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Hoffman thwarts winds for 4-shot Masters lead

AUGUSTA, Ga. — On a day when it was tough just to break par at the Masters, Charley Hoffman turned in one of the greatest rounds of his career.

Hoffman bounced back from a slow start to shoot a 7-under 65 in the opening round Thursday, giving him a commanding four-shot lead in a swirling wind that gusted close to 40 mph.

Hoffman had a shot at birdie on the 18th hole, which would have tied him with Craig Wood in 1941 for the largest lead after the opening round. The 40-year-old American wasn't able to sink the putt, but he certainly had no complaints about his performance — especially after a pair of bogeys left him at 1 over through No. 5.

He birdied eight of the next 12 holes, including four in a row beginning at the 14th.

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This isn't the first time Hoffman has been in contention at Augusta. Two years ago, he played in the next-to-last group on Sunday but closed with a 74 to finish 10 shots behind winner Jordan Spieth.

Now, it's Hoffman holding a big lead.

William McGirt, who shot a 3-under 69, was the lone player within five shots of the lead. No one else has managed to go lower than 1-under par.

McGirt, A 37-year-old American, birdied four holes and had only one bogey.

A journeyman player who didn't even reach the PGA Tour until he was in his early 30s, McGirt qualified for the Masters with his first tour victory last year at the Memorial.

McGirt calls his Augusta debut one of the top four or five rounds of his pro career.

Phil Mickelson eagled the second hole on the way to a 1-under 71 as he tries to become the oldest champion in Masters history.

Jack Nicklaus was 46 when he won the last of his six green jackets in 1986. Mickelson will turn 47 in June, which makes him seven months older than the Golden Bear at the time of his historic Masters victory.

In addition to the eagle at No. 2, Mickelson had three birdies to go along with four bogeys.

The 81st Masters began with a moment of silence, a few tears and two tee shots.

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.

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