The Masters: Johnson on a roll to join Frittelli and Casey in first-round lead

By Sports Desk November 13, 2020

Dustin Johnson and Dylan Frittelli joined Paul Casey in a share of the lead at the Masters as the first round belatedly concluded on Friday.

Weather delays meant half of the field could not play 18 holes on Thursday, forcing several big names to return early before a swift turnaround.

World number one Johnson could carry some momentum into his second round after birdieing three of the final four holes to match Casey's seven-under 65.

Johnson carded his best round at Augusta, beating his previous low of 67 after resuming at three under through nine.

That still might not have been enough for the co-lead had Frittelli put away his birdie putt at the ninth, his final hole, for first place outright.

Frittelli had missed the cut in his only previous Masters appearance but built on an impressive Thursday - which included an eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie run from the 13th - to hold an 18-hole joint-lead for the first time on the PGA Tour.

Justin Thomas was a stroke back, having not quite maintained the rampant form that took him to five under through 10 overnight.

Also in touch were a pair of veteran former champions in Bernhard Langer and Phil Mickelson, the former on four under with the latter a shot further back.

Even when the 63-year-old Langer appeared to see his round heading off the rails at the seventh, he brilliantly limited the damage to a bogey and followed up with a birdie.

It was the German's first opening round in the 60s at Augusta since 1993, when he won the second of his two titles, and he is on course to become the oldest player to make the cut in Masters history.

Mickelson looked to be finishing his first round on a roll until a bizarre final hole saw a great tee shot followed by a second into the bunker, then landing within four feet before missing a par putt.

Brooks Koepka could end on a high, however, as he followed favourite Bryson DeChambeau in recovering from a slow start to make 70, finishing eagle-birdie-par-birdie.

There was no such change in fortunes for a struggling Rory McIlroy.

Chasing that elusive green jacket and a clean sweep of majors, the Northern Irishman started the day at even par but saw his round quickly fall apart with bogeys at 10, 13 and 14.

Even a birdie at 15 was followed by a miserable tee shot into the water at 16, which forced him to rescue bogey impressively, carding a three-over 75 and in real danger of missing the cut.

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    The American, whose only previous PGA Tour win came at the Puerto Rico Open in 2016, fired a five-under 67 in the third round in California on Saturday.

    Finau was four under through 12 holes in his round before finding water and making a double bogey at the par-three 13th.

    But he responded in style, reeling off three straight birdies to get to 15 under – which sees him share the lead with Max Homa (65) and Kim Si-woo (67).

    Finau has eight top-10 finishes at majors, but on Sunday will bid to end his wait for a second PGA Tour victory.

    Homa, meanwhile, had a double bogey after finding water on the seventh, while Kim went through bogey-free on the PGA West Stadium Course, which hosted the third round.

    Richy Werenski (65) is a shot back of the leading trio, while Russell Knox (64), Brian Harman (67) and Emiliano Grillo (68) are at 13 under.

    Cameron Davis (66), Rory Sabbatini (67), Chase Seiffert (65), Francesco Molinari (69) and Doug Ghim (69) are tied for eighth.

    Molinari, the 2018 Open Championship winner, is playing for the first time since last year's Masters, having missed five cuts in seven events in 2020.

    Overnight leader Im Sung-jae slipped back to a tie for 20th after finding the water three times during his round, including twice at the ninth.

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    The four-time major winner stormed back into the lead of the tournament on day three to set up a finale that will see him duel with Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood for glory.

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    McIlroy has won a host of titles in his glittering career, but is yet to triumph in a Rolex Series event.

    Having impressively been runner-up in Abu Dhabi four times and also come third on three occasions, he was asked ahead of Sunday's battle whether his time had come.

    "I can't go into the day thinking it is my turn," said world number six McIlroy, who had an eagle on the 10th and five birdies.

    "I want to make it my turn. I have to go out there and continue to hit the ball like I hit it on the back nine.

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    Hatton was in control of the tournament overnight but now faces a Sunday scrap, though he is relishing the challenge.

    "It's pretty cool group to be a part of," said Hatton, who is eyeing a fourth Rolex Series win. 

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    He was one over in completing his last five holes while two birdies from McIlroy moved him closer to the Englishman, three shots behind at the start of round three.

    It did not get much better for Hatton, who eventually had to settle for a 71, comfortably his worst score of the week.

    But he remains right behind world number six McIlroy, who had an eagle and five birdies in a magnificent third round, with bogeys on seven and 13 his only setbacks.

    Fleetwood was one of the fortunate players who had completed his round on day two, and he had six birdies on Saturday, picking up a crucial one at 18 to move himself closer to the leaders.

    World number three Justin Thomas, in the spotlight after a controversy over his use of a homophobic slur at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii this month, missed the cut. 

    The American was two under through 14 holes when play was halted on Friday, but a miserable double-bogey on 18 ended his hopes.

    A poor 75 from defending champion Lee Westwood in round three left him out of the running.

    Leader McIlroy has enjoyed a remarkable career but victory on Sunday would be the first time he has triumphed in a Rolex Series event.

    Despite not winning it, he has an impressive record at this tournament, having been runner-up four times and coming third on three occasions.

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