Defending champion Dustin Johnson failed to hit the ground running in testing conditions when he started the defence of his Masters title on Thursday.

Johnson donned the green jacket for the first time last November, finishing the tournament on a record-breaking 20 under par.

The world number one made only four bogeys as he blew the field away in the 2020 major at Augusta, but he dropped two shots in his opening five holes five months later, with patrons returning under blue skies.

Birdies were at a premium when the tournament got under way on much quicker, firmer greens than those seen in last year's tournament.

Two-time major champion Johnson started by dropping a shot after running through the first green with his second shot. Although he hit straight back with a birdie at the par-five second, Johnson was back at one over after failing to sink a par putt at the fifth.

Hideki Matsuyama led the way on three under through eight holes after draining an eagle putt at the eighth, with Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Si Woo Kim just a shot behind.

New father Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed and Paul Casey were among a host of players on one under following early birdies.

The recently in-form Lee Westwood was struggling on three over through six after a double bogey at the third, while Rory McIlroy dropped to one over with a dropped shot at the fifth and Brooks Koepka was level par eight holes into his first round.

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.

Rory McIlroy had a quadruple-bogey eight on his card as the former world number one endured a shocking start to his title defence at The Players Championship.

The Northern Irishman finished his first round on a seven-over-par 79, with two balls at the bottom of a lake, and facing a huge battle to make the cut.

McIlroy began on the back nine and made an immediate double bogey, but the round got worse when he sent two balls into the giant expanse of water to the left of the fairway at the 18th.

The four-time major winner gave himself a chance from close range to limit the damage to three shots, but McIlroy could not sink the putt.

Having also dropped a shot at the 13th hole - his fourth - it meant McIlroy reached the turn in seven-over-par 43.

He picked up shots at the first and second to get back to five over, but further damage to his scorecard at the next two holes saw the 31-year-old return to seven over.

A third three-putt of the round at that fourth hole summed up McIlroy's misery, and although he soon picked up another shot and began to play steadily, more putting peril at the ninth, his final hole, inflicted yet more damage.

McIlroy was not alone in sending balls into the water.

England's Paul Casey took seven at the 17th, the famous three-par island hole at Sawgrass, after going into the drink both off the tee and from the drop zone.

That outcome saw Casey plunge from two under par to two over, but he steadied himself and finished with a one-over 73.

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

While McIlroy, Casey and Stenson ran into trouble, Sergio Garcia led the way as he secured the clubhouse lead with a sparkling seven-under 65, the Spaniard with a pair of eagles in his round.

This tournament was called off after the first round last year due to the developing COVID-19 crisis, with McIlroy the most recent champion in 2019, when he edged out Jim Furyk by one shot.

Daniel Berger secured his fourth PGA Tour win with a two-stroke victory at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am as Jordan Spieth's wait goes on.

Berger carded a brilliant seven-under 65 at Pebble Beach Golf Links on Sunday to claim his first win of 2021.

The American holed a 31-foot eagle putt at the final hole to finish at 18 under.

Berger earlier had an eagle, four birdies and a bogey before delivering the key putt at the last, ending up clear of Maverick McNealy (66).

Winless since 2017, Spieth took a two-stroke lead into the final round but could only shoot a two-under 70.

The three-time major champion mixed five birdies with three bogeys to finish at 15 under and tied for third alongside Patrick Cantlay (68).

After finishing tied for fourth at the Phoenix Open last week, Spieth has consecutive top-five finishes on the PGA Tour for the first time since 2018.

Paul Casey (68) and Nate Lashley (69) finished at 14 under, the latter four-putting for a triple bogey on 16.

Charley Hoffman (66), Cameron Tringale (67), Max Homa (68), Jason Day (69) and Russell Knox (70) were a stroke further back at 13 under.

Paul Casey won by four shots at the Dubai Desert Classic to claim his 15th European Tour title.

The world number 27 led by one stroke heading into the final round and carded a two-under par 70 on Sunday to finish clear of closest challenger Brandon Stone. 

European Ryder Cup hopeful Casey was given a scare by Robert MacIntyre, who had a share of the lead at one point, before four successive bogeys put him out of contention.

Casey enjoyed a strong back nine that included a two-putt birdie on the par-five 18th hole to card 271 overall for the tournament.

Stone bogeyed three of his first seven holes but recovered as the day went on to leapfrog MacIntyre into second spot, finishing one shot better off than the Scotsman.

Victory for Casey is his first since the European Open in September 2019. It takes the 43-year-old ahead of Rory McIlroy on the all-time list of European Tour successes, and level with Thomas Bjorn and Padraig Harrington. 

"It's very, very special," Casey said. "Dubai has been so good to tour, but to golf around the world as well has been so cool. I've worked so hard.

"I'm hoping for a lot of good stuff for the rest of the season. I feel like I've regained my youth; I mean that sincerely. I'm so happy."

Further down the standings, Laurie Canter finished in a tie with Kalle Samooja for fourth place, while Harrington's final-round 70 saw him share sixth place with Bernd Wiesberger and Sergio Garcia.

Bryson DeChambeau faces a challenge to make the cut at this year's Masters as four players shared the lead at the end of day two at Augusta. 

Masters debutant Abraham Ancer, Cameron Smith, Justin Thomas and world number one Dustin Johnson are all on nine under at the top of a congested leaderboard. 

However, after his difficulties on day one drew plenty of attention, DeChambeau is in real danger of missing out on playing in the final two rounds in Georgia at the rearranged major. 

Having proclaimed he was going to play Augusta as if it was a par 67, DeChambeau carded a 70 in his opening round but had slipped back to one over for the tournament when play was halted due to bad light. 

DeChambeau will need to be inside the top 50 including ties to sit the right side of the cut line, though he made a dismal start on Friday when he hit a triple bogey on the third. 

The U.S. Open champion dropped further shots at the fourth, fifth and seventh, though that error was wedged between two birdies in an up-and-down front nine. 

Yet another bogey followed on the 10th, but DeChambeau closed out for the day with a birdie on the 12th and launched a drive over the trees to leave himself in with a great chance of an eagle on the par-five 13th when he returns to finish off his round.

Jon Rahm, meanwhile, looks well set to make it a five-way share for the lead when he starts again on Saturday, having left himself a six-foot putt for birdie on the 13th green. 

Overnight leader Paul Casey dropped his first shot of the day with a bogey at the 10th - he sliced his third right across the green - to sit on six under through 12 holes, while Lee Westwood moved himself back to three under before the hooter went. 

Tiger Woods was in indifferent form through his opening nine holes as he remained on four under, while Hideki Matsuyama is just one stroke off the lead with three to play thanks to a birdie on the 15th, with Sungjae Im and Patrick Cantlay also on eight under.

Brooks Koepka enjoyed a strong finish to his round, successive birdies on his final two holes moving the former world number one to five under. 

"I need to clean it up for the weekend if I want to win. No three putts," he told Sky Sports. "I feel fine, I am glad to be done, go put my feet up, go work out – not that excited as I have got legs today, it's going to be a long day. 

"My body feels great, just need to clean up those sloppy mistakes."

Paul Casey insisted the Masters "still has a buzz to it" despite no fans being in attendance as he took the lead on Thursday.

The Englishman carded a seven-under 65 at a weather-hit Augusta to take a two-stroke lead as the first round was suspended due to darkness.

Casey's 65 tied his lowest career score at a major as he led Webb Simpson and Xander Schauffele.

While no fans are in attendance in Georgia due to the coronavirus pandemic, Casey said he could still feel the buzz at the Masters.

"This is something I've looked forward to. I was vocal earlier in the year at Harding Park about not enjoying golf in a pandemic," he told a news conference.

"I'm acutely aware I'm in a very fortuitous position. I still get to be a professional golfer and play championship golf, but I didn't know how the fan-less experience would be. And so far, I've not enjoyed it, and I've lacked I felt like the lack of energy for me. I've had nothing or very little to draw from being out playing tournament golf. 

"The Masters, though, this week, it still has a buzz to it. There's an energy and a little bit of a vibe. Yes, it's clearly a lot less than what we are used to, but there's something about this place that is still, I felt excited to be here."

Casey is again well-placed to be in contention, having finished as runner-up at the US PGA Championship earlier this year for his 10th top-10 result at a major.

The 43-year-old said the history of the Masters made the tournament special.

"The golf course itself is part of it. The history of this championship, this tournament. So many people like myself are just excited to play this. You know, this is a treat," Casey said. 

"It always has been and always will be a real treat. There's many great golfers who are not here this week because they are not high enough in the rankings or how they didn't qualify, and they are envious of every single player in the field. So for me, it's not lost on me."

Paul Casey will carry a two-stroke lead into Friday at the Masters as Tiger Woods made an impressive start to his title defence at a rain-hit Augusta.

Casey opened with a seven-under 65 in Georgia on Thursday, but the first round was initially delayed and then suspended for almost three hours due to inclement weather.

The Englishman, who was runner-up at the US PGA Championship earlier this year for his 10th top-10 finish at a major, produced a bogey-free round that included an eagle and five birdies.

Casey sat two strokes clear of American duo Webb Simpson and Xander Schauffele, who opened with 67s, when play was suspended for the day due to darkness with 44 players yet to get through 18 holes.

It continued Simpson's fine form, having finished in the top 20 in each of his past six starts on the PGA Tour.

But all eyes were on Woods, who started his title defence with a four-under 68.

Having sensationally won his 15th major at the Masters last year, Woods entered the tournament with just one top-10 finish in 2020 and that came at the Farmers Insurance Open in January.

However, the American – starting on the back nine – made three birdies in four holes from the 13th and picked up a shot at the first during a bogey-free first round.

A five-time Masters winner, Woods' 68 tied his lowest first-round score at the tournament and was his first bogey-free round in a major since the 2009 US PGA Championship.

Woods' round left him in an eight-way tie for fourth, with Hideki Matsuyama, Lee Westwood, Louis Oosthuizen and Patrick Reed alongside him and having completed their rounds.

But Adam Scott (through 10), Justin Thomas (through nine) and Dylan Frittelli (through eight) were all flying and at four under before play was suspended.

Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, made four birdies on the front nine, while Thomas and Frittelli made more mixed starts.

World number one Dustin Johnson (through eight) and Jon Rahm (69) were among a group at three under alongside Rickie Fowler (through 11) and Matthew Wolff (through 10).

U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau recovered from a double bogey at the 13th hole to post a two-under 70 and sit in a tie for 19th, a position he is joined in by Jason Day (70) and Justin Rose (through eight) among others.

Rory McIlroy struggled to get much going, reaching even par halfway through his round, while Brooks Koepka was one over through nine.

Jordan Spieth, the 2015 winner, showed no signs of turning his poor form around, opening with a 74.

Day one of Bryson DeChambeau's driving assault on Augusta did not go exactly to plan.

All eyes were on the U.S. Open champion as he teed off from the 10th on Thursday as the favourite to win this year’s Masters, armed with an attack plan that had been the source of much discussion.

Would the PGA Tour's longest driver, as he suggested, look for the 14th fairway from the 13th tee? Could he possibly even drive the green from the first? Nick Faldo promised to run naked through the iconic course if the latter came to pass.

There was no doubting DeChambeau's ambition in the opening round, but the aggressive approach initially appeared flawed and his improved putting had to come to the rescue on more than one occasion.

DeChambeau met his match early, scrambling to make par at the 11th and 14th after frequenting the trees but double-bogeying the 13th.

The tide steadily turned, however, with DeChambeau still relying on a series of hefty tee shots, even if his drive at the first pulled left and allowed Faldo, in attendance as a CBS analyst, to keep his clothes on.

It was a tumultuous round for the most part and yet, by the time he returned to the clubhouse, the 27-year-old had a two-under 70, still very much in contention.

"I'm very happy with the patience I delivered to the course today," DeChambeau said.

"I tried to take on some risk. It didn't work out as well as I thought it would have, but I'm proud of the way I handled myself and finished off.

"Birdieing eight and nine was a testament to my focus level and wanting to contend here."

Of his double-bogey setback, he added: "I just didn't draw it around the corner enough and I got greedy.

"This golf course, as much as I'm trying to attack it, it can bite back. It's still Augusta National and it's the Masters. It's an amazing test of golf no matter what way you play it."

Not among those past champions but leading the way early on was Paul Casey, a bogey-free round boosted by an eagle at the second to finish on 65.

Casey finished in a tie for second at the US PGA Championship and suggested playing majors during the coronavirus pandemic is easier than a standard tournament.

"I didn't know how this was going to be, playing in a pandemic without fans," he told Sky Sports. "To be honest, I still don't like it, I miss the energy.

"But the majors we've played – Harding Park, Winged Foot, now Augusta – you can sense there's a buzz among the players. It's been that difference that has led to my good golf in the bigger championships.

"I want people to be pouring through the gates and enjoying watching myself and others play golf. But until that happens, I'm trying to make the most of it this week."

Tiger Woods, the defending champion, might yet have his say. He too finished flawless on 68 after birdies at the 13th, 15th, 16th and first.

Tiger Woods made a promising start to the defence of his title and Paul Casey took an early lead in The Masters on Thursday

Woods sensationally won a 15th major title at Augusta last year and the legendary American was just two shots off the lead through 10 holes in his first round.

The 44-year-old birdied the 13th, 15th and 16th after starting on the back nine and moved to four under with another gain at the first after play was suspended for almost three hours due to heavy rain in Georgia.

Casey jumped to the top of the leaderboard on six under with an eagle three at the second, the Englishman's 11th hole of his opening round.

He set that up with a magnificent booming drive off the tee, sending his second shot to around four feet of the hole and then making no mistake with the putter.

Four birdies in his opening seven holes on the back nine had left Casey well poised early on before he replaced Webb Simpson as the leader.

Simpson was five under through 14 holes, while Lee Westwood, Jon Rahm and Louis Oosthuizen were just a further stroke back alongside Woods.

Rahm dropped shots at two of his first three holes but made an impressive recovery, while tournament favourite Bryson DeChambeau - playing in the same group as the Spaniard - was one under having similarly rallied after double-bogeying the 13th.

Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka are among the big names due to go out later in the day and facing the prospect of having to return on Friday to complete their first rounds due to the miserable morning weather.

Harold Varner III fired an eight-under 62 to be in a three-way tie for the lead as the Wyndham Championship first round was suspended.

Varner, Tom Hoge and Roger Sloan opened with 62s at the Sedgefield Country Club in North Carolina on Thursday.

Having finished tied for 29th at the US PGA Championship, Varner produced a bogey-free opening round that featured eight birdies.

Hoge got to nine under before a bogey at the last, while Sloan mixed nine birdies with a bogey.

The trio are two shots clear atop the leaderboard, ahead of Harris English, who carded a 64 to be outright fourth.

The round was suspended and later called off for the day due to inclement weather, with 33 players yet to complete 18 holes.

Ryan Brehm (five under through 14), Talor Gooch (five under through 16) and Hank Lebioda (five under through 16) are the best-placed of those yet to finish their first rounds.

They are tied for fifth alongside Wesley Bryan, Brian Harman, Kim Si-woo, Patrick Reed and Chesson Hadley, who opened with 65s.

Defending champion J.T. Poston, meanwhile, struggled badly to a four-over 74 to be back in a tie for 142nd.

Runner-up at the US PGA, Paul Casey carded a 67 to be tied for 25th alongside the likes of Sergio Garcia.

Three-time major champion Jordan Spieth was again unable to get much going, shooting a 70.

Paul Casey labelled Collin Morikawa as "something special" after the American's US PGA Championship win.

Morikawa carded a six-under 64 in the final round at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco on Sunday to beat Casey (66) and Dustin Johnson (68) by two strokes.

The 23-year-old became the third-youngest player to win the US PGA since World War II, behind only Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus.

Casey, who has 10 top-10 finishes in majors without a win, paid tribute to Morikawa.

"I played phenomenal golf and there's nothing I would change. I'm very, very happy with how I played, great attitude, stayed very calm and stayed in the present. It wasn't enough," the Englishman said.

"The glorious shots Collin hit like on 16 to make eagle, you have to tip your cap. When he popped up on Tour not that long ago, those guys who were paying attention like myself knew that this was something special, and he's proved it today.

"He's already sort of proved it but he's really stamped his authority of how good he is today.

"But I'm very, very happy with everything. I kind of got my mojo back now."

Morikawa produced some magic at the 16th hole, putting an incredible 293-yard tee shot to within seven feet for eagle.

Casey had just made birdie at the same hole and the 43-year-old hailed Morikawa for his shot.

"It's my tee shot on the 17th which was bothering me more," he said.

"Brilliant shot. I love the fact we've got drivable par-fours. You know I'm a big fan of the shorter hole. I love the fact that we're given an opportunity, and then a guy like Collin steps up and shows you what's possible on a drivable par-four. Nothing I can do except tip my hat. It was a phenomenal shot.

"I knew he made the putt because we could hear the small roar, the small clap and cheer when he holed it in. I think I was on the 18th tee at the time. Yeah, I was very focused on myself, so other than acknowledging what a shot he hit, I was trying to take care of business."

The competition at the top of the US PGA Championship leaderboard showed little sign of dispersing as Dustin Johnson had Paul Casey for company at the summit through nine holes.

Overnight leader Johnson held a one-stroke advantage heading into Sunday's final round as he aims to add to his sole prior major triumph at the 2016 U.S. Open.

But a number of stars were in hot pursuit and, despite a birdie at the first, Johnson failed to pull clear of the chasing pack before the turn.

A bogey at the third opened the door a little wider for those with serious title interests, but the former world number one bounced back at the next to return to 10 under.

Casey was there, too, by the time Johnson reached the ninth, though, building on scores of 68, 67 and 68 with birdies at the fourth, fifth and 10th.

Cameron Champ and Bryson DeChambeau had each earlier moved into position to challenge the frontrunner.

Champ – a 25-year-old with just two PGA Tour wins to his name – joined Johnson on 10 under and put away a vital 18-foot putt for par at the eighth, but he left himself with an awful lot to do at the following hole and fell two strokes off the pace.

Meanwhile, DeChambeau spectacularly lost momentum just as he briefly pulled level with Johnson, back-to-back bogeys undoing his hard work.

A clutch of others were also in contention, however, with impressive consecutive birdies following the turn giving Jason Day a share of third, one shot back.

Tony Finau, Collin Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler were all also on nine under.

Matthew Wolff had been among the same throng following a rapid ascent up the leaderboard – managing three straight birdies from the seventh, then adding an eagle at the 10th – but twice missed achievable putts that would have secured a co-lead before falling away.

Much further down the leaderboard, Brooks Koepka's round was going from bad to worse, with the two-time defending champion falling out of the picture completely.

Having highlighted Johnson's lack of winning major experience on Saturday, Koepka subsequently struggled from the outset and was four over on the front nine, way back on three under for the week.

Brooks Koepka remains in contention to complete a US PGA Championship three-peat after keeping new leader Dustin Johnson in his sights on Saturday.

Johnson will take a one-stroke advantage into the final round after firing a crisp 65 to reach nine under, but the 2019 runner-up looks set to face a strong challenge from the man who beat him to last year's title.

Back-to-back champion Koepka (69) picked up two shots over the final three holes to recover from a potentially damaging run of three straight bogeys.

Overnight leader Li Haotong coped less successfully with the pressure, carding a costly three-over 73 that included three bogeys and a double at the 13th.

Johnson, four shots back through 36 holes, ran into trouble with a double bogey of his own at the ninth, before steadying to finish with eight birdies on moving day.

The one-time major champion holds a narrow lead over Scottie Scheffler (65) and Cameron Champ (67), who are tied for second.

Cole Morikawa (65) and Paul Casey (68) are level with Koepka at seven under, but all eyes will be on the 30-year-old American on Sunday.

He could become the first golfer to win the tournament three times in a row since Walter Hagen in the 1920s.

Six men, including the improving Bryson DeChambeau (66) and 2015 winner Jason Day (70), are a further shot back at six under.

Tiger Woods fell well out of contention after carding a two-over 72 for the second successive round.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.