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Charley Hoffman takes charge on back-nine for first-round lead at 2017 Masters Tournament

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The Sports Xchange
Charley Hoffman smiles as he finishes his first round at the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia on April 6, 2017. Hoffman finished with seven-under-par for the first round. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Charley Hoffman smiles as he finishes his first round at the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia on April 6, 2017. Hoffman finished with seven-under-par for the first round. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Four-time PGA Tour winner Charley Hoffman birdied eight of the final 13 holes in blustery and cold conditions to forge to a 7-under-par 65 and grab the first-round lead at The Masters Tournament on Thursday at the famed Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

Hoffman's nine-birdie barrage granted him a four-stroke lead over William McGirt (69) with Lee Westwood of England another stroke back in third.

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Russell Henley -- who was the last qualifier for this tournament when he won the Shell Houston Open last Sunday -- Sergio Garcia of Spain, Phil Mickelson, 2016 Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose of England, Jason Dufner, Andy Sullivan of England, Kevin Chappell and Matthew Fitzpatrick of England are another stroke back in an eight-way tie for fourth place.

World No. 1 player Dustin Johnson was forced to withdraw from the event just prior to his afternoon tee time after falling down a short flight of stairs in his rental house on Wednesday and landing on his elbow and back. Johnson tried to warm up and even made a truncated move toward the first tee, but turned around and headed off the course.

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Hoffman alternated between bogeys and birdies on the third, fourth, fifth and sixth holes before really finding his groove with consecutive birdies on the par-5 eighth and the par-4 ninth, making the turn in 2 under. He then birdied the daunting par-3 12th hole, made even more so by the swirling winds, and then managed par on the 13th after hitting his second shot into the water than fronts the green.

Charley Hoffman walks on the 16th green during his first round at the 2017 Masters Tournament. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Hoffman then took the course by the throat with four straight birdies on holes 14-17. His score was more than 10 strokes better than the field average on this first day of competition. Only 11 players broke par Thursday.

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Eight more players -- including world No. 2 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and 47-year-old Ernie Els of South Africa -- are at even-par.

Fred Couples, defending Masters champion Danny Willett, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas are among seven players at 1 over, eight shots behind Hoffman. Jason Day of Australia and Jordan Spieth, the world's No. 3 and 6 players, respectively, shot 75s, while Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, the world No. 4, struggled to a 76 and Henrik Stenson of Sweden, No. 5 in the world, carded a 77.

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NOTES: Nineteen players are making their initial appearances at the Masters and five amateurs are in the field. Eighteen winners of this tournament are also in the field and 31 of the 94 players in the field have won since Danny Willett did last year at Augusta National. ... Reigning PGA Tournament champion Jimmy Walker and two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson played as a twosome (and will do so on Friday) after Dustin Johnson's withdrawal. ... Ten of the past 11 winners of this event have been within four stokes of the lead after the first round. Only William McGirt would fit that pattern after this year's first round. ... Gary Player of South Africa owns the most starts in Masters history (52).

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