Phil Mickelson knows Quail Hollow as well as any course on the PGA Tour, and his comfort there was clear on Thursday as he earned a two-stroke lead in the opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship. 

Mickelson carded a seven-under-par 64 to set the early pace in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the five-time major champion is looking for his first win in 17 consecutive appearances at the event. 

The 50-year-old has always played well there, though, finishing in the top five in half of his 16 previous starts at the tournament. 

Lee Kyoung-hoon and Keegan Bradley were two shots back after shooting 66s.

Mickelson recorded just one bogey on day one while carding eight birdies, including four of the last five holes. 

He won two Champions Tour events last year in his debut season on that circuit, but has not captured a PGA Tour title since winning at Pebble Beach in February 2019. 

Mickelson's last opening-round lead or co-lead came three weeks prior to that in Palm Springs, but he did not want to put any additional pressure on himself after Thursday's strong start.

"I don't want to jump ahead, I want to play a good round tomorrow," said Mickelson, who recorded his lowest score on Tour since a 63 in the second round of the 2020 Travelers Championship. "I have an opportunity to play a course I love with a great pairing.

"I'm playing well and I just want to kind of not get ahead of myself and go play another fun round."

Mickelson, who entered the week ranked number 115 in the world, has 30 career opening-round leads/co-lads – the second most on Tour since 1992.

American star Justin Thomas closed out the first round five shots off the pace, while U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and 2012 tournament winner Rickie Fowler are a stroke further back.

Former Masters champion Patrick Reed shot a 71 as Xander Schauffele and former world number one Rory McIlroy ended the day one over the card.

McIlroy – winner of the Wells Fargo Championship in 2015 – mixed three bogeys and two birdies on a challenging day for the four-time major champion.

Jon Rahm struggled following his opening-round 76, while defending champion Max Homa's bid for back-to-back titles started with a six-over-par 77.

Sam Burns earned his maiden PGA Tour title after winning the Valspar Championship by three strokes.

Burns and 2011 US PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley had been level atop the leaderboard through the second and third rounds in Palm Harbor, Florida.

But Burns broke the deadlock with his fellow American on Sunday courtesy of a three-under-par 68 at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club.

Burns mixed six birdies with three bogeys in the final round as the 24-year-old improved to 17 under and became the second youngest winner in Valspar Championship history.

He also became the fifth player to claim his first Tour title at the tournament, with Adam Hadwin the last to do so in 2017.

An even-par 71 saw Bradley drop down into sole possession of second spot – the four-time Tour champion's seventh runner-up finish in 273 starts.

It all turned sour for Bradley on the back nine, where he found water on the par-three 13th hole, leading to a double bogey. Burns birdied the 14th to open up a three-shot advantage and never looked back.

Viktor Hovland (65) and Cameron Tringale (68) finished tied for third – four strokes behind Burns, while American star Justin Thomas (70) earned a share of 13th position, six shots further back.

Two-time defending champion after the 2020 event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Paul Casey's bid for a three-peat ended following his final-round 68, which left him tied for 21st.

World number one Dustin Johnson, meanwhile, closed out the tournament 15 strokes adrift after his two-under-par 69.

Keegan Bradley and Sam Burns remained tied for the lead through three rounds at the Valspar Championship, where world number one Dustin Johnson fell down the standings.

Level atop the leaderboard at the tournament's halfway stage, American pair Bradley and Burns were again locked together on 14 under following Saturday's penultimate round in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Bradley, who won the 2011 US PGA Championship, and Burns both carded two-under-par 69s to be a stroke clear of charging countryman Max Homa at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club.

Burns – eyeing his maiden PGA Tour title – held a commanding three-stroke lead after Bradley bogeyed the 13th hole, but the latter chipped in for an eagle to cut the deficit to just one shot.

A Burns bogey on the par-four 16th left the duo deadlocked again before the pair exchanged bogeys at the last to head into the final round as the men to beat through 54 holes.

It is Burns' third 54-hole lead/co-lead of the season, level with Jordan Spieth for the most on the PGA Tour.

The last time Burns held the 54-hole lead/co-lead on tour, Homa came from behind to win the 2021 Genesis Invitational and the latter is once again looming large.

Homa, who posted a third-round 66, is looking to become the third player to win multiple titles during the 2020-21 season, joining Bryson DeChambeau and Stewart Cink.

American star Justin Thomas shot a four-under-par 67 to catapult himself into a tie for 18th, eight shots off the pace.

Johnson, meanwhile, struggled to a three-over 74 on day three of the event.

There was a dreadful end to the round for Johnson, who had two double-bogeys from his final three holes to crash down to even par for the tournament – 14 strokes behind Bradley and Burns.

Former PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley rattled off four birdies from the last five holes to open up a two-shot lead on the opening day of the Valspar Championship at Palm Harbor on Thursday.

The 34-year-old American, who is currently ranked 63rd, missed only one green on a day of low scoring as he carded a seven-under 64.

Bradley hit two birdies on the front nine, before accelerating on the back nine with five birdies from his final seven holes to claim a good lead ahead of five players tied in second.

"I know that I'm going to have some bogeys and some stress coming," Bradley said. "But as for today, I played so good and it feels good to go around a course like this and shoot that score."

Argentina's Emiliano Grillo along with American quartet Ryan Moore, Hank Lebioda, Max Homa and Patton Kizzire finished with five-under 66s to sit behind Bradley on the leaderboard.

World number two Justin Thomas is five back after a two-under 69 despite an eagle on the first, with three bogeys slowing him up.

Top ranked Dustin Johnson finished the opening day further back with an even 71, where he had a mixed front nine with three birdies and two bogeys, while Phil Mickelson shot 73 to start.

Hideki Matsuyama produced a flawless seven-under-par 65 as his stunning late blitz earned a four-stroke lead heading into the final round of The Masters.

Matsuyama – chasing his maiden major title and Japan's first in men's golf – made a huge splash on moving day at Augusta, where the 29-year-old seized control following a weather delay on Saturday.

After inclement weather halted proceedings, Matsuyama jumped out of the blocks and gained six shots in seven holes to leave overnight leader Justin Rose in his tracks.

Matsuyama – who birdied the seventh hole on a bogey-free front nine – was red hot following the turn, the five-time PGA Tour champion birdieing the 11th and 12th.

Unstoppable, Matsuyama eagled the 15th before following that up with back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th as he soared to 11 under through 54 holes.

Matsuyama – making his 87th start since his last victory at the 2017 WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational – posted the first bogey-free round this week and his best score in 37 rounds at The Masters.

Xander Schauffele and Marc Leishman also made their moves to join Rose and Will Zalatoris in a share of second spot heading into Sunday's final round.

Runner-up in 2019, American Schauffele improved 10 positions thanks to a third-round 68, which included an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys.

Leishman (70) – who finished tied for fourth in 2013 – enjoyed a strong finish, with two birdies from his final bogey-free six holes leaving him in a mix to become just the second Australian to win a green jacket after Adam Scott (2013).

The penultimate day did not go according to plan for Englishman Rose, who signed for a second consecutive 72 in Georgia.

It was a mixed day for Rose as the one-time major champion split three birdies and as many bogeys, while American Zalatoris (71) is also seven under overall.

Highlighted by an ace on the sixth hole, Corey Conners posted a four-under-par 68 to be outright sixth, five strokes behind Matsuyama.

Former world number one and 2015 champion Jordan Spieth – who ended his near-four-year title drought last week – will begin Sunday six shots off the pace following his 72.

Another former Masters winner, 2018 champion Patrick Reed, is four strokes further back after shooting a two-under-par 70 to be level alongside Justin Thomas (75) and last year's runner-up Cameron Smith (73).

A weather delay gave Augusta leader Justin Rose time to reflect on a mixed start to Saturday's play at The Masters.

Rose had led by four strokes after the first round but saw that advantage cut to a single shot on Friday, with Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman his closest challengers.

The one-time major champion was last out on moving day but quickly set about restoring a healthy lead.

Indeed, birdies at the first two holes had Rose three clear at nine under, yet this hot streak did not last.

Rose found the bunker at four and could only rescue a bogey, before befalling the same fate at the fifth, the sand contributing again.

The Englishman recovered with par at the sixth and had just played a solid tee shot at seven when an official approached and sounded the horn to signal an imminent storm.

As play was suspended, Rose was again one ahead of Zalatoris, who was joined at six under by Marc Leishman.

Corey Conners was the day's big mover to that point, in a tie for fourth after playing 11 holes at three under.

Conners' hole in one at the par-three sixth was the highlight, coming straight after the first of two bogeys.

Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama - both one under for the day - were level with Conners, while Harman was back at four under following three bogeys and a birdie through seven.

Jordan Spieth's challenge faltered, although a superb birdie brought him back level with Harman after a double-bogey at seven had threatened to knock him out of contention entirely.

Patrick Reed - two under on Saturday and one under for the week - and Phil Mickelson - three under to reach even par - were among those to complete their rounds before the weather hit.

Justin Rose mounted a back-nine recovery to finish his second round with a two-shot lead over Jordan Spieth and Marc Leishman.

Rose shot a sublime opening round of 65 at Augusta, but relinquished his four-shot advantage on Friday before returning to the top of the leaderboard with three birdies in his space of four holes.

The Englishman was the man to catch on seven under when he signed for a level-par 72, rallying after bogeying four of the first seven holes in his second round.

Gains at the 13th, 14th and 16th holes gave Rose momentum heading into the weekend as he bids to don the green jacket for the first time.

The in-form Spieth surged into a share of second place with Australian Leishman by carding a four-under 68, with birdies proving easier to come by for the field than on the opening day.

Three-time major champion Spieth, on a high after ending a title drought stretching back to 2017 at the Texas Open last weekend, made four of his five birdies after the turn and only dropped one shot at the 12th.

Leishman also made a significant move, setting the tone by starting with three birdies in row and going on to shoot a five-under 67.

Scintillating six-under rounds of 66 from Bernd Wiesberger and Tony Finau put them just three shots adrift of Rose along with Justin Thomas, who shot a 67.

Will Zalatoris, Brian Harman and Si Woo Kim were also well poised on four under, with their rounds still in progress. Defending champion Dustin Johnson had work to do back on three over through 10.

Bryson DeChambeau responded to a poor opening round with a 67 of his own to sit at one over, while Brooks Koepka (+5) and Rory McIlroy (+6) were facing a battle to make the cut 10 and eight holes into their rounds respectively.

Lee Westwood was a couple of shots below the projected cut mark on five over midway through his round.

Justin Rose surged into a four-shot lead as Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau were among the big names to endure first-round struggles at The Masters.

Rose was two over through seven holes in tough scoring conditions, with quicker and firmer Augusta greens proving a much bigger challenge than when Dustin Johnson won the tournament with a record score of 20 under last November.

The Englishman sparked into life with an eagle at the par-five eighth hole and lit up the back nine to card a magnificent seven-under 65, the lowest Masters round of his career, with patrons allowed back in under blue skies.

Rose, eyeing a maiden Masters title, got on a roll with seven birdies in nine holes before finishing with a composed par to retain his four-stroke advantage.

Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama shared the early clubhouse lead with impressive three-under opening rounds of 69 before Rose stormed clear.

Defending champion Johnson shot a two-over 74 following a double bogey at the 18th, having made a bogey-birdie start before getting in the red for the first time at 13.

Masters debutant Will Zalatoris, Webb Simpson, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Patrick Reed will start their second rounds on two under following encouraging starts, while new father Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele are among a clutch of players at level par.

McIlroy suffered a miserable opening round and is back on four over, facing a battle to make the cut rather than fight it out to complete a career Grand Slam, while U.S. Open champion DeChambeau was four over through 15.

Jordan Spieth was left to rue a triple-bogey after launching a wayward tee shot into the trees at the ninth but was in a share of eighth on one under after chipping in for an eagle at 15, while Justin Thomas was a further stroke back through 15.

Brooks Koepka matched Johnson's 74 just a few weeks after undergoing knee surgery and the previously in-form Lee Westwood is languishing on six over.

Tommy Fleetwood generated a roar from those fortunate enough to be at the 16th to see him make a hole-in-one before he signed for a 74.

Tiger Woods is "bummed" to be missing The Masters after his car crash in February, friend and practice partner Justin Thomas has revealed.

Five-time Augusta champion Woods will be watching from home this week rather than taking to the course he knows so well.

The golf great was involved in a single-vehicle incident six weeks ago that saw his car roll "several hundred feet".

Woods required surgery on serious leg injuries, while an officer from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in the aftermath the 45-year-old was "very fortunate" to survive.

It was just the latest setback in a superstar career and means Woods is absent from The Masters for the fourth time in eight years, although he did win the tournament in 2019.

There had been appearances from Woods at each of the prior 19 editions of The Masters, while he was the last man to retain the green jacket with back-to-back triumphs in 2001 and 2002 and is one of only five to have celebrated a career Grand Slam, this week marking 20 years since his 'Tiger Slam'.

Woods posted on Twitter on Tuesday: "I'll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA's bill at the Champions Dinner tonight. It's still one of my favorite nights of the year."

Thomas, who regularly practises with Woods and Fred Couples ahead of the Augusta major, said at a news conference: "I went over and saw him a couple times last week and try to go over a couple times during the week whenever I'm home and see him.

"We texted Friday morning, and he said it's kind of starting to set in. He's bummed he's not here playing practice rounds with us, and we hate it, too.

"I'm very, very lucky that I somehow got thrown into that practice-round group with Tiger and Freddie the last four years or whatever it is, especially around this place.

"I just follow them around like puppy dogs. Wherever they go, that's where I go after it. If they hit chips from somewhere, I go hit chips from there.

"It's no coincidence they have been so successful here, but they are also just great guys to be around. I definitely miss that part."

Thomas added: "[Couples] didn't feel like getting up in the early cold weather this morning, so I made sure to give him some grief.

"I don't know if he would have bailed on me if Tiger was with me, but he did on me."

Couples posted on his own Twitter page: "Thinking of my guy @tigerwoods during this week @themasters. I'll miss you tonight at dinner. Not the same without you."

Thomas, who has improved his Masters finish every year since his 2016 debut and came fourth last year, has been grouped with Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen for a 13:48 EDT start on Thursday.

Couples will play with Francesco Molinari and amateur Charles Osborne, teeing off at 12:24 EDT.

Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau were among those to pack their bags as the field was cut to 16 at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play on Friday.

Top-seeded Johnson lost to Kevin Na, who finished birdie-birdie to turn the match and eliminate his fellow American from Group 1 on day three in Austin.

Scotland's Robert MacIntyre progressed out of the group after a tie with Adam Long, having landed one of the shots of the week with a spectacular drive on the 18th which ended up inside three feet and ultimately got him through.

"I had probably one of the best and one of the luckiest golf shots I've hit in my life," the Scot said.

"I had a bit of bad luck here and there and managed to turn it around right at the end there, and it's one of them things, you've just got to keep fighting until the end, and it just shows anything can happen in this game."

Johnson and Na's match was not without tension, with the 28th-seeded American tapping his opponent on the shoulder on the 11th green to warn him about collecting his ball before concession had been verbalised.

In a mildly tense exchange, Johnson appeared to apologise but walked away less than impressed.

DeChambeau, the fifth seed, bowed out at the hands of Tommy Fleetwood, who topped Group 5.

Fleetwood had established a 4up advantage through seven holes but stumbled, allowing DeChambeau back in the match. The Englishman finished with a par on the 18th to win.

"It turned really scrappy for a lot of the back nine," Fleetwood said. "He started coming back and on the last an unlikely par. Match Play is that funny all week. There are guys who have played better than me for three days who are going home and I'm going through."

World number two Justin Thomas was another casualty, despite defeating 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen 3 and 2.

There were eight playoffs required, with Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia among those winning to join the likes of Jordan Spieth in the last 16.

Garcia delivered an incredible shot to beat Lee Westwood, making a hole-in-one at the fourth hole.

Rory McIlroy was also eliminated, tying with Cameron Smith as Ian Poulter finished top of Group 11 after three wins.

Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau stayed alive at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where world number one Dustin Johnson showed why he is golf's top-ranked player.

McIlroy extended his campaign at the Austin Country Club with a confidence-boosting 4 and 3 win over Lanto Griffin on Thursday.

Four-time major champion McIlroy endured a forgettable opening day in Austin on Wednesday, playing a tee shot into a swimming pool during a shocking 6 and 5 humbling at the hands of Ian Poulter.

But McIlroy – who missed the cut at The Players Championship – bounced back on day two, though the Northern Irishman still has his work cut out in the round-robin group phase after Poulter defeated Cameron Smith.

In order for McIlroy to advance from Group 11, the former world number one must beat Smith in the final match while also requiring leader Poulter to lose to Griffin.

"That was big," said McIlroy. "Obviously winning the match today keeps me in the tournament and gives me hope for tomorrow. It looks like Lanto is going to have to do me a favour and beat Poults.

"I hit a couple of destructive shots yesterday, but overall both of us played well, and I didn't feel the scoreline matched up with how I felt like I played. And then the same thing today. I played solid. Lanto didn't have his best stuff, but I played solid and kept it in play and holed some good putts when it mattered."

U.S. Open champion DeChambeau also breathed life into his campaign as the American star narrowly avoided elimination.

After suffering an upset at the hands of unheralded Frenchman Antoine Rozner on day one, DeChambeau was forced to dig deep against Kim Si-woo.

Down one, fifth seed and Arnold Palmer Invitational winner DeChambeau prevailed 2 and 1 after Kim's tee shot on 17 found the penalty area.

DeChambeau needs to beat Group 5 leader Tommy Fleetwood to have a chance to qualify for the weekend.

Top seed Johnson flexed his muscles as he came from behind to deny rising star Robert MacIntyre.

MacIntyre was on the verge of a prized scalp before Johnson rallied to tie the Group 1 showdown, having been two down with two to play.

The pair have one and a half points from two matches heading into their final matches.

World number two and Players Championship winner Justin Thomas, meanwhile, crashed out following a 2 and 1 defeat to defending champion Kevin Kisner.

Rory McIlroy played a tee shot into a swimming pool during a shocking start to his WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play campaign, where he was hammered 6 and 5 by Ian Poulter.

The Northern Irishman has had well documented issues with his swing in recent weeks and has linked up with renowned coach Pete Cowen for the tournament at the Austin Country Club.

But McIlroy struggled badly during his round-robin opener against fellow Europe Ryder Cup star Poulter and was already two down by the time he pulled his tee shot wildly left at the fifth tee, with his ball sinking into the pool at a nearby house.

He managed to claw within one by the eighth, but Poulter then won five holes in a row to condemn McIlroy to a heavily opening defeat in Group 11, where Cameron Smith beat Lanto Griffin in the pool's other opener.

Dustin Johnson had no such woe as he started with a 2 Up win over Adam Long in Group One, while Jon Rahm defeated Sebastian Munoz 1 Up (Group 3), and Bryson DeChambeau overcame Antoine Rozner 2 Up (Group 5).

Justin Thomas was beaten 3 and 2 by Matt Kuchar (Group 2), though, while Jordan Spieth outclassed Matthew Fitzpatrick 3 and 1 (Group 15) despite a comedy moment when he drove the 15th green…but from the 13th tee.

Justin Thomas claimed a one-stroke victory at The Players Championship after a run of three birdies and an eagle across four holes unseated overnight leader Lee Westwood on Sunday.

World number three and American star Thomas – fuelled by a four-under-par 64 – headed into the final round at TPC Sawgrass three strokes adrift of Westwood.

Westwood (72) had finished second at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, trailing Bryson DeChambeau (71), who was his nearest competitor again at the end of Saturday's play.

Westwood would be a runner-up once more, but this time was bested by Thomas, who stormed into the lead thanks to a frantic spell.

Westwood lacked momentum throughout his round and was back at 12 under – one over for the day – at the turn when Thomas took flight.

Thomas bogeyed the eighth but responded with a birdie at the ninth and suddenly found form.

He made three at the par-four 10th and then, with the day's decisive putt, claimed the lead outright with an eagle from 19 feet at 11. Another birdie at the next hole secured breathing space.

Although Westwood recovered to end the day as he started it, at 13 under, there was only a brief Thomas wobble with bogey at 14 followed by birdie at 16.

Thomas, who has a single major title at the 2017 US PGA Championship, claimed a maiden triumph at The Players and returned to the winner's circle for the first time since August's WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

It is also Thomas' 14th PGA Tour triumph, becoming the fourth player since 1960 to win 14 times on Tour before turning 28 – joining Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller.

"I fought so hard today," said Thomas, who tied the lowest final 36-hole score in Players history with his 64-68 (132) over the weekend. "I stayed patient. It was probably one of the best rounds of my life, tee to green."

Brian Harman used a final-round 69 to finish tied for third alongside U.S. Open champion DeChambeau – two shots behind Thomas.

Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson (71) and Jason Day (73) were among the players to end the tournament 35th in the standings, 11 shots off the pace.

Dustin Johnson (71) – the world number one – climbed up into a tie for 48th at one under, a stroke better off than Jordan Spieth (75), who is still without a win since 2017.

In-form Englishman Lee Westwood remains in pole position heading into the final day of The Players Championship, holding a two-shot lead over Bryson DeChambeau at TPC Sawgrass.

Westwood, who was runner-up at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, was even through nine holes on Saturday before coming home with four birdies on the back nine to finish the day with a four-under 68.

The 47-year-old is at 13 under, ahead of last week's winner DeChambeau (11 under), with the pair again set to joust it out for a title, this time the 'fifth major'.

"Round two," Westwood laughed after the third round, referencing another battle with DeChambeau.

Doug Ghim and Justin Thomas, who shot a 64 on Saturday, are in equal third at 10 under, with Paul Casey, Jon Rahm and Brian Harman a further shot back.

Westwood is in the box seat, having not dropped a shot since the 10th hole of the first round. He also nailed a 24-foot birdie putt on the island green 17th hole on Saturday.

"Westy is a fierce competitor and I look forward to the challenge, again, with him," DeChambeau said.

"His driving is impeccable, his iron play is impeccable and he makes putts when he needs to. Fortunately for me last week I was able to get the job done and I think tomorrow is going to be an incredible battle."

Last year's U.S. Open winner DeChambeau shot a five-under 67 in the third round to marginally close the gap on Westwood. He shot six birdies but bogeyed the 14th.

Thomas was the big mover of the day with his 64, birdieing the first four holes of the day, including holing a 20-foot putt on the first.

The American hit a 204-yard second shot to within seven inches of the pin to eagle the 16th, surging back into contention after being seven shots off the pace heading into the weekend.

"I wish all rounds were that easy," Thomas said. "I hit the ball beautifully, I drove it well, I hit a couple of squirrelly shots there at the end of the front nine, but the good part is that I knew why they were happening.

"I just know that I have to stay patient out here because you can make a lot of birdies and hitting driver well is helping."

Sergio Garcia earned a two-stroke lead thanks to a late surge in the opening round of The Players Championship, while defending champion Rory McIlroy endured a nightmare start.

An 18-foot eagle at the final hole propelled Garcia to the round of the day – a seven-under-par 65 – and top spot on Thursday.

Garcia, who won the Players in 2008 and lost a play-off in 2015, gained four strokes from his last three holes in Ponte Vedra Beach, where play was suspended due to darkness.

Masters champion in 2017, Garcia had eagles at the 16th and ninth holes (both par-fives) for his first round at TPC Sawgrass with multiple eagles – his 77th career round.

It is also Garcia's first 65 or better at the venue since 2013, after the Spanish star was almost late for his opening-round tee time.

"I thought I had plenty of time. Obviously I left the range at 7:35, I was teeing off at 7:40 so I figured it's going to take me probably two, three minutes at most to get to 10," Garcia said. 

"I don't know if the clock on the range was behind or something, but when I got to the putting green just like 50 yards short of 10 I kind of looked at it and the sun was coming up so I couldn't see if it was 7:38 or 7:39 but just in case I just took a little stroll, made sure that I got there before it turned to [7:40]."

Brian Harman is five under heading into the second round, a shot clear of Matthew Fitzpatrick, Corey Conners and Shane Lowry at the PGA Tour event, where 21 players will complete their first rounds on Friday morning.

U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, who claimed last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, opened with a first-round 69, highlighted by six birdies.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth, 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed and Jason Day are among 14 players tied for 12th position at two under, while Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas are a stroke further back.

World number one Dustin Johnson signed for a 73, but McIlroy had a quadruple-bogey eight on his card as the former world number one posted a seven-over-par 79.

Still the defending champion after last year's tournament was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, McIlroy returned and struggled dramatically after two balls found water.

McIlroy recorded 43 on the back nine – his first nine – tying the highest opening nine-hole score of his PGA Tour career (677th round).

Henrik Stenson had an even worse day than McIlroy, with an 85 from Sweden's former Open champion featuring two double bogeys and two triples and three balls in the water.

It marked the highest score of Stenson's Tour career, eclipsing his previous high of 83.

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