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Johnson grabs share of Masters lead with first round completed

AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - World number one Dustin Johnson was a model of precision as he moved into a three-way share of the lead with Englishman Paul Casey and South African Dylan Frittelli when the delayed first round of the Masters was completed on Friday.

Golf - The Masters - Augusta National Golf Club - Augusta, Georgia, U.S. - November 13, 2020 Dustin Johnson of the U.S. after making a birdie on the 18th green during the first round REUTERS/Mike Segar

Forty-four players were yet to finish their opening round on Thursday when play was suspended at Augusta National Golf Club due to darkness and of those it was Johnson and Frittelli who joined Casey at the top of a jam-packed leaderboard.

Johnson, who was three under through nine holes when play was halted on Thursday, picked up four more birdies on Friday for a seven-under-par 65 that was his first bogey-free round at Augusta National.

The long-hitting American, who tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-October amid one of the best stretches of golf in his career, had a short turnaround before starting his second round and was eager to get back at it.

“It is nice, I feel like I am on a good roll here, feeling good with the golf swing,” said Johnson. “To continue to play is definitely a nice advantage.

“Obviously we know how the golf course is playing, we’ve already played nine holes this morning and just to turn around and go right back out I think it’s an advantage.”

Frittelli, who was four under through eight holes on Thursday in only his second Masters start, returned and added three more birdies.

World number three Justin Thomas (66), who also had to complete his opening round on Friday, shot his lowest round at Augusta National and was one shot back of the co-leaders along with Masters rookie Im Sung-jae of South Korea.

A further shot back was a group of four golfers that included former runners-up Xander Schauffele (2019) and Justin Rose (2015, 2017) and world number seven Webb Simpson.

Rory McIlroy’s latest bid to complete the career Grand Slam of golf’s four majors got off to an horrendous start as the Northern Irishman, who played the final half of his first round on Friday shot a three-over-par 75.

The first round of this year’s Masters, already put on hold for seven months because of the COVID-19 outbreak, was delayed nearly three hours on Thursday after rain forced players off the course 25 minutes after the first groups teed off.

Second round action is already underway but limited daylight will ensure the action spills over to Saturday since the final group does not tee off until 2:52 p.m. ET (1952 GMT).

Casey will begin his round at 2:19 p.m. ET while defending champion Tiger Woods, who was three shots back of the lead in a share of 10th place after the first round, tees off at 2:30 p.m. ET on a busy day of golf at Augusta National.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis