Former world No1 Lee Westwood fired himself into contention for a maiden Major title on a day when American Charley Hoffman left the rest of the field standing after round one of the Masters.
Westwood, 43, carded five successive birdies on the back nine to post a two-under-par 70, but still found himself five shots adrift of Hoffman, who played an exquisite round in blustery conditions at Augusta.
“I didn’t putt very well on the front nine,” said Westwood. “I missed a few short ones. But I didn’t really play much different on the back nine, just made putts.
“It was a case of being patient and not getting frustrated at being three over after nine. I didn’t get too aggressive, or too far ahead of myself and stuck to the game-plan.”
The field in Georgia was missing a big-hitter in every sense as world No1 and pre-tournament favourite Dustin Johnson withdrew after failing to overcome the back injury he sustained at his Augusta rental home on Wednesday.
In his absence, San Diego-born Hoffman, who tied for ninth at the 2015 Masters, came to the fore and was a whisker away from a sixth consecutive birdie on the 18th, only for his putt to drift inches wide.
Not since 1941 has a player held a bigger lead – his advantage is four shots – after round one of the Masters.
Augusta debutant William McGirt was the closest challenger to the 40-year-old after shooting a three-under 69, one shot ahead of Westwood, while there was a strong European presence on one under.
English trio Matthew Fitzpatrick, Justin Rose and Andy Sullivan all navigated the round in 71, as did Spain’s Sergio Garcia.
Fitzpatrick, who made his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine in September, was leading on the back nine and looking on course to break 70 but double-bogeyed the 18th.
“It was very frustrating,” said Fitzpatrick. “It was not a great tee shot and then I hit the wrong bunker shot and a couple of bad putts. But overall, I played really nice and solid.”
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, bidding to complete career grand slam of Majors, posted an even-par 72, while defending champion Danny Willett was a shot further back.
As for Johnson, the 32-year-old US Open champion warmed up on the range but then withdrew on the first tee. He said: “I’m playing the best golf of my life and to have a freak accident happen, it sucks really bad. I couldn’t make my normal swing and I didn’t think there was any chance I could compete.”