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AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Latest on the first round of the Masters Thursday at Augusta National (all times local):
With a moment of silence, a few tears and two tee shots, the 81st Masters has begun.
It was the first Masters without four-time champion Arnold Palmer, who died in September. Augusta National chairman Billy Payne told thousands crammed around the first tee that the unbearable sadness was surpassed by the love and affection everyone feels from The King.
He asked for a moment of silence, and then turned it over to Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to hit the ceremonial opening tee shot.
A day after storms, the sky was clear and the wind already was rattling the trees.
Among those watching were Butch Harmon and his son, Claude Harmon III, who coach Dustin Johnson. They still did not know if the No. 1 player would recover from his fall on a staircase to tee off later in the afternoon.
Strong winds and a fall down a staircase by the Masters pre-tournament favorite could change the complexion of the season's first major.
Dustin Johnson, the world's No. 1-ranked golfer, injured his lower back late Wednesday afternoon in what his agent described as a "serious" fall down the staircase at a home he'd rented for the week. Johnson goes off in the last group for Thursday's opening round, but even the late 2:03 p.m. starting time may not give him enough time to recover.
The weather forecast for the region, socked by powerful storms two of the last three days, calls for cool, overcast skies and steady winds of 20-30 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph. Augusta National can bedevil the world's best in tame conditions. But strong winds make hitting fairways and approach shots even tougher, and if the greens dry out, putting can turn treacherous.