AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The Latest on the first round of the Masters on Thursday (all times local):
Phil Mickelson gave his large following a thrill and the early Masters leaderboard a jolt with an eagle on the par-5 second hole.
Mickelson, who at age 46 is seeking his fourth green jacket, landed his second shot about 40 feet right of the flag and made the putt. The gallery, which included Pro Bowl linebacker Vic Beasley of the Atlanta Falcons, went crazy when the putt rolled in, Mickelson smiling and waving in appreciating.
Mickelson followed that up with a birdie on the par-3 fourth and was at 3-under par, one stroke behind early leader Thomas Pieters, who is 4-under through eight holes.
Mickelson is trying to match Jack Nicklaus’ feat as the oldest champion at Augusta. Nicklaus won his sixth Masters crown at 46 years old in 1986.
The winds are picking up at Augusta National, and it’s reflected on the scoreboard.
Only six players are in the red Thursday some 2 1-2 hours into the opening round of the Masters, led by Scott Piercy and J.B. Holmes at 2 under.
Kevin Chappell, Sandy Lyle, Andy Sullivan and Thomas Pieters are at 1 under.
Former champion Trevor Immelman is 4 over as he approaches the turn. Louis Oosthuizen, Jim Furyk and Mike Weir are at 3 over on the front side.
The winds are blowing at 15-20 mph, with gusts up to 25 mph. It’s expected to get even more challenging as the day goes on, with gusts of 35-40 mph in the forecast by early afternoon.
With a moment of silence, a few tears and two tee shots, the 81st Masters has begun.
It was the first Masters since 1954 without four-time champion Arnold Palmer, who died in September. Augusta National chairman Billy Payne told thousands crammed around the first tee that the unbearable sadness was surpassed by the love and affection everyone feels from The King.
He asked for a moment of silence, and then turned it over to Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to hit the ceremonial opening tee shot.
A day after storms, the sky was clear and the wind already was rattling the trees.
Among those watching were Butch Harmon and his son, Claude Harmon III, who coach Dustin Johnson. They still did not know if the No. 1 player would recover from his fall on a staircase to tee off later in the afternoon.
Strong winds and a fall down a staircase by the Masters pre-tournament favorite could change the complexion of the season’s first major.
Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer, injured his lower back late Wednesday afternoon in what his agent described as a “serious” fall down the staircase at a home he’d rented for the week. Johnson goes off in the last group for Thursday’s opening round, but even the late 2:03 p.m. starting time may not give him enough time to recover.
The weather forecast for the region, socked by powerful storms two of the last three days, calls for cool, overcast skies and steady winds of 20-30 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph. Augusta National can bedevil the world’s best in tame conditions. But strong winds make hitting fairways and approach shots even tougher, and if the greens dry out, putting can turn treacherous.