Hoffman takes early Masters lead

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The first competitor to start, Hoffman followed three of golf's legendary names - Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player - after the trio had struck their ceremonial tee shots to open the 79th Masters at a steamy Augusta National.

But before heading out, the 38-year-old journeyman took advantage of the opportunity to have Nicklaus and Palmer sign an Augusta National flag that he said he would later auction off for charity.

“It was cool getting up this morning and warming up with Jack, Arnie and Gary Player,” a grinning Hoffman told reporters.

“Out there at the putting green, I got Jack's and Arnie's autograph this morning; they were nice enough to do that. I was sort of scared. Should I ask them? Should I not ask them? My mind wasn't really on golf, I was watching those guys.

“Obviously to follow those guys off the tee, it's pretty lucky and special. I'm honored that the Masters gave me that opportunity.”

With no one in front of him after teeing off in the first group of the day with compatriot Brian Harman, a focused Hoffman attacked the receptive layout and set the early target for the 95 other golfers to shoot for.

The only major staged at the same venue, experience matters at Augusta National but Hoffman, playing in just his second Masters, had few stumbles and no problem finding his way to the top of the leaderboard.

Hoffman closed his round in spectacular style going eagle, birdie, par, birdie to complete his best-ever round at Augusta.

“I'm an experienced TV watcher of the Masters,” laughed Hoffman, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour. “Anytime you get this golf course a little bit damp, like it was today, you can be aggressive to some of those back, hard pins and I had the ability to be able to do that this morning.

“I knew that you could be aggressive today and it was a day that I was going to be able to get the golf course if I put it in play and put it in the right spot ... the holes I did, I was able to attack.”

Reuters

Original source: Hoffman takes early Masters lead

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