DeChambeau struggles as Westwood seizes early Masters lead

·3-min read

US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau struggled early in Thursday's opening round of the 84th Masters while Britain's red-hot Lee Westwood grabbed the lead at Augusta National.

Westwood, with 12 top-5 major finishes but no wins, reeled off three birdies in four holes starting at the par-5 second then birdied the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth to make the turn on 5-under, one ahead of fellow Englishman Paul Casey.

Defending champion Tiger Woods, trying to match Jack Nicklaus with a record eight green jackets, birdied the par-5 13th and 15th and the par-3 16th to share third on 3-under with Webb Simpson and Louis Oosthuizen.

The 15-time major winner is trying to repeat to break the mark he shares with Sam Snead of 82 career US PGA Tour titles.

Long-driving DeChambeau overwhelmed Winged Foot in September with brute force on the way to his first major title, but accuracy issues eased fears he might humble Augusta National in a similar manner.

He played the back nine in level par after a double-bogey nightmare at the par-5 13th and birdies at the par-5 15th and par-3 16th.

DeChambeau found pine straw off the tee at 13, a tree limiting his line to the green. He blasted into bushes beyond the green, hit a provisional ball into Rae's Creek, dug out his first shot only to require two chips to reach the green and two putts for double bogey.

It was far from the overpowering day expected from DeChambeau, who decided against using an experimental maximum length 48-inch driver on the rain-soaked course.

DeChambeau, trying to become the first winner of consecutive majors since Jordan Spieth won the Masters and US Open in 2015, bulked up during a three-month Covid-19 layoff.

He has averaged 68 over eight major rounds this year but his only prior round under 70 in three years at Augusta was a 66 in last year's opening round.

Westwood, 47, was a Masters runner-up in 2010 and 2016. That matches his 2010 British Open finish as the best major results of his career.

Postponed from April and played without spectators due to the pandemic, the Masters used trios off two tees to maximize reduced autumn daylight.

A thunderstorm delay of nearly three hours hit only 35 minutes into play, ensuring late groups would not finish 18 holes by dark for the first time since the third round in 2006.

- McIlroy, DJ start late -

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, trying to complete a career Grand Slam with a Masters victory, was set for an afternoon start alongside world number one Dustin Johnson, the 2020 PGA Player of the Year and Tour Championship winner.

McIlroy could join Woods, Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen as the only career Slam winners.

Johnson is trying to win his second major title and become the first top-ranked player to win the Masters since Woods in 2002.