Charley Hoffman shot a seven-under round on the first day at Augusta
The 40-year-old Californian, whose four professional wins have been interspersed by long periods of mediocrity, ripped up the thinking on what was possible in the toughest of conditions by shooting seven under to surge four shots ahead.
On a day when the scoring average was 75, Hoffman beat it by a cool ten shots in the round of his life to put clear water between himself and the rest of the field.
Only 11 players are under par heading into round two with his nearest pursuer Masters rookie Will McGirt. Lee Westwood leads the English challenge a further shot back after reeling off five straight birdies on the back nine but Hoffman is a speck in the far distance.
“I’ve slept on leads before. Am I going to sleep perfectly with this one? No, probably not but this stage is as big as it gets and I really enjoyed it. I’m really looking forward to these next few days to see how I handle it,” said Hoffman.
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I’ve slept on leads before. Am I going to sleep perfectly with this one?
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“That round was a dream. Anything around par would have been a great score. I’m in a good spot. I’m visualising good things instead of bad.
“I’ve started to believe in myself. As dumb as that sounds, sometimes you forget to do that but I’m definitely doing that now.”
Hoffman, who wears a distinctive green glove as part of a sponsorship deal with a waste management company, may be a journeyman but he does have a liking for Augusta. He has never finished out of the top 30 in his three previous appearances and came ninth in 2015 when Jordan Spieth won.
“When I step on the property it just feels special. I definitely feel comfortable here. I played just as well as Jordan and the other guys that week but they made a few more putts. My putter is going well this time and hopefully that will continue,” said Hoffman.
"After the fifth hole I can’t remember missing a putt. Everything was going in and I was able to make some birdies.”
Westwood, runner-up last year, produced a superb up and down from the greenside bunker at the last to post a round 70.
“From three over par through 12, you would absolutely love it if you ended up two under par. I just kept plodding away,” said Westwood.
“But I saw a lot of Charley’s backside. I was watching the scoreboard and we were saying on the 18th green what a phenomenal round seven under par is today. That's a belter.”
Rory McIlroy also salvaged a round which was threatening to run away from him at three over head into the second round at even par.