Homa Hojgaard charge at Masters as Tiger chases history
Homa Hojgaard charge at Masters as Tiger chases history

Homa, Hojgaard charge at Masters as Tiger chases history

AUGUSTA, April 12 — Tiger Woods struggled to start a difficult 23-hole walk aimed at making Masters history while Max Homa and Nicolai Hojgaard charged after leader Bryson DeChambeau as the first round of the 88th Masters concluded today.

After a rain delay of two and one-half hours on Thursday, darkness fell with 27 players from the field of 89 still on the course, including Woods, Homa and Hojgaard.

Woods, the 48-year-old US legend whose 15 major titles include five Masters green jackets, has struggled to walk courses since suffering severe leg injuries in a 2021 car crash. This is his first major since right ankle fusion surgery last April.

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Woods has made 23 consecutive Masters cuts to share the record with Gary Player and Fred Couples, but he would grab the mark all to himself if he stands in the low 50 and ties after 36 holes.

After finishing one-under par for 13 holes on Thursday, Woods began his toughest major walking challenge since the accident on Friday with a bogey at the par-4 14th, coming up short of the green in two and blasting his third shot 22 feet beyond the hole.

Woods found a greenside bunker at 18 and missed a 13-foot par putt for another bogey to stand on 73, sharing 35th and one stroke below the early projected cut line as he prepared to quickly start round two.

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DeChambeau, who fired a seven-under par 65 on Thursday to grab a one-stroke lead over world number one Scottie Scheffler, was set to begin his second round just before noon (1600 GMT).

The 2020 US Open winner birdied five of the last seven holes in his best round ever at Augusta National to set the pace while Scheffler, the 2022 Masters champion, birdied four of the final seven to stay on DeChambeau’s heels.

Denmark’s Hojgaard and American Homa each completed a first-round 67 on Friday to share third, one stroke ahead of England’s Danny Willett, the 2016 Masters winner.

Returning on 4-under after 13 holes, Homa went over the 14th green but salvaged par with an eight-foot putt.

Homa sank a nine-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th then dropped his approach inches from the hole at 17 and tapped in for birdie.

But on 18, Homa found a bunker and missed a nine-foot par putt to fall one back of Scheffler but still cracking 70 for the first time in 13 Masters rounds.

Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard watches his tee shot on the 4th hole during the second round of The Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia April 12, 2024. — Reuters pic

‘It’s tough out there’

Hojgaard, among 20 players making their first Masters start, was two off the pace at 5-under through 15 holes Thursday and closed with three routine pars, leaving the Dane alongside Homa.

“You’ve got to adapt,” Hojgaard said. “You have to hit the shots. It’s tough out there. It’s going to be a grind. It’s going to be a long day.”

No Masters rookie has won the green jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

Scheffler, who could join Woods as the only players to win the Masters twice while atop the rankings, tees off in the afternoon’s penultimate group alongside four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele.

McIlroy, whose most recent major win came in 2014, needs a Masters triumph to complete a career grand slam, a feat achieved only by Woods, Player, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.

McIlroy fired a 71, his best opening round at the Masters since 2018, while Schauffele, chasing his first major crown, began on 72.

England’s Tyrrell Hatton, who like DeChambeau and defending champion Jon Rahm is among 13 Masters starters from Saudi-backed LIV Golf, was 3-under through 14 holes but began Friday with a double bogey at the par-5 15th and made bogey at 18. — AFP

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