AUGUSTA, Ga. — Zach Johnson began his 16th consecutive Masters with an even-par 36 opening nine Thursday before darkness overtook Augusta National.
Heavy morning showers delayed the tournament for almost two hours and Johnson didn’t end up teeing off until 3:22 p.m. (local time), 3 hours and 11 minutes later than his original tee time.
It was a strange day for some of the favorites, especially Bryson DeChambeau, as he struggled to an early 2-over start with double on the par-5 13th before the long bomber righted the ship and ultimately delivered an opening 2-under 70.
Tiger Woods started his title defense with an exciting 4-under 68 that included a big fist pump on his first-hole birdie putt
Johnson made his first birdie on the second hole when he hit the par 5 in two with his hybrid. Johnson drained a 10-footer for birdie that kick-started his round.
Johnson then added a short birdie putt on No. 3, which was set up by a wedge approach to 3 feet from the fairway.
Tournament favorite DeChambeau tried to drive the 350-yard green earlier and finished short.
Johnson laid back about 130 yards and is clearly playing a different game.
Johnson missed the fifth green short and right, and failed to get up and down for par.
The 44-year-old also found trouble on the picturesque par 4 No. 7. Johnson drove it right, into the rough, and left himself a half wedge in after his layup. He knocked it to 20 feet and failed to save par for the second time in three holes.
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As darkness fell on Augusta National, Johnson raced off the course with dozens of players, including Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Wolff.
Johnson didn’t need to be shuttled from the far corners of the course as he finished on the ninth green once the horn blew around 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night.
Johnson and his group — Cameron Champ and Justin Rose — will finish their first round starting at 7 a.m. (local) on the 10th hole Friday morning.
Garrett Johnston has covered golf for 10 years and also hosts the Beyond the Clubhouse golf podcast.