The Masters: Johnson primed for green jacket defence as Augusta action tees off

By Sports Desk April 08, 2021

The 85th Masters got under way on Thursday with Dustin Johnson waiting in the wings to defend his title at Augusta.

Honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Elder signalled the opening of the 2021 tournament, which officially began with twosome Michael Thompson and Hudson Swafford teeing off.

Reigning champion Johnson, who secured his second major with an imperious victory in Georgia five months ago, will tee off at 10:30 local time (14:30 GMT) alongside two-time runner-up Lee Westwood and U.S. Amateur Championship winner Tyler Strafaci.

The world number one has earned top-10 finishes at each of his past five Masters outings and holds the tournament scoring record after his stunning 20-under 268 last November.

Johnson is aiming to become the first man since Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002 to win consecutive green jackets.

Though Woods is absent as he continues his recovery from a recent car accident, Johnson will face stiff competition from the likes of Jordan Spieth.

The 2015 champion ended a 1,351-day wait for a PGA Tour victory at the Texas Open last week and will head out in the final group to tee off at 14:00 local time (18:00 GMT), along with US PGA Championship victor Collin Morikawa and Cameron Smith.

Rory McIlroy has a career Grand Slam in his sights and his bid to become the sixth golfer to achieve the feat begins with new father Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele for company.

The Northern Irishman is still waiting for a maiden green jacket but boasts a strong record in the event, having finished in the top 10 in six of the last seven editions.

Brooks Koepka will play with Bubba Watson and Viktor Hovland, while Bryson DeChambeau joins Adam Scott and Max Homa.

Justin Thomas, Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen form another group, with Sergio Garcia starting alongside Webb Simpson and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, while Patrick Reed will measure himself against Paul Casey and Daniel Berger.

Phil Mickelson, the man with the most major titles (five) in the field as Woods is absent, will appear alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Scottie Scheffler.

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    Porter's agents, Priority Sports, announced the agreement on social media on Monday. 

    According to an ESPN report that was retweeted by the agency, Porter's extension will max out if he makes the All-NBA first, second or third team this season. If not, he will make $172m over the course of the deal.  

    Porter has had recurring back problems that have limited him to 116 regular-season games over three NBA seasons, but the Nuggets apparently believed his production and potential were worth the risk. 

    The 23-year-old averaged 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in 31.3 minutes per game last season – nearly doubling his average minutes from the prior season after sitting out all of 2018-19 following surgery.  

    The hope is that he is just beginning to tap into his potential as a match-up nightmare who can shoot from anywhere on the floor.  

    Porter has shot better than 40 per cent from three-point range in his first two NBA seasons (42.2 and 44.5). The only other active players to do that are Golden State's "Splash Brothers", Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.  

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    If he maintains the level that saw him achieve that feat, Herbert will have an excellent shot of replicating Mahomes and Jackson in winning the MVP in his second season.

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