Justin Rose surged into a four-shot lead as Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau were among the big names to endure first-round struggles at The Masters.

Rose was two over through seven holes in tough scoring conditions, with quicker and firmer Augusta greens proving a much bigger challenge than when Dustin Johnson won the tournament with a record score of 20 under last November.

The Englishman sparked into life with an eagle at the par-five eighth hole and lit up the back nine to card a magnificent seven-under 65, the lowest Masters round of his career, with patrons allowed back in under blue skies.

Rose, eyeing a maiden Masters title, got on a roll with seven birdies in nine holes before finishing with a composed par to retain his four-stroke advantage.

Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama shared the early clubhouse lead with impressive three-under opening rounds of 69 before Rose stormed clear.

Defending champion Johnson shot a two-over 74 following a double bogey at the 18th, having made a bogey-birdie start before getting in the red for the first time at 13.

Masters debutant Will Zalatoris, Webb Simpson, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Patrick Reed will start their second rounds on two under following encouraging starts, while new father Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele are among a clutch of players at level par.

McIlroy suffered a miserable opening round and is back on four over, facing a battle to make the cut rather than fight it out to complete a career Grand Slam, while U.S. Open champion DeChambeau was four over through 15.

Jordan Spieth was left to rue a triple-bogey after launching a wayward tee shot into the trees at the ninth but was in a share of eighth on one under after chipping in for an eagle at 15, while Justin Thomas was a further stroke back through 15.

Brooks Koepka matched Johnson's 74 just a few weeks after undergoing knee surgery and the previously in-form Lee Westwood is languishing on six over.

Tommy Fleetwood generated a roar from those fortunate enough to be at the 16th to see him make a hole-in-one before he signed for a 74.

Dustin Johnson has had little time to revel in the success of his record-breaking Masters triumph last November.

The world number one became the first player in the tournament's illustrious history to win with a score of 20 under par.

But the coronavirus pandemic meant the event could not be held in its usual April slot, with Johnson's triumph achieved amid an Autumnal rather than Spring backdrop.

This year, though, the action takes place at the traditional point in the calendar. So, here we are for the first major of 2021 and the expert team at Stats Perform News have picked out their favourites for the green jacket.

GEAR UP FOR THE SPIETH SHOW – Peter Hanson

Here is a statement of fact (okay, actually it's an opinion): golf is much more fun when Jordan Spieth is in the groove. We all know it to be true. And recently, boy have there been some tantalising moments to suggest Spieth will be flying at Augusta – a place where you could fill a lengthy highlight reel with his brilliance from years gone by. A rancid run of form saw Spieth ranked as low as 92nd earlier this year following a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. However, four top-10 finishes from six events preceded a victory at the Valero Texas Open at the weekend – his first tournament win since triumphing at The Open four years ago. Spieth is always great viewing at a venue where he was champion in 2015 and has recorded three other top-three finishes. Key to success for Spieth will be if he can get the putter firing. On the PGA Tour this season, he ranks fifth for one-putt average, while his 27.91 putts per round tallies fourth.

BRYSON REVOLUTIONISED THE SPORT, NOW HE'LL WEAR GREEN - Dan Lewis

Having helped to revolutionise the sport en route to winning the US Open seven months ago, Bryson DeChambeau will now be looking to put his power game to good use with a second major title. The 27-year-old will certainly better his previous best finish of 21st in 2016 and, if he can continue to improve his putting, he has a serious shot of unseating Johnson.

THERE'S NO CURE QUITE LIKE WINNING FOR RORY – John Skilbeck

Who was that lurking in 39th place on the FedEx Cup standings last week? Is there another Rory McIlroy or is this where we are? By now, many thought we would be in an era of McIlroy domination, given the prowess he showed in his early twenties, but those predictions have been skewered, with McIlroy struggling to mount sustained title challenges in the majors. His career card shows plenty of top-10 finishes at the very elite level, but, since landing his fourth major at the 2014 US PGA Championship, the Northern Irishman has often been chasing essentially lost causes. There have been rounds which have amounted almost to self-sabotage, such as the closing 74 when he was genuinely in the hunt three years ago at Augusta, or the 75 with which he began last year. With coach Pete Cowen now on board, McIlroy is actively looking for remedies. There's no cure quite like winning.

DON'T IGNORE THE OBVIOUS, DJ CAN MASTER AUGUSTA AGAIN – Ben Spratt

Are we ignoring the obvious? Dustin Johnson is the Masters favourite and rightfully so. Since winning on his last trip to Augusta in November, DJ triumphed at the Saudi International on the European Tour but his PGA form has been mixed – just one top-10 finish from five tournaments. But no other golfer has had the benefit of returning to the scene of their triumph just five months later. Johnson did not just squeak to victory in November either; his 20-under 268 for the week broke Masters records and secured a five-stroke advantage. Do not bet against him mastering Augusta again.

IT'S NOW OR NEVER FOR VETERAN WESTWOOD – Pat Ridge

Westwood has never won a major, but he is in excellent form heading to Augusta. He just missed out to Bryson DeChambeau at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, losing by one shot – his best result on the PGA Tour since he tied for second at the 2016 Masters. He followed that up with a second-placed finish at The Players Championship, and it could be a case if not now, then will it ever happen for the 47-year-old? A strong performance will also do his Ryder Cup chances no harm, as he looks to match Nick Faldo’s record of 11 appearances for Europe.

NEW FATHER RAHM CAN JOIN NEW WINNERS' CLUB – Chris Myson

Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau were first-time winners in golf's majors in 2020. Going further back, 12 of the last 19 winners had never before won a major, while seven of the last 10 champions at Augusta was triumphing at one of the big four events for a first time. This could be Jon Rahm's turn to continue those trends. While first-time winners have been prominent, nine of the last 10 Masters winners had landed a top-six major finish in the previous two years before breaking their duck. Rahm, who recently became a father for the first time, came in a tie for third at the 2019 U.S. Open and has three straight top-10 finishes to his name at Augusta. He has recent form too. In seven events in 2021, Rahm has five top-10s and is yet to miss a cut.

Rory McIlroy can snatch his next big chance to win The Masters and will "undoubtedly" one day triumph at Augusta, according to British golf great Laura Davies.

This week gives McIlroy another chance to land a first green jacket, and it marks 10 years since the Northern Irishman squandered a golden opportunity on the final day.

In the 2011 Masters, McIlroy led by four shots going into the closing 18 holes but then produced an 80 to slump into a tie for 15th place.

McIlroy has since won four majors, but his wait for a fifth has lasted since 2014, despite being a regular presence high up the leaderboard.

The Masters is the one major that McIlroy has yet to win, although six top-10 finishes in the past seven years points to his liking for the course.

"I always thought that Greg Norman would win The Masters and he never did. But I would say undoubtedly McIlroy will win The Masters," Davies, a four-time women's major champion, told Stats Perform News.

"His game's too good and he'll have a chance and maybe next time he'll take it for sure because you can't keep players like that down."

McIlroy has endured a rocky start to this year, however, missing the cut in two of his past four strokeplay events, including The Players Championship.

"Rory's game has gone downhill quite rapidly from the heights he had just more than a year ago, but he can turn it on a sixpence, he can turn it around," said Davies.

"I wouldn't have a bet on Rory McIlroy this week for The Masters, but you wouldn't want to bet against him. He can turn up and turn it on at any time. He loves Augusta, he's not won but it's a course that I think suits his game. I wouldn't fancy him this week, but he’s such an exceptional talent and something could click at any time."

If McIlroy does put himself into contention on the final day, Davies feels it would be a major test of character to ignore those memories of blowing up on the back nine 10 years ago.

"He'd be very strong mentally if it didn't come into play. I can really only speak for myself and I would definitely have been thinking about it," Davies said. "But that's where the great ones come through and win because they can put that aside and still produce the goods."

Speaking on Tuesday, U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau said it felt "pretty cool" and also surprising that McIlroy had made a recent attempt to follow his long-hitting game.

McIlroy has said he perhaps needs to "rein it back" to regain a more comfortable swing, rather than looking to match DeChambeau's distance off the tee, but he sees the American's power as a major asset.

"I knew there was going to be people trying it. I didn't know who was going to try it. But it's not an easy task," DeChambeau said.

"You have to have four or five things go right in order for you to accomplish hitting it farther and hitting it straighter and implementing it on the golf course in a tournament round. And I appreciate Rory's words.

"From my perspective, I wasn't trying to change anybody else's game. I was just trying to play the best golf I could.

"I knew there would be people there to be influenced. I didn't think it would be Rory. I think he's a pretty smart, talented individual that knows how to play the game potentially better than me. It's honouring and humbling hearing him say it's a difficult task.

"Not everybody can do it all the time, and from my perspective, I don't know what else to say other than it's pretty cool."

Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau were among those to pack their bags as the field was cut to 16 at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play on Friday.

Top-seeded Johnson lost to Kevin Na, who finished birdie-birdie to turn the match and eliminate his fellow American from Group 1 on day three in Austin.

Scotland's Robert MacIntyre progressed out of the group after a tie with Adam Long, having landed one of the shots of the week with a spectacular drive on the 18th which ended up inside three feet and ultimately got him through.

"I had probably one of the best and one of the luckiest golf shots I've hit in my life," the Scot said.

"I had a bit of bad luck here and there and managed to turn it around right at the end there, and it's one of them things, you've just got to keep fighting until the end, and it just shows anything can happen in this game."

Johnson and Na's match was not without tension, with the 28th-seeded American tapping his opponent on the shoulder on the 11th green to warn him about collecting his ball before concession had been verbalised.

In a mildly tense exchange, Johnson appeared to apologise but walked away less than impressed.

DeChambeau, the fifth seed, bowed out at the hands of Tommy Fleetwood, who topped Group 5.

Fleetwood had established a 4up advantage through seven holes but stumbled, allowing DeChambeau back in the match. The Englishman finished with a par on the 18th to win.

"It turned really scrappy for a lot of the back nine," Fleetwood said. "He started coming back and on the last an unlikely par. Match Play is that funny all week. There are guys who have played better than me for three days who are going home and I'm going through."

World number two Justin Thomas was another casualty, despite defeating 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen 3 and 2.

There were eight playoffs required, with Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia among those winning to join the likes of Jordan Spieth in the last 16.

Garcia delivered an incredible shot to beat Lee Westwood, making a hole-in-one at the fourth hole.

Rory McIlroy was also eliminated, tying with Cameron Smith as Ian Poulter finished top of Group 11 after three wins.

Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau stayed alive at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where world number one Dustin Johnson showed why he is golf's top-ranked player.

McIlroy extended his campaign at the Austin Country Club with a confidence-boosting 4 and 3 win over Lanto Griffin on Thursday.

Four-time major champion McIlroy endured a forgettable opening day in Austin on Wednesday, playing a tee shot into a swimming pool during a shocking 6 and 5 humbling at the hands of Ian Poulter.

But McIlroy – who missed the cut at The Players Championship – bounced back on day two, though the Northern Irishman still has his work cut out in the round-robin group phase after Poulter defeated Cameron Smith.

In order for McIlroy to advance from Group 11, the former world number one must beat Smith in the final match while also requiring leader Poulter to lose to Griffin.

"That was big," said McIlroy. "Obviously winning the match today keeps me in the tournament and gives me hope for tomorrow. It looks like Lanto is going to have to do me a favour and beat Poults.

"I hit a couple of destructive shots yesterday, but overall both of us played well, and I didn't feel the scoreline matched up with how I felt like I played. And then the same thing today. I played solid. Lanto didn't have his best stuff, but I played solid and kept it in play and holed some good putts when it mattered."

U.S. Open champion DeChambeau also breathed life into his campaign as the American star narrowly avoided elimination.

After suffering an upset at the hands of unheralded Frenchman Antoine Rozner on day one, DeChambeau was forced to dig deep against Kim Si-woo.

Down one, fifth seed and Arnold Palmer Invitational winner DeChambeau prevailed 2 and 1 after Kim's tee shot on 17 found the penalty area.

DeChambeau needs to beat Group 5 leader Tommy Fleetwood to have a chance to qualify for the weekend.

Top seed Johnson flexed his muscles as he came from behind to deny rising star Robert MacIntyre.

MacIntyre was on the verge of a prized scalp before Johnson rallied to tie the Group 1 showdown, having been two down with two to play.

The pair have one and a half points from two matches heading into their final matches.

World number two and Players Championship winner Justin Thomas, meanwhile, crashed out following a 2 and 1 defeat to defending champion Kevin Kisner.

Justin Thomas claimed a one-stroke victory at The Players Championship after a run of three birdies and an eagle across four holes unseated overnight leader Lee Westwood on Sunday.

World number three and American star Thomas – fuelled by a four-under-par 64 – headed into the final round at TPC Sawgrass three strokes adrift of Westwood.

Westwood (72) had finished second at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, trailing Bryson DeChambeau (71), who was his nearest competitor again at the end of Saturday's play.

Westwood would be a runner-up once more, but this time was bested by Thomas, who stormed into the lead thanks to a frantic spell.

Westwood lacked momentum throughout his round and was back at 12 under – one over for the day – at the turn when Thomas took flight.

Thomas bogeyed the eighth but responded with a birdie at the ninth and suddenly found form.

He made three at the par-four 10th and then, with the day's decisive putt, claimed the lead outright with an eagle from 19 feet at 11. Another birdie at the next hole secured breathing space.

Although Westwood recovered to end the day as he started it, at 13 under, there was only a brief Thomas wobble with bogey at 14 followed by birdie at 16.

Thomas, who has a single major title at the 2017 US PGA Championship, claimed a maiden triumph at The Players and returned to the winner's circle for the first time since August's WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

It is also Thomas' 14th PGA Tour triumph, becoming the fourth player since 1960 to win 14 times on Tour before turning 28 – joining Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller.

"I fought so hard today," said Thomas, who tied the lowest final 36-hole score in Players history with his 64-68 (132) over the weekend. "I stayed patient. It was probably one of the best rounds of my life, tee to green."

Brian Harman used a final-round 69 to finish tied for third alongside U.S. Open champion DeChambeau – two shots behind Thomas.

Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson (71) and Jason Day (73) were among the players to end the tournament 35th in the standings, 11 shots off the pace.

Dustin Johnson (71) – the world number one – climbed up into a tie for 48th at one under, a stroke better off than Jordan Spieth (75), who is still without a win since 2017.

In-form Englishman Lee Westwood remains in pole position heading into the final day of The Players Championship, holding a two-shot lead over Bryson DeChambeau at TPC Sawgrass.

Westwood, who was runner-up at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, was even through nine holes on Saturday before coming home with four birdies on the back nine to finish the day with a four-under 68.

The 47-year-old is at 13 under, ahead of last week's winner DeChambeau (11 under), with the pair again set to joust it out for a title, this time the 'fifth major'.

"Round two," Westwood laughed after the third round, referencing another battle with DeChambeau.

Doug Ghim and Justin Thomas, who shot a 64 on Saturday, are in equal third at 10 under, with Paul Casey, Jon Rahm and Brian Harman a further shot back.

Westwood is in the box seat, having not dropped a shot since the 10th hole of the first round. He also nailed a 24-foot birdie putt on the island green 17th hole on Saturday.

"Westy is a fierce competitor and I look forward to the challenge, again, with him," DeChambeau said.

"His driving is impeccable, his iron play is impeccable and he makes putts when he needs to. Fortunately for me last week I was able to get the job done and I think tomorrow is going to be an incredible battle."

Last year's U.S. Open winner DeChambeau shot a five-under 67 in the third round to marginally close the gap on Westwood. He shot six birdies but bogeyed the 14th.

Thomas was the big mover of the day with his 64, birdieing the first four holes of the day, including holing a 20-foot putt on the first.

The American hit a 204-yard second shot to within seven inches of the pin to eagle the 16th, surging back into contention after being seven shots off the pace heading into the weekend.

"I wish all rounds were that easy," Thomas said. "I hit the ball beautifully, I drove it well, I hit a couple of squirrelly shots there at the end of the front nine, but the good part is that I knew why they were happening.

"I just know that I have to stay patient out here because you can make a lot of birdies and hitting driver well is helping."

Rory McIlroy admitted chasing Bryson DeChambeau's power cost him after the four-time major champion comfortably missed the cut at The Players Championship as Lee Westwood produced a flawless performance to lead the way.

DeChambeau's power play at last year's U.S. Open has changed golf for many across the PGA and European Tours, with former world number one McIlroy trying to add length to his game.

But defending Players champion McIlroy, without a win since 2019, missed the cut by 10 strokes on Friday – a second-round 75 adding to his opening 79 at TPC Sawgrass.

After another forgettable day, which included a double-bogey, three bogeys and two birdies, McIlroy explained his struggles, telling reporters: "Probably, like October last year, doing a little bit of speed training, started getting sucked into that stuff, swing got flat, long and too rotational.

"Obviously I added some speed and am hitting the ball longer but what that did to my swing as a whole probably wasn't a good thing. So I'm sort of fighting to get back out of that. That’s what I'm frustrated with."

McIlroy added: "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't anything to do with what Bryson did at the US Open. I think a lot of people saw that and were like, 'Whoa, if this is the way they're going to set golf courses up in the future, it helps. It really helps'.

"The one thing that people don't appreciate is how good Bryson is out of the rough. Not only because of how upright he is but because his short irons are longer than standard, so he can get a little more speed through the rough than us, than other guys.

"I thought being able to get some more speed is a good thing and maybe just to the detriment a little bit of my swing, I got there. I just need to maybe rein it back in a little bit."

Westwood had no such trouble during the second round – the Englishman using a six-under-par 66 to earn a one-stroke lead at nine under before darkness suspended play.

After finishing second at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, Westwood roared to the top of the leaderboard through 36 holes via a dazzling round, which included six birdies and no bogeys.

It is the third time Westwood has led after two rounds at The Players Championship – in 2005 and 2010 – but he is yet to win.

The 47-year-old is a two-time PGA Tour champion, though his last success came in 2010.

Countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick (68) is a stroke off the pace, one shot ahead of Chris Kirk (65) and Sergio Garcia (72), who led after the opening round.

U.S. Open champion and Arnold Palmer Invitational winner DeChambeau posted a second-round 69 to be tied for fifth at six under.

World number one Dustin Johnson's second round in the 70s catapulted him up 22 positions into a tie for 36th, eight shots behind Westwood, while Jordan Spieth (74) is a stroke further back.

Xander Schauffele (74) was among the stars to miss the cut – the American's Tour-best streak of 23 consecutive made cuts coming to an end.

Sergio Garcia earned a two-stroke lead thanks to a late surge in the opening round of The Players Championship, while defending champion Rory McIlroy endured a nightmare start.

An 18-foot eagle at the final hole propelled Garcia to the round of the day – a seven-under-par 65 – and top spot on Thursday.

Garcia, who won the Players in 2008 and lost a play-off in 2015, gained four strokes from his last three holes in Ponte Vedra Beach, where play was suspended due to darkness.

Masters champion in 2017, Garcia had eagles at the 16th and ninth holes (both par-fives) for his first round at TPC Sawgrass with multiple eagles – his 77th career round.

It is also Garcia's first 65 or better at the venue since 2013, after the Spanish star was almost late for his opening-round tee time.

"I thought I had plenty of time. Obviously I left the range at 7:35, I was teeing off at 7:40 so I figured it's going to take me probably two, three minutes at most to get to 10," Garcia said. 

"I don't know if the clock on the range was behind or something, but when I got to the putting green just like 50 yards short of 10 I kind of looked at it and the sun was coming up so I couldn't see if it was 7:38 or 7:39 but just in case I just took a little stroll, made sure that I got there before it turned to [7:40]."

Brian Harman is five under heading into the second round, a shot clear of Matthew Fitzpatrick, Corey Conners and Shane Lowry at the PGA Tour event, where 21 players will complete their first rounds on Friday morning.

U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, who claimed last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, opened with a first-round 69, highlighted by six birdies.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth, 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed and Jason Day are among 14 players tied for 12th position at two under, while Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas are a stroke further back.

World number one Dustin Johnson signed for a 73, but McIlroy had a quadruple-bogey eight on his card as the former world number one posted a seven-over-par 79.

Still the defending champion after last year's tournament was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, McIlroy returned and struggled dramatically after two balls found water.

McIlroy recorded 43 on the back nine – his first nine – tying the highest opening nine-hole score of his PGA Tour career (677th round).

Henrik Stenson had an even worse day than McIlroy, with an 85 from Sweden's former Open champion featuring two double bogeys and two triples and three balls in the water.

It marked the highest score of Stenson's Tour career, eclipsing his previous high of 83.

Bryson DeChambeau claimed his eighth PGA Tour title after reigning supreme at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

U.S. Open champion and big-hitting American star DeChambeau won by one stroke following his one-under-par 71 in Orlando, Florida on Sunday.

DeChambeau was at his brilliant best as he tamed Bay Hill in a low-scoring final day in windy conditions.

After smacking a 377-yard driver over the lake at the sixth hole, DeChambeau held his nerve to drain a five-foot par for victory ahead of Lee Westwood (73) at 11 under.

"It's been quite a battle this entire time. I don't even know what to say. To win at Mr Palmer's event — it's going to make me cry," a teary DeChambeau said. "It means the world to me."

DeChambeau also singled out 15-time major champion Tiger Woods, who is recovering following a near-fatal single-car crash last week.

Woods holds the record for the most Arnold Palmer Invitational trophies with eight.

"He obviously had done really well here ... we just talked about keep fighting no matter what happened, play boldly like Mr Palmer did," DeChambeau said.

"My heart has been heavy with Tiger and what's been going on with him and I just kept telling myself 'it's now how many times you get kicked down it's about how many times you can pick back up and you keep going'. That's what I surely did out there today."

Canadian golfer Corey Conners finished third at eight under following his final-round 74, two strokes ahead of Andrew Putnam (71), Richy Werenski (73) and former world number one Jordan Spieth (75) – who is searching for his first win since 2017.

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy ended the tournament in a tie for 10th, eight shots adrift of DeChambeau, after shooting a four-over-par 76.

Tyrrell Hatton – the defending champion – closed out his campaign with a final-round 77 to be 10 strokes behind the winner.

Lee Westwood surged into the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational ahead of Bryson DeChambeau, who stole the show with a monstrous 370-yard drive on the sixth.

English 47-year-old Westwood shot a seven-under 65 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead at 11 under heading into the final day, sitting ahead of DeChambeau (68) and previous leader Corey Conners (71), who are tied for second.

Keegan Bradley shot a round-best eight-under 64 with his 59th career bogey-free round to move into equal fourth alongside Jordan Spieth (68) at nine under.

Westwood made his move with five birdies on the front nine on Saturday. He also hit an eagle on the 16th and a birdie on the challenging 18th..

"The first time I played here I felt 'this was good'," said Westwood, who has plenty of experience playing at Bay Hill.

"I like the way it makes you shape the ball into some of the fairways. It suits my game. I'm not the longest through the air anymore so it helps when I can use a lot of the fairway."

DeChambeau, who was the Invitational runner-up in 2018, had the crowds roaring on the 590-yard dog leg par-five sixth hole when he ambitiously succeeded in driving to clear the water in a 370-yard carry.

The 2020 U.S. Open champion shot a 68, including six birdies, but his monster drive was all the talk, having teased on social media that he would attempt it in the lead-up.

"I've never had so many people cheering me on to do something pretty cool," the American said.

"To have that opportunity and execute it was pretty special. Hopefully it's something I can do tomorrow again.

"I was definitely nervous. I caught it pretty solid. I didn't know how else to react."

Overnight leader Conners let slip his dominant position but remains in the hunt after two bogeys and three birdies for the round.

Early leader and 2018 Invitational winner Rory McIlroy slipped to equal seventh after an even-par round.

Doug Ghim drew level with McIlroy after an outstanding seven-under 65, with the duo joined at seven under by Jazz Janewattananond (69) and Richy Werenski (69).

Janewattananond made a hole-in-one at the 14th, while Spieth also produced an ace in the third round – his coming at the second.

Corey Conners holds a one-stroke advantage at the Arnold Palmer Invitational after moving clear in the second round as Rory McIlroy stayed within striking distance.

Conners and McIlroy were tied atop the leaderboard overnight, but the former earned the outright lead through 36 holes in Orlando, Florida on Friday.

Canadian golfer Conners, whose sole win on the PGA Tour came via the 2019 Texas Open, was almost flawless after carding a three-under-par 69 at Bay Hill.

Conners used an eagle, two birdies and just one bogey to improve to nine under – a shot ahead of Scotland's 2011 champion Martin Laird (67) – as the 29-year-old earned his second career 36-hole lead/co-lead on Tour.

"I haven't really been in this position a lot, but I have a lot of confidence in my game and feeling really relaxed the last few days, so try and keep that going,'' said Conners, who eagled the par-five 16th hole in each of the first two rounds – just the sixth player to do so at Bay Hill since 1992.

"I feel like I have a lot of energy. I had an off week last week and really excited for the weekend.''

Former world number one McIlroy lost his share of top spot at the halfway stage of the tournament, but the four-time major champion is only two strokes off the pace.

Winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2018, McIlroy shot a one-under-par 71 to be tied for third alongside Norwegian star Viktor Hovland (68) and Lanto Griffin (68).

McIlroy needed just 10 putts on the front nine, one shy of his Tour best on nine holes – the 2016 Players Championship. It marked the 14th time he required only 10 putts on nine holes.

"It could have been the round that I could have shot 74 or 75. I got in with 71 and pretty happy with that,'' McIlroy said post-round.

U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau is six under overall following his second-round 71.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth (69) – eyeing his first victory since 2017 – is a stroke further back and tied for seventh alongside Justin Rose (68), Paul Casey (69) and Im Sung-jae (70).

Defending champion Tyrrell Hatton completed a stunning turnaround as he avoided the cut.

After opening his title defence with a first-round 77, Hatton regrouped by shooting a 67 – a 10-stroke turnaround on Friday.

Patrick Reed was not so fortunate, the 2018 Masters champion's round of 73 and 74 seeing him finish three over, a shot above the cut line.

Rory McIlroy channelled Tiger Woods in the opening round as the former world number one impressed on his way to a share of the one-stroke lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McIlroy's birdie blitz saw the four-time major champion card a near-flawless six-under-par 66 in Orlando, Florida on Thursday.

Winner of the PGA Tour event in 2018, McIlroy holed seven birdies – including five in a row on the back nine – to lift the Northern Irishman to the top of the leaderboard alongside Canada's Corey Conners.

McIlroy's birdie run from the second to the sixth hole tied the second-longest streak of his career in a round on the PGA Tour, having also managed the feat twice in 2015 (Wells Fargo Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational).

Reflecting on his bright start at Bay Hill, McIlroy said he was inspired by 15-time major winner and American superstar Woods – who has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on eight occasions throughout his illustrious career.

Woods is currently recovering after undergoing surgery following a near-fatal single-vehicle crash last week.

"Obviously a 66 is a great way to start the tournament," said McIlroy, who is without a win since 2019. "I feel like you don't have to do anything special to shoot a good score here. You can be really conservative off the tees if you want to be, so there are a bunch of irons that you can hit off tees.

"I think the toughest thing about this course is the par-threes and I played them in three under today, so that was a bonus. But I've watched Tiger enough here over the years and the way he played this course was, he played it very conservatively, he took care of the par-fives, and that was usually good enough to get the job done. So I've taken a little bit of a leaf out of his book."

U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau is a shot off the pace following his five-under-par 67, while Jason Kokrak, Byeong Hun An and Sebastian Munoz are a stroke further back.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth – eyeing his first victory since 2017 – ended the first round in a tie for 15th and four shots behind the leading pair.

Tyrrell Hatton's title defence got off to a forgettable start after shooting a first-round 77 to be five over the card heading into Friday's second round.

England's Matt Fitzpatrick and American Webb Simpson took a share of the lead in a star-studded field at the WGC-Workday Championship.

World number 16 Fitzpatrick carded a six-under 66 without dropping a shot on day one at the Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida.

Ninth-ranked Simpson closed a clean back nine with three straight birdies and a par to climb up the leaderboard and match the 26-year-old Englishman's score.

Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka dropped his only shot at the par-four 16th, but is alongside three others at five under.

Americans Kevin Kisner and Billy Horschel also carded 67s and were joined in third place by 2017 Masters winner Sergio Garcia, who drained a round-high eight birdies.

World number two Jon Rahm and Patrick Reed were among six players tied in seventh at four under, along with Tony Finau.

Adam Scott saw a potential hole-in-one come back off the flag at the sixth and shot an up-and-down even-par 72, while Justin Thomas recovered from dropping four shots in three holes to close with three birdies in the last four to sign for a one-over 73.

World number one Dustin Johnson posted a pair of double bogeys on his way to a five-over 77. That score was matched by US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, who dropped shots on seven holes.

Rory McIlroy made a decent start, shooting a three-under 69 to sit in a tie for 13th.

The first World Golf Championships event of the season kicks off the Florida swing of the tour, heading towards The Players Championship starting on March 11.

Tiger Woods was in hospital with serious leg injuries after a car crash on Tuesday that sent shockwaves through golf.

The 15-time major winner had to be rescued from his vehicle early in the California morning after coming off the road and overturning.

He was taken to surgery as the sporting world waited for updates on his condition.

Woods' close friend Justin Thomas said: "I'm sick to my stomach. You know, it hurts to see one of my closest friends get in an accident. Man, I just hope he's all right. Just worry for his kids, you know. I'm sure they're struggling."

Australia's former world number one Adam Scott added: "It's sickening. He's our hero out here. You think guys like Tiger and Kobe Bryant are untouchable, but they're not. I just hope he's all right."

Woods' former partner Lindsey Vonn added: "Praying for TW right now."

Basketball great Magic Johnson called for a rush of goodwill towards the 45-year-old, saying: "Everyone send your prayers out to Tiger Woods! He was just in a bad car accident. Let us all pray for his speedy recovery."

The shock among PGA Tour stars was telling of the esteem in which they hold Woods.

Bryson DeChambeau said he was "heartbroken and shocked", while Justin Rose addressed Woods as he wrote on Twitter: "Just seen the awful news. We know how tough you are, we've seen it a hundred times. Hoping and praying you're ok my friend."

Ian Poulter said: "Thoughts are with @TigerWoods and others involved, wishing a speedy recovery and I hope the injuries are not bad."

Xander Schauffele, quoted on the PGA Tour website, said: "My putting coach called me and told me. The volunteer who gave me a ride showed me a picture of it, and I read they used the jaws of life.

"The mood has been very quiet, I'd say. Everyone I've talked to has been in a strange mood due to the news. I was talking to my caddie about the impact he's had on the game of golf. It's not good for us, not good for the game of golf. All we can do is hope that he's fine and has a speedy recovery."

Baseball great Alex Rodriguez wrote: "Praying for my brother @TigerWoods as we all anxiously await more news. Thinking of him and his entire family."

Page 1 of 5
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.