Jack Nicklaus wowed the crowds as part of five hole-in-ones Wednesday – a Masters record. Camilo Villegas tallied a pair of aces.
  • Woods opened the year as a 10-to-1 betting selection at to win the Masters. At press time, the line at was 25-1.
  • Marc Leishman (personal) and Tim Clark (elbow) withdrew from the Masters dropping the field total to 97.