Xander Schauffele has no regrets after a rare triple-bogey ended his Masters hopes in another close call at a major tournament.

Schauffele – runner-up at the 2019 Masters and 2018 Open Championship, having also finished third at the U.S. Open almost two years ago – had to settle for a share of third position alongside Jordan Spieth on Sunday.

The former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year closed within two shots of eventual champion Hideki Matsuyama before losing his way on the 16th hole at Augusta, where he ended up finishing four strokes adrift.

A run of four consecutive birdies heaped pressure on Matsuyama, but Schauffele's pursuit of a maiden major collapsed when the American – seven back at the 12th tee – found water before sending his next shot into the crowd.

An ill-timed triple-bogey sent Schauffele down to equal third – it was his first triple-bogey in a major championship, a run of 1,042 holes.

"I hit a perfect eight iron. It was 184 yards. I can hit my eight iron 180 yards out here," Schauffele said when asked about the 16th tee. "I turned it right to left. The wind was into left to right. It got smoked and eaten up. You could kind of see it. The ball hovered there.

"So I was chasing. I was still two back. Hideki is a great left to right iron player. I figured, if I hit it close, he was going to hit it right on top. I was in full chase mode, so I have no regrets from that aspect."

Schauffele added: "I never gave up. It was pretty wild. Kind of a weird start. It almost took the edge off.  I knew the first through five, if you could be even par, it would be a really good score. I imagined to play five the way I did all week, which is five-over for the week or even worse.

"I fought hard. I felt like I made it exciting at the end, hit a really good shot on 16. I committed to it. I hit a perfect shot. We thought it was down left to right. It was not down left to right, and the rest is history."

After his latest close call, Schauffele said: "It's another lesson to put in the memory bank. 2019, I had a rookie hiccup moment of, oh, my goodness, I'm leading the Masters. This year I was chasing. I'm playing better than I was in 2019, and I made a mistake on shot selection and wind.

"If you look at my second shot after I dropped, I hit a nine iron that went downwind. I think the way that thing flew, it flattened out and flew 160 yards. Austin and I just kind of painfully laughed at each other and said, 'Well, I guess it switched again'. It is what it is. I think I just need to hit a different shot in there."

"It's hard to win out here," the 27-year-old said. "Especially at this tournament. I think I'll throw 16 in the memory bank. I think a lot of great shots into 16 are left to right. High cuts into that mound. I've been hitting a good high cut all week. I just didn't think of it at that time. I hit like a hard draw eight-iron, and it wasn't the shot.

"Moving forward, just kind of throw it in the memory bank. I'm going to keep collecting thoughts. Hopefully, I keep coming back here for years to come, and the goal is to win one day."

Hideki Matsuyama made history as he became the first Japanese man to win a major tournament after claiming The Masters by one shot in a thrilling finale at Augusta.

Matsuyama was on the cusp of history heading into Sunday's final round, the 29-year-old carrying a four-stroke lead as he looked to replicate the major success of countrywomen Hinako Shibuno (2019 Women's British Open) and Chako Higuchi (1977 LPGA Championship) on the men's circuit.

A five-time PGA Tour winner before this success, Matsuyama withstood a wobble and the threat posed by Xander Schauffele (72) to complete a history-making performance in Georgia, where he triumphed at 10 under par overall following a 73 to get his hands on the green jacket.

Will Zalatoris (70) earned outright second position, two strokes ahead of former world number one and 2015 Masters winner Jordan Spieth (70) and 2019 runner-up Schauffele.

Matsuyama – four strokes clear at the start of the day – had extended his lead to five at the turn, but his title bid threatened to turn sour as Schauffele closed in and Zalatoris loomed.

After finding water at the par-five 15th hole, Matsuyama took the penalty and cleaned up for bogey as Schauffele continued to heap pressure on the Japanese hopeful, cutting the lead to two shots with his fourth consecutive birdie.

But Schauffele's pursuit of a maiden major collapsed when the American – seven back at the 12th tee before rallying – also found water before sending his next shot into the crowd.

Matsuyama had a routine par to move three shots clear with two to play, but he dropped another shot, his lead down to two ahead of Zalatoris as an ill-timed triple-bogey sent 2019 runner-up Schauffele down to equal third alongside Spieth – four shots behind.

It was Schauffele's first triple-bogey in a major championship – a run of 1,042 holes.

That was the breathing space Matsuyama needed as Japan's new poster boy held his nerve, doing what he needed to do during the final two holes in front of an appreciative crowd on the 18th, where not even a bogey could wipe away the champion's smile.

Matsuyama (2011) became the third Masters champion in the last five years to have previously earned low amateur honours, following in the footsteps of Tiger Woods (2019, low amateur in 1995) and Sergio Garcia (2017, low amateur in 1999).

Elsewhere, Jon Rahm (66) and Marc Leishman (73) shared fifth position at six under, while one-time major champion Justin Rose had to settle for seventh – five shots off the pace – following his final-round 74 as 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed (69) surged into a tie for eighth.

Justin Rose remains hopeful of overhauling Hideki Matsuyama for his first green jacket after struggling in the penultimate round of The Masters.

Rose had set the pace heading into the third round at Augusta, but the one-time major champion fell four strokes adrift of red-hot challenger Matsuyama on Saturday.

Consecutive birdies to begin the round appeared to have Rose on track to maintain his advantage but back-to-back bogeys on the fourth and fifth holes saw the two-time Masters runner-up come unstuck.

One shot ahead during the weather delay, Rose fell away when play resumed – the Englishman signing for a second successive 72 in Georgia.

"I didn't play well enough today, simple as that really," said Rose as he eyes his maiden Masters crown.

"I think all in all, to have a shot tomorrow, I'm delighted. I have that freedom to take a run at it, and of course I'd love to kind of stay with it just a little bit better.

"I've been playing with the lead the whole week, and obviously there's been an hour of golf where Hideki has moved out there in front.

"You know, all the guys chasing at seven under are all capable of that little run that Hideki has had, so it's all up for grabs tomorrow."

Rose added: "I was pretty happy just to be able to walk into the clubhouse before I dropped another shot."

Rose heads into Sunday's final round level at seven under alongside 2019 runner-up Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman and Will Zalatoris.

Schauffele improved 10 positions thanks to a third-round 68, which included an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys.

"It's moving day. It's Saturday," Schauffele said of playing alongside Japan's Matsuyama, who gained six shots in seven holes to seize control. "You want to play with someone who's going to shoot seven-under. You hope that it's yourself, and if not, you chase.

"You'd rather play with someone that's shooting 65 than shooting 74. It was nice to chase after him. He's an incredible iron player. This is a great course for him. I think he has a great record out here at Augusta National, and obviously he showed it this afternoon."

Leishman (70) – who finished tied for fourth in 2013 – enjoyed a strong finish, with two birdies from his final bogey-free six holes leaving him in a mix to become just the second Australian to win a green jacket after Adam Scott (2013).

"Obviously if Hideki plays well, he can control his own destiny," Leishman said. "But a lot can happen around here. I've seen it. I mean, I played with Scottie the year he won. I've seen what can happen.

"I've had bad rounds here myself and I've had good rounds. You can make up four shots fairly quickly, but you have to do a lot of things right to do that."

Hideki Matsuyama produced a flawless seven-under-par 65 as his stunning late blitz earned a four-stroke lead heading into the final round of The Masters.

Matsuyama – chasing his maiden major title and Japan's first in men's golf – made a huge splash on moving day at Augusta, where the 29-year-old seized control following a weather delay on Saturday.

After inclement weather halted proceedings, Matsuyama jumped out of the blocks and gained six shots in seven holes to leave overnight leader Justin Rose in his tracks.

Matsuyama – who birdied the seventh hole on a bogey-free front nine – was red hot following the turn, the five-time PGA Tour champion birdieing the 11th and 12th.

Unstoppable, Matsuyama eagled the 15th before following that up with back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th as he soared to 11 under through 54 holes.

Matsuyama – making his 87th start since his last victory at the 2017 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational – posted the first bogey-free round this week and his best score in 37 rounds at The Masters.

Xander Schauffele and Marc Leishman also made their moves to join Rose and Will Zalatoris in a share of second spot heading into Sunday's final round.

Runner-up in 2019, American Schauffele improved 10 positions thanks to a third-round 68, which included an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys.

Leishman (70) – who finished tied for fourth in 2013 – enjoyed a strong finish, with two birdies from his final bogey-free six holes leaving him in a mix to become just the second Australian to win a green jacket after Adam Scott (2013).

The penultimate day did not go according to plan for Englishman Rose, who signed for a second consecutive 72 in Georgia.

It was a mixed day for Rose as the one-time major champion split three birdies and as many bogeys, while American Zalatoris (71) is also seven under overall.

Highlighted by an ace on the sixth hole, Corey Conners posted a four-under-par 68 to be outright sixth, five strokes behind Matsuyama.

Former world number one and 2015 champion Jordan Spieth – who ended his near-four-year title drought last week – will begin Sunday six shots off the pace following his 72.

Another former Masters winner, 2018 champion Patrick Reed, is four strokes further back after shooting a two-under-par 70 to be level alongside Justin Thomas (75) and last year's runner-up Cameron Smith (73).

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 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.

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."

Brooks Koepka captured his second Phoenix Open crown and eighth PGA Tour title after rallying to a one-shot victory on Sunday.

Koepka was five strokes off the lead heading into the final round at TPC Scottsdale, where Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele had set the pace.

But four-time major champion Koepka reigned supreme after chipping in for an eagle on 17 as he signed for a six-under-par 65.

Koepka – winner of the Phoenix Open in 2015 – holed two eagles, three birdies and a bogey to close out the tournament 19 under overall.

It also secured Koepka's first success since the 2019 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

Fellow American Schauffele (71) and South Korea's Lee Kyoung-hoon (68) finished tied for second position.

Carlos Ortiz (64), Steve Stricker (67) and former world number one Spieth (72) were a stroke further back at 17 under.

Spieth had been dreaming of a drought-ending triumph after earning a share of the three-stroke lead following the penultimate round.

Not since the 2017 Open Championship has Spieth claimed a title – the three-time major winner falling to 92nd in the world rankings as a result.

Spieth also missed six cuts in 20 events last year, while also failing to reach the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open to begin his 2021 campaign.

But Spieth – who found the water on 15 and 17 – had to settle for a share of fourth place on Sunday.

Though, it was still Spieth's best finish on Tour since 2019.

In his Phoenix Open debut, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy posted a final-round 64 to climb 23 spots to T13, alongside Jon Rahm (68), Justin Thomas (72) and Harold Varner III (68).

Former world number one Jordan Spieth earned a share of the Phoenix Open lead following a stunning third-round performance on Saturday.

Not since the 2017 Open Championship has Spieth claimed a title – the three-time major winner falling to 92nd in the world rankings as a result.

Spieth also missed six cuts in 20 events last year, while also failing to reach the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open to begin his 2021 campaign.

But Spieth is on track to end his drought at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona, where the American star is level with countryman Xander Schauffele (65) atop the leaderboard heading into Sunday's final round.

Spieth carded a 10-under-par 61 to catapult himself up the standings and to 18 under through 54 holes.

With 10 birdies and no bogeys, Spieth tied his career-low score – he has gone on to win nine tournaments when leading/co-leading after three rounds on the last 16 occasions.

"What I'm looking forward to is just staying the course, trusting it,'' said Spieth, who has his first 54-hole lead/co-lead on the PGA Tour since the 2018 Open. "I have no expectations on the results tomorrow. I really don't.''

"I built some freedom now seeing these results the first few days here to where I feel really good about the path I'm on,'' Spieth added. "I feel good about what the long term ahead looks like for me. And sometimes that's been in question. To myself.''

Scottie Scheffler (66) and Lee Kyoung-hoon (66) are three strokes off the pace, a shot ahead of Louis Oosthuizen (63) and Justin Thomas (64) at 14 under.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka posted a third-round 66 after birdieing five of his last six holes to be tied for seventh – five strokes behind Spieth and Schauffele.

Northern Irish star Rory McIlroy dropped down the leaderboard after carding a one-under-par 70 in round three.

Without a win since the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions, four-time major winner McIlroy is six under overall and tied for 36th position.

Xander Schauffele produced a fast finish to grab a one-stroke lead at the halfway mark of the Phoenix Open.

The world number four made an eagle and four birdies on his final seven holes to card a seven-under 64 in the second round at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona on Friday.

Schauffele, who has top-five finishes in his two events this year, made three straight birdies from the 12th before an eagle at 15, and he picked up another shot at the last to get to 12 under.

The American is a stroke clear of Steve Stricker (66) and Keegan Bradley (65).

Since 2000, six 36-hole leaders or co-leaders have gone on to win the Phoenix Open, the most recent of which was Rickie Fowler in 2019.

Scottie Scheffler (65), Lee Kyoung-hoon (66) and Sam Burns (68) are tied for fourth at 10 under, a shot ahead of Nate Lashley (69).

Jordan Spieth, meanwhile, showed some good signs with another 67 seeing him sit at eight under and a tie for eighth.

The three-time major champion has fallen to 92nd in the world rankings and missed six cuts in 20 events last year, while also failing to reach the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open to begin his 2021.

Spieth sits alongside Billy Horschel (68), James Hahn (67), Matthew NeSmith (71), 2015 champion Brooks Koepka (66), J.T. Poston (66), Patton Kizzire (65) and Carlos Ortiz (67) at the halfway mark.

Justin Thomas (65) is at seven under, while Rory McIlroy improved in the second round as a 67 moved him into five under and a tie for 27th.

Matthew NeSmith and Mark Hubbard earned a share of the lead following the opening round of the Phoenix Open.

American pair NeSmith and Hubbard both posted 63s to end Thursday a shot clear of countrymen Nate Lashley and Sam Burns at TPC Scottsdale.

Making his first start at the Phoenix Open, NeSmith holed four birdies and an eagle from his opening nine holes to earn an early lead at six under.

NeSmith closed out the round atop the leaderboard with Hubbard, who was flawless after tallying eight birdies, including his final four holes.

Steve Stricker is outright fifth following his six-under-par 65 in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Xander Schauffele is among six players five under through 18 holes.

Stricker joined Tom Lehman (2011, round one, aged 51) as the only players over the age of 50 to shoot 65 in the PGA Tour event.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth is four strokes off the pace following his first-round 67.

Struggling American star Spieth, who has not won since 2017, missed the cut at last week's Farmers Insurance Open.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka is a shot further back after mixing seven birdies with a double-bogey and two bogeys.

Koepka won the tournament in 2015 – his first PGA Tour triumph.

As for Rory McIlroy, he is seven shots behind NeSmith and Hubbard heading into Friday's second round.

Without a victory since the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions, four-time major winner McIlroy recovered from a double-bogey, bogey start to open with a one-under-par 70 in his tournament bow.

Meanwhile, Webb Simpson started his title defence with a two-over-par 73 – a shot better off than 219 winner Rickie Fowler.

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.

Bryson Dechambeau started the Masters with contrasting back-to-back pars but Xander Schauffele got off to a flyer after play was suspended for almost three hours at Augusta on Thursday.

There was another frustrating wait at the start of a major that was put back seven months due to the coronavirus pandemic, as inclement weather brought the players off the course just after the first round had got under way.

When play resumed at 10.20am local time in Georgia following heavy downpours, it was Canadian Corey Conners who came up with the first birdie.

Tournament favourite Dechambeau, starting his quest for a second major title on the back nine, had a putt for a birdie on the 10th but saw his putt jump from left to right.

The U.S. Open champion had to scramble to avoid a bogey at the par-four 11th after his tee shot went into the woods, sinking a seven-foot putt and the American remained level par through three holes.

Jon Rahm, playing in the same group as Dechambeau, was two over after back-to-back bogeys.

Schauffele could not have wished for a better start on the front nine, reeling off birdies at each of the opening three holes to lead the way.

The 62-year-old Larry Mize, Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson and Scottie Scheffler were two under early on.

 

 

The enforced rescheduling of the 2020 Masters promises to make this year's tournament at Augusta National even more unpredictable than it always is.

Augusta's beauty is not borne just from its colourful, blooming azaleas (albeit they will have a far more Autumnal look this year). No, it is the way year after year it can chew up and spit out the greatest golf has to offer, providing drama at every turn.

With the coronavirus crisis meaning the battle for the green jacket was postponed from its traditional spot of April to November, it is more difficult than ever to try and pick a winner.

But six of Stats Perform News' finest have had a go at doing so ahead of the action getting underway, without fans, on Thursday.

THE TIME HAS COME FOR XANDER – Dan Lewis

After ending as runner-up last year and finishing in the top five in half of his major appearances, the time has come for Xander Schauffele to land his first big title. He was one of six players to have the lead at some point during the final round in 2019 and, with a year's more experience under his belt, he enters this tournament in good stead.

HATTON CAN COMPLETE JOURNEY FROM WANNABE TO SUPERSTAR – Jon Fisher

Winner of the European Tour's flagship event at Wentworth in October, Tyrrell Hatton appears in great shape to do the same on the other side of the pond. He doesn't possess the greatest record at Augusta with a finish of 44th his best in three attempts but an accurate long game and deft touch around the greens make him well-placed to crown a breakthrough 2020. Don't be surprised to see him donning the Green Jacket on Sunday to complete his transformation from petulant wannabe to global superstar.

THIS IS DUSTIN'S YEAR AT AUGUSTA – Chris Myson

World number one Dustin Johnson is yet to win the Masters but has placed in the top 10 in each of his last four Augusta appearances, including his tie for second last year, while he was cruelly denied in 2017 when he fell down a staircase ahead of the event. This could finally be his year, with Johnson in fine form: six straight top-10s included winning the Northern Trust and impressive showings at the other two majors.

DECHAMBEAU PRIMED TO GO BACK-TO-BACK – Peter Hanson

It was always likely to be a case of when not if Bryson DeChambeau became a major winner and now the man dubbed 'The Mad Scientist' has overcome that mental hurdle by dominating at the U.S. Open, there is no reason to suggest he cannot go back-to-back in the majors. A bulkier DeChambeau averaged the longest driving distance off the tee in the 2020 PGA Tour season (322.1 yards) and already leads the statistics in the 2021 campaign (344.4), albeit having only played eight rounds. Augusta is not exactly a course you can just blitz – you need touch around the green, solid putting and the ability to scramble – but it is certainly going to do his chances no harm.

WINGED FOOT WAS A BLIP, RAHM WILL CONTEND AT AUGUSTA – Joe Wright

He might have had a disappointing time at the U.S. Open in September, but there's little reason to discount Rahm from challenging for a maiden major this week. The Spaniard triumphed at the Memorial Tournament and the BMW Championship following the PGA Tour's return, making 2020 the most successful year of his career. While finishing 23rd at Winged Foot was frustrating, Rahm was just a stroke behind winner Patrick Cantlay at the Zozo Championship last month, hitting 11 of 13 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation in an impressive final round.

BEING UNDER THE RADAR MIGHT SUIT MCILROY – Timothy Abraham

Rory McIlroy heads into his 12th Masters a little out of sorts. The Northern Irishman has slipped down the rankings, from first to fifth, since golf restarted after lockdown. He finished 21st at the CJ Cup and 17th at the Zozo Championship last month, results that do not exactly bode particularly well form wise. But without any of the usual pre-Masters hype, the pressure will firmly be off the 31-year-old heading to Augusta. McIlroy's last win at a major came with a second PGA title in 2014, but that elusive green jacket might just come out of the blue.

Jason Kokrak celebrated a maiden PGA Tour title after winning The CJ Cup at Shadow Creek by two strokes on Sunday.

Kokrak carded an eight-under-par 64 to beat fellow American Xander Schauffele to the title in Las Vegas.

The 35-year-old Kokrak was flawless in the final round, holing eight birdies to finish 20 under for the tournament, including four in a row from the fifth to the eighth.

Kokrak – in his 233rd career start on the PGA Tour – made 14 putts of 10 feet or more during the event – a career-high in a Tour tournament.

Schauffele, who was seeking his fifth PGA Tour crown, posted a fourth-round 66 to earn the runners-up cheque.

After shooting a 74 on the penultimate day, Schauffele responded with seven birdies and just one bogey as he backed up his fifth-place finish at the U.S. Open.

Tyrrell Hatton (65) and overnight leader Russell Henley (70) closed the tournament tied for third at 17 under, while Talor Gooch (68) was a shot further back.

Defending champion Justin Thomas' bid for a third CJ Cup title ended in a share of 12th, 12 strokes adrift of Kokrak.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy recorded a 74 as he fell 11 positions to six under – a shot better off than Brooks Koepka.

Koepka – playing for the first time following a two-month injury layoff due to hip and knee issues which forced him to miss the FedEx Cup play-offs and U.S. Open – posted a one-over-par 73.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth's (67) second consecutive round in the 60s earned a share of 38th but his struggles continue as he still searches for his first triumph since 2017.

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