Paul Casey of the United Kingdom gives a thumbs up as he walks off the ninth green during the first round of the 2020 Masters Tournament on Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Paul Casey grabbed a two-shot lead before Thursday's first round of the 2020 Masters was suspended in an unusual autumn edition of the tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.
This year's opening round of the Masters, which was moved from its traditional April date because of the COVID-19 pandemic, had an early-morning rain delay that lasted about three hours. Play resumed around 10:30 a.m. EST, but the delay prevented almost half of the field from finishing the first round.
Casey managed to finish, and did so in impressive fashion with a 7-under 65. It matched his lowest score at Augusta and gave him a two-stroke advantage among those who were able to complete all 18 holes before it was too dark to continue.
"So many people like myself are just excited to play this," said Casey, who carded his first-round 65 without any spectators in attendance. "This is a treat. It always has been and always will be a real treat.
"... I was vocal earlier in the year about not enjoying golf in a pandemic. I didn't know how the fan-less experience would be, and so far, I've not enjoyed it. I've had nothing, or very little, to draw on 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 vibe."
Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas sat behind Casey at 5-under par. Simpson and Schauffele were done for the day, but Thomas only reached hole No. 11 before play was suspended.
Defending champion Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood and Patrick Reed were among those who were at 4-under par and tied for fifth after the opening day. Woods' 4-under 68 marked his first bogey-free round in a major championship in more than a decade.
It was the first time in 23 Masters appearances that Woods began the tournament without a bogey.
"I did everything well," Woods said. "I drove it well, hit my irons well, putted well. The only real bad shot I hit today, I think, was on [hole No. 8]. I had a perfect number [68 yards] with a 60-degree sand wedge and hit it on the wrong shelf.
"Other than that, I just did everything well. The only thing I could say is that I wish I could have made a couple more putts. Missed everything on the high side. Putts just aren't moving, so it's just different with as slow as they are, then with the weather delay, the amount of rain they've had."
Dustin Johnson, the world's top-ranked player, was among the group who played in the afternoon and failed to finish before sundown. He opened with an eagle on No. 2 and was 3-under par at the turn. Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose also were 3-under about midway through the first round prior to the suspension of play.
Bryson DeChambeau opened with a 2-under 70 after 18 holes. Rory McIlroy was at even-par at the turn, while Brooks Koepka was 2-over par after 10 holes. Jordan Spieth finished his first round 2-over par.
In total, 44 golfers remained on the course before Masters officials halted play at 5:30 p.m. EST. The players who were still competing will now finish their opening round early Friday, pushing back the start of the second round until later in the morning.
Masters officials said the first round will resume at 7:30 a.m. EST Friday. If no further delays occur, the second round will begin at about 9:35 a.m.
Dustin Johnson, wearing the Green Jacket after winning the 54th Masters, embraces fiancee Paulina Gretzky at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. on Sunday. Johnson shot a record 20-under par over four days, including a final-round 68. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo