Phil Mickelson remained on track to become golf's oldest major winner as he held a two-shot lead at the halfway stage of his final round at the US PGA Championship.  

The 50-year-old had ended Saturday's action at Kiawah Island with a one-stroke advantage over Brooks Koepka, who is seeking to win the tournament for a third time in four years.  

Mickelson's slender advantage disappeared with a three-putt bogey at the opening hole, setting the tone for an uneven front nine that saw him record just three pars but still reach seven under.  

The undoubted highlight was a wonderful chip from a tricky greenside bunker by the fifth green that found the cup, delighting a crowd that sensed they could be witnessing history in the making. 

Playing partner Koepka also had his struggles, following up an opening birdie with a double-bogey seven at the second. He sat at five under through nine, the same score as Louis Oosthuizen. 

Abraham Ancer had shown how it was possible to go low on Sunday, carding the best round of the week with a blemish-free 65 that owed much to a fast start.  

The Mexican birdied four of his opening six holes before picking up a further shot prior to the turn, seeing him go out in 31 strokes. While he cooled off on the way back in, it was still an impressive display.  

While his charge came too late to mount a challenge for the tournament, Ancer feels his superb score is a further sign of how he is getting close to making a major breakthrough in his career.  

"I usually like golf courses that are going to be tough, it's not just going to be a birdie-fest and you have to grind it out and have to hit the ball well where you are supposed to," he told Sky Sports.  

"It's not that I don't care about other events, I try to think about every event the same and try to win every time, but I do feel my game is better for golf courses that are tougher." 

Brooks Koepka is exactly where he expects to be heading into the final round of a major, particularly the US PGA Championship. 

After carding a two-under-par 70 on Saturday, Koepka sits one stroke back of leader Phil Mickelson at six under for the tournament, putting him in position to win his fifth major championship. 

Considering Koepka has been no worse than tied for fourth after 12 of the last 13 rounds at the PGA, his spot in Sunday's final pairing is familiar territory. 

"It just feels good, feels normal," Koepka told reporters after his round. 

"It's what you're supposed to do, what you practice for.

"I'm right where I want to be, and we'll see how tomorrow goes.

"Just be within three of the lead going into the back nine and you've got a chance."

Koepka trailed Mickelson by five strokes at one point Saturday but saw the five-time major winner slide back to him on the back nine. 

A bogey on 18 denied Koepka a chance to match Mickelson at seven under, but the 2018 and 2019 PGA winner is looking forward to a potential one-on-one showdown in the final round. 

"I can see what he's doing, and everybody else is in front of me, so I'll have a good idea on the leaderboard what's going on and just need to putt better -- simple," Koepka said.

"If I strike it anything like I did the last three days, I'll have a chance."

If he can pull it off, Koepka would become the first player to win the same major three times in a four-year stretch since Tom Watson captured the Open Championship title in 1980, 1982 and 1983.

Though the wind that had made scoring difficult at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course the first two days died down a bit Saturday, Koepka anticipates a challenging final round. 

"it's a tough golf course," he said. "I thought it definitely played easier for sure, but this golf course you can make one little mistake and it can be costly.

"That's why it's a major championship. I think this place is perfect for it, and it will be fun to watch tomorrow."

Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka both shot 70 Saturday to set up a mouth-watering final pairing at the US PGA Championship. 

At seven under par for the tournament, Mickelson holds a one-stroke lead over his countryman entering the final round at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course after saving par on 18 while Koepka bogeyed the last. 

The 50-year-old Mickelson is the fourth player aged 50 or older to lead a major after three rounds in the modern era, which began in 1934. 

The others were Tom Watson at the 2009 Open Championship, Greg Norman at the 2008 Open, and Julius Boros at the 1973 US Open -- none of whom ended up holding on for the win. 

Mickelson has been resilient this week in South Carolina, though, steadying himself Saturday after going bogey-double bogey on 12 and 13 to make par on the final five holes. 

While Mickelson's resurgence has excited the fans, Koepka remains a model of consistency at the PGA.

He has finished at least tied for fourth in 12 of the last 13 rounds at the major, and he could become the first player to win the same major three times in a four-year stretch since Watson won the Open in 1980, 1982 and 1983.

Mickelson will be shooting for his sixth major title and first since the 2013 Open, while Koepka seeks his fifth. 

Louis Oosthuizen, who shared the lead with Mickelson entering play Saturday, managed just three birdies on the day on the way to an even-par 72 that left him five under for the tournament. 

American Kevin Streelman (70) is at four under, while Oosthuizen's South African countrymen Branden Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenhout are at three under after even-par rounds of their own. 

Bryson DeChambeau (71) was unable to gain ground on the leaders and enters Sunday five back of Mickelson along with Gary Woodland (72) and Joaquin Niemann (71). 

Jordan Spieth matched Billy Horschel for the low round of the day with a 68, and he sits at even par for the tournament along with Rickie Fowler (69) and Keegan Bradley (72).

Reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama fell from contention with a 76, putting him at one over with the likes of Shane Lowry (73), Padraig Harrington (73) and Ian Poulter (73). 

Two-time US PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka has rated his second day performance at this year's event as a "C-plus" despite remaining firmly in contention at the halfway mark.

Koepka shot a three-under-par 69 on Thursday for a tie for second, before a one-under 71 on Friday at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in South Carolina.

The four-time major winner remains second, one shot behind joint leaders Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen who carded 69 and 68 respectively on Friday.

Koepka, who has been battling a knee issue, bogeyed twice in his opening six holes on Friday, before an eagle on the seventh got him back on an even ledger.

He eagled the 11th, birdied the 12th before bogeys on the 15th and 17th, needing a big putt on the 18th to finish one-under for the day.

"C-plus. I missed that short one on four, missed a short one there again on 16," Koepka said. "I thought I struck it great. I drove it a lot better but it's tough to putt in this wind.

"Sometimes you're playing the wind, and sometimes you don't. The wind might take it a little bit, but you're also not trying to firm it either, and have another three-footer coming back.

"I understand everybody else is probably going to miss a few short ones with this wind, but I ball struck my way around this golf course.

"One-under in these conditions, it's okay."

Koepka has battled injuries since his back-to-back PGA Championship titles, having undergone knee surgery in March.

The 31-year-old American had missed the cut in his past two events, including last month's Masters, but insisted injury would not be an issue this week.

"It's a major. It's going to be tough, especially with the wind blowing," he said. "It doesn't matter, just go out and go play.

He added: "This was all easy. Everything I did in rehab was a hell of a lot harder, I can promise you that."

Phil Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen topped a leaderboard filled with major winners at the US PGA Championship, setting up a fascinating weekend at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. 

Mickelson started early and roared to the finish, carding five birdies on the back nine on the way to a 69 that left him at five under par for the tournament before Oosthuizen shot 68 in the afternoon for a share of the overall lead. 

Two-time US PGA winner Brooks Koepka (71) was one stroke back after recording a pair of eagles on Friday, followed by 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (68) at three under. 

Oosthuizen's fellow South Africans Branden Grace (71) and Christiaan Bezuidenhout (70) also were two back of the leaders. 

First-round leader Corey Conners (75) and 2019 U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland (72) were at two under, with reigning U.S. open champion Bryson DeChambeau (71) dropping back to one under after a bogey on 18. 

Players battled windy conditions throughout the day and had an especially difficult time with the last two holes.

Oosthuizen lost his chance to stand alone atop the leaderboard with a bogey on 18 that ensured no one would post a bogey-free round on the first two days of competition, while Grace dropped three strokes on 17 and 18 to mar an otherwise stellar round.

Rory McIlroy (72) saw a move for contention disintegrate with bogeys on the final three holes that left him eight back of the leaders entering Saturday, and Jordan Spieth (75) was in the same spot after bogeys at 17 and 18.

The four-time major champion Koepka had perhaps the most erratic day of any contender, carding just one birdie to go with his eagles at the seventh and 11th and four bogeys. 

Among the notables missing the five-over cut line by one stroke were Dustin Johnson (74), Sergio Garcia (73), Adam Scott (72) and Justin Thomas.

Former major winners also missing out on the weekend include Zach Johnson (78), Jason Dufner (81), Martin Kaymer (77), Rich Beem (77), Charl Schwartzel (79) and John Daly (86). 

The 2009 US PGA Championship winner, Y.E. Yang, was disqualified after signing an incorrect scorecard but would have missed the cut anyway. 

Brooks Koepka dismissed concerns over his knee, insisting he does not have to be "100 per cent" after impressing on day one of the US PGA Championship.

Koepka ended the opening round two strokes behind leader Corey Conners and tied for second position following his three-under-par 69 on Thursday.

American star Koepka has been plagued by injuries since winning back-to-back PGA Championships in 2019 and a fourth major title in three years, undergoing knee surgery in March before missing the cut at last month's Masters.

Koepka overcame a slow start after double-bogeying his opening hole in windy conditions as he made history in South Carolina.

The four-time major champion has opened the PGA Championship with a score in the 60s in each of the last six years, the longest such streak at any major in the modern era (since 1934), eclipsing Jack Nicklaus (five – 1972-1976 Masters).

"It's a major. I'm going to show up," Koepka said when asked about his fitness and whether it was the best he has felt since returning from injury. "I'm ready to play. I've been itching to do this since Augusta.

"I mean, I feel so much better now. I don't need to be a hundred percent to be able to play good."

"I love it when it's difficult," said Koepka. "I think that's why I do so well in the majors. I just know mentally I can grind it out. Like when it's windy like this, it's not so much putting, it's more about ball striking, and I felt like I struck it really well today. I feel like that's why I've done really well.

"You've got to understand that sometimes par is a good score. You've got to understand that 30, 35 feet is a great shot sometimes, and you've just got to accept it and move on."

Defending champion Collin Morikawa closed out day one a shot further back at two under.

Morikawa mixed five birdies with three bogeys to end the round three strokes off the pace at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

He played alongside big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau (72) and praised the reigning U.S. Open champion.  

"I think people need to give him credit, starting today, that he's actually picking up the pace," Morikawa said. "It was amazing how fast he actually played. I'm not going to say fast, but he wasn't slow. You weren't just waiting on him to figure out whatever.

"Kudos to him because it was windy and he had to figure out some stuff for sure. But I enjoy it. He's a character. He's his own person. That's what makes Bryson, Bryson. I think that's why people love him. I enjoy playing with someone like that. It's not going to faze me that he hits it a hundred past me. I know I can still hit it and play golf."

DeChambeau, who heads into the second round tied for 31st, added: "The wind just kicked my butt. It's hot. Just grinding out there, it takes a lot out of you. Working really, really hard to hit every shot the exact way I want to, and then it doesn't happen, and you've got to be comfortable with it and going, okay, how do I get up-and-down.

"It's windy and you're over a four-footer. Wind is blowing really hard, and you think it's going to break. When the wind stops, it's not going to break. It's all just a really difficult thing that you've got to control out there. It's a lot of work."

Corey Conners withstood hammering winds to claim a two-stroke lead following the opening round at the US PGA Championship as Brooks Koepka impressed but Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson struggled.

Prior to Thursday's first round in South Carolina, Conners' best position after any round of a major was equal sixth through 54 holes at this year's Masters at Augusta.

Conners bettered that at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, where the Canadian defied the wind to set the early pace with a five-under-par 67.

Without a victory since his solitary PGA Tour triumph at the 2019 Texas Open, Conners was almost flawless in gusty conditions, holing six birdies with just one bogey.

Conners' lead marks his third career 18-hole lead/co-lead on the PGA Tour (0-for-two to date) and first at a major. Earlier this season, the 29-year-old was tied for the first-round lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and finished third – his best result of the season.

Koepka ended day one in a share of second position alongside Keegan Bradley, Viktor Hovland, Aaron Wise, Sam Horsfield and Cam Davis.

Koepka has been plagued by injuries since winning back-to-back PGA Championships in 2019 and a fourth major title in three years – the American star underwent knee surgery in March before missing the cut at last month's Masters.

But Koepka impressed on Thursday, overcoming a slow start to shoot a three-under-par 69.

Koepka double-bogeyed his opening hole on the back nine, however, the four-time major champion only dropped one shot after that as he tallied six birdies.

He has opened the PGA Championship with a score in the 60s in each of the last six years, the longest such streak at any major in the modern era (since 1934), eclipsing Jack Nicklaus (five – 1972-1976 Masters).

Defending champion Collin Morikawa is a stroke further back alongside the likes of five-time major winner Phil Mickelson.

Big-hitting American and reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau signed for an even-par 72 at the close of the first round, level with Jon Rahm and Justin Rose, while Masters holder Hideki Matsuyama, former world number one Jordan Spieth – eyeing a career Grand Slam – and Xander Schauffele shot 73s.

Jason Day and Patrick Reed were also further down the leaderboard as two-time PGA Championship winner McIlroy and world number one Johnson were powerless in the wind.

McIlroy – seeking a first major trophy since 2014 – recorded a three-over-par 75, which included six bogeys and just three birdies.

Justin Thomas also went three over for the day, while Johnson finished with two double-bogeys and a bogey in a forgettable four-over-par 76 display.

Rory McIlroy struggled on his return to Kiawah Island with a three-over-par 75 in the opening round at the US PGA Championship as playing partner Brooks Koepka impressed.

McIlroy won by eight shots the last time the PGA Championship was staged at Ocean Course in South Carolina in 2012 and was installed as the favourite of many after ending a winless streak of almost two years at the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago.

However, the four-time major champion – seeking a first major title since 2014 – landed his very first shot into the water on a windswept morning before recovering somewhat with back-to-back birdies on Thursday.

McIlroy – a two-time PGA Championship winner – was level par at the turn after dropping another shot on the par-five 16th, but he managed just one more birdie compared to five bogeys as he closed for 75, eight shots behind Corey Conners.

Koepka played down expectations heading into the tournament due to a knee injury and he started slowly with a double-bogey on his first hole, though the two-time PGA Championship winner recovered well with two birdies in the next three holes.

After turning in 36, Koepka picked up three shots in four holes on the front nine to complete an impressive turnaround that saw him earn a share of the lead before Conners soared to the summit as he aims to add to his successes in this event in 2018 and 2019.

"I felt like an idiot," he told Sky Sports Golf when reflecting on his cagey start. "It was probably a poor club choice off 10. I thought three-wood would have carried, but it didn't. I also didn't find the face, it barely hit the face!

"The first rule is, if you're in trouble, get the hell out. I couldn't reach the green and it was a bad lie, so I didn't know where I was going. I just tried to hit a sand-wedge up by the green instead of just chopping it out.

"So it was a mental mistake there, and I deserved every bit of that double-bogey. But it kind of helped me refocus. I can't play with any mistakes, maybe one a day, and that was my one, and I got it out of the way on the first hole."

Koepka is joined on three-under par by former champion Keegan Bradley, Viktor Hovland. Aaron Wise and Sam Horsfield.

Bradley's opening round included four birdies and just one dropped shot, coming on the par-four 13th, while Hovland bounced back from an opening bogey with four birdies.

Collin Morikawa is one shot further back after bogeying his final hole, the defending champion joined on a first-round 70 by Martin Laird, who was also let down by a couple of dropped shots on his final two holes.

Justin Thomas finds himself way down the standings, meanwhile, after carding a three over that included a double-bogey on the 18th, while US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau had a mixed first day as he posted a level-par 72.

World number one Dustin is among the late starters, along with Jordan Spieth, Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose.

Brooks Koepka said he can play through the pain in his bid for a third US PGA Championship but a full recovery from a knee injury remains months away.

Koepka has been plagued by injuries since winning back-to-back PGA Championships in 2019 and a fourth major title in three years.

The American star underwent knee surgery in March, having won the Phoenix Open, and he has missed the cut in his past two events, including last month's Masters.

As Koepka gears up for Thursday's opening round at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina, the 31-year-old acknowledged his knee is still problematic but he is ready to play.

"I feel like I can hit every shot. It's not like Augusta where I'm trying to figure out what's the best line to walk instead of figuring out. Now I can actually hit golf shots and understand what's going on," Koepka, who has been paired alongside Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy told reporters on Tuesday.

"For a while it was just I neglected putting just to see if I could hit shots, because if I can't hit shots I can't play. No point in that. No, I got everything under control and know what I'm doing. Last week was a good test just to see where I'm at for two days.

"I thought if I got four, it would be nice, but two days of rest didn't hurt me."

Asked for a timeline for him to be fully healthy, Koepka replied: "We're talking probably another six months."

"If I beat that, I'm doing something good," he continued. "I mean, I can play. You're never 100 per cent, that's the thing. For two straight years it's been left knee, right knee, herniated a disc in my neck, played in Tampa or wherever we were, played through that. I dealt with that all the way through Palm Springs.

"I can deal with the pain. That's not an issue. It's just a matter of being able to hit shots that I want to hit and do things I want to do, and I'm starting to be able to do that. Even though I'm not 100 per cent, I can still hit the shots."

Koepka added: "Every day has been a long day. Starting from just the training to the rehab, everything seems to take an hour, hour and a half longer, more attention to detail of what I'm doing off the golf course, make sure I'm doing -- I seem to get hurt in a bunch of freaky instances.

"It's just one of those things where you've just got to move past it and take it one day at a time."

Defending champion Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all missed the cut at the Masters on Friday, while Justin Rose remains in the lead.

Johnson, who won the Masters for the first time in November, shot a three-over 75 on the second day to be five over overall and miss the cut by two strokes.

World number one Johnson made three bogeys on his final four holes to miss out, having previously impressed at Augusta, with top-10 finishes in his past five appearances.

He made four birdies on the front nine but also had two bogeys and a double bogey on the fifth.

Johnson becomes the third Masters champion in the past 15 years to miss the cut.

"Six three-putts in two rounds, you just can't do that," Johnson said. "Obviously didn't drive it great but drove it good enough.

"I never was really too bad out of position, just the three-putts killed me. You take all the three-putts away, I'm one under. That was kind of the difference."

The 36-year-old was joined by four-time major winner Koepka with a similar round to miss the cut, along with 2017 Masters winner Garcia, who shot an even round of 72 to finish at four over.

Four-time major winner McIlroy (74) and two-time Masters runner-up Lee Westwood (71) also failed to make the cut, with both unable to recover after poor first days at Augusta.

At the other end of the leaderboard, Rose sits one shot clear of Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman after a second-round 72, having led by four shots on the opening day.

Rose bogeyed four of his first seven holes on Friday, before steadying with three birdies on the back nine to salvage his lead.

"I think it was just a classic day at Augusta National when you're just slightly off," Rose said.

"You can be a foot or two out on certain occasions and you end up struggling. I think maybe off the back of yesterday, it starts to feel pretty different pretty quickly. But I told myself going up the eighth hole, you're leading the Masters, your frame of reference is a little bit different to yesterday. Four ahead is something, but you're still leading so like just enjoy it and keep going."

On his Masters debut, 24-year-old Zalatoris moved up the leaderboard swiftly, aided by five birdies on his back nine, including three straight to finish his round as he carded a four-under 68.

Harman also moved into contention after three birdies on his final six holes to finish with a three-under 69.

Australian Marc Leishman and last week's Texas Open winner Jordan Spieth are tied for fourth after both enjoyed strong rounds on Friday.

Bernd Wiesberger and Tony Finau both shot 66s on Friday to storm up the leaderboard into joint sixth alongside four other players, including world number two Justin Thomas.

Brooks Koepka is unsure if he will play again before the US PGA Championship after missing the cut at the Masters on Friday.

Playing for the first time since February after undergoing knee surgery, Koepka carded rounds of 74 and 75 to miss the cut at Augusta.

After back-to-back top-10 finishes at the Masters, it marked the first time the four-time major winner had failed to reach the weekend at the tournament.

With the US PGA due to start at Kiawah Island on May 20, Koepka is unsure if that will be his next competitive event.

"It's tough to say right now. That's, what, five weeks ahead, I think? It's kind of tough to say that," he told a news conference.

"I won't miss it, I know that, but tough to say if I'll play anything before that just for how it feels, how rehab goes and everything."

He added: "I wouldn't have been playing for another month if it wasn't this week. So I'll take a nice long break after this.

"Way I look at it, I have two more days to do rehab that I probably wouldn't get if I was out here, and I'll get ready for the PGA."

Koepka, who was playing just his sixth tournament of the year, lamented his putting performance at the Masters.

"Putter was ice cold, didn't make any putts. I don't want to say the speed was off, maybe the reads a little bit. Maybe the start line. I'm not quite sure," he said.

"A lot of them felt like good putts, and they weren't even hitting the hole. I don't know. It could be any one of those things. They felt good coming off the face, but they didn't even sniff it."

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.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson failed to hit the ground running in testing conditions when he started the defence of his Masters title on Thursday.

Johnson donned the green jacket for the first time last November, finishing the tournament on a record-breaking 20 under par.

The world number one made only four bogeys as he blew the field away in the 2020 major at Augusta, but he dropped two shots in his opening five holes five months later, with patrons returning under blue skies.

Birdies were at a premium when the tournament got under way on much quicker, firmer greens than those seen in last year's tournament.

Two-time major champion Johnson started by dropping a shot after running through the first green with his second shot. Although he hit straight back with a birdie at the par-five second, Johnson was back at one over after failing to sink a par putt at the fifth.

Hideki Matsuyama led the way on three under through eight holes after draining an eagle putt at the eighth, with Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Si Woo Kim just a shot behind.

New father Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed and Paul Casey were among a host of players on one under following early birdies.

The recently in-form Lee Westwood was struggling on three over through six after a double bogey at the third, while Rory McIlroy dropped to one over with a dropped shot at the fifth and Brooks Koepka was level par eight holes into his first round.

Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka has withdrawn from The Players Championship due to a knee injury.

Koepka has struggled with injury problems over the last year and a half and the American has suffered another setback a month before The Masters gets under way at Augusta. 

The 30-year-old will not be among the field when The Players Championship gets under way at TPC Sawgrass on Thursday due to a strained right knee.

Blake Smith, Koepka's manager, said: "Brooks strained his right knee and he is scheduled to further consult with doctors this week to receive a more extensive evaluation and outlook.

"We will be able to provide additional updates and information as we learn more."

Koepka is eighth in the FedExCup standings and claimed his eighth PGA Tour title by winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February.

He was tied for second when he last teed off on the PGA Tour at the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession at the end of last month.

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