UPDATE 11AM: Australian golfer Marc Leishman is relishing the challenge of brutal winds forecast for round two of the Masters, believing his career-best form and tolerance for breezes are an advantage at Augusta National.
The 33-year-old Leishman braved gusts of more than 40km/h during a solid opening round of one-over-par 73 at the year’s first major.
The Victorian native is the leading Australian, eight shots back of leader Charley Hoffman, who fired a scintillating round of 65 to climb to seven under.
The 40-year-old Hoffman will start round two four shots ahead of William McGirt (69),with Englishman Lee Westwood (70) a shot back in third at two under.
Australia’s Jason Day has overcome a difficult start, while Adam Scott endured a mixed opening round at the US Masters.
Day finished the first round at 2-over par 74 in a tie for 28th spot, five shots behind early joint leader William McGirt, who carded a 3-under 69. Jason Dufner was also tied for the lead through 14 holes.
Day started slowly, bogeying the third hole to be 1-over par after the first nine holes, before double-bogeying the 11th to fall further back.
But two birdies on the 15th and 16th saw Day take flight to narrow his score to 1-over, but dropped another shot on the 17th.
Scott, who broke Australia’s drought at Augusta in 2013, finished at 3-over for the day.
He opened with a bogey on the difficult par-4 first hole, but bounced back with a birdie on the sixth.
Bogeys would follow on the ninth and 11th holes, while two birdies on the 13th and 16th sandwiched a bogey on the par-five 15th.
Scott closed the inconsistent round meekly with two bogeys on the last two holes to card a first round of 75.
Compatriot Marc Leishman is in the hunt at 1-under after six holes, while Rod Pampling is 2-over after 15.
Aussie amateur Curtis Luck is 3-over through 11.
Johnson out after fall
Meanwhile world number one Dustin Johnson withdrew from the Masters minutes before he was scheduled to tee off.
The 32-year-old had spent the past 23 hours receiving treatment for a lower back injury he sustained when falling down the stairs at his rented Augusta house on Wednesday afternoon.
The big-hitting American walked from the driving range to the practice putting green, stating he was going to “give it a try” but informed tournament officials of his decision to withdraw from the year’s first major moments later.
“The issue is I can’t swing full. I can’t make my normal swing and I didn’t think there was any chance I could compete,” Johnson said.
“I didn’t get much sleep but I wanted to play.”
Johnson, the heavy Masters favourite after winning his past three starts, went through a tentative warm-up routine and was on the practice putting green moments before his 4:03am tee time.
Charlie Hoffman sat in outright third spot after 10 holes at 2-under.