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.

Rory McIlroy's quest for a career Grand Slam may have to wait another year after an underwhelming opening day at the Masters, but he says he was encouraged by the way he finished his round.

The 31-year-old Northern Irishman made six bogeys on the first day at Augusta, finishing with a four-over 76, leaving him well off the pace set by Justin Rose with a seven-under 65.

McIlroy's best ever finish at the Masters was fourth in 2015, having won the 2012 and 2014 US PGA Championship, 2011 U.S. Open and 2014 Open Championship.

"My goal is to play well and at least give myself a chance," McIlroy told a news conference after his opening round.

"Honestly I'm quite encouraged with how I hit it on the way in. I hit some loose shots out there, but after hitting the  six iron in the water on 13, I hit some really good shots coming in, so I'm encouraged by that.

"It was just one of those days where I wasn't very efficient with my scoring.

"You're sort of fighting against momentum, but if you make a birdie then you can sort of get going, and [it was] just one of those days.

"But I hung in there, hit some good shots coming in, could have made a couple more birdies, but it's not as if anyone is going really low out there.

"Hopefully feel a little more comfortable tomorrow, go out there and shoot a good one."

There was a bizarre moment for McIlroy when his approach on the seventh hit an onlooker, which was later revealed to be his father, Gerry.

"It was a perfect shot; it was dead straight but I think he was okay," McIlroy said.

"He didn't limp away. He walked away pretty swiftly, so that was all right."

He added: "I knew it was my dad when I was aiming at him."

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.

The 85th Masters got under way on Thursday with Dustin Johnson waiting in the wings to defend his title at Augusta.

Honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Elder signalled the opening of the 2021 tournament, which officially began with twosome Michael Thompson and Hudson Swafford teeing off.

Reigning champion Johnson, who secured his second major with an imperious victory in Georgia five months ago, will tee off at 10:30 local time (14:30 GMT) alongside two-time runner-up Lee Westwood and U.S. Amateur Championship winner Tyler Strafaci.

The world number one has earned top-10 finishes at each of his past five Masters outings and holds the tournament scoring record after his stunning 20-under 268 last November.

Johnson is aiming to become the first man since Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002 to win consecutive green jackets.

Though Woods is absent as he continues his recovery from a recent car accident, Johnson will face stiff competition from the likes of Jordan Spieth.

The 2015 champion ended a 1,351-day wait for a PGA Tour victory at the Texas Open last week and will head out in the final group to tee off at 14:00 local time (18:00 GMT), along with US PGA Championship victor Collin Morikawa and Cameron Smith.

Rory McIlroy has a career Grand Slam in his sights and his bid to become the sixth golfer to achieve the feat begins with new father Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele for company.

The Northern Irishman is still waiting for a maiden green jacket but boasts a strong record in the event, having finished in the top 10 in six of the last seven editions.

Brooks Koepka will play with Bubba Watson and Viktor Hovland, while Bryson DeChambeau joins Adam Scott and Max Homa.

Justin Thomas, Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen form another group, with Sergio Garcia starting alongside Webb Simpson and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, while Patrick Reed will measure himself against Paul Casey and Daniel Berger.

Phil Mickelson, the man with the most major titles (five) in the field as Woods is absent, will appear alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Scottie Scheffler.

It has been less than five months since Dustin Johnson donned the green jacket, but The Masters is upon us once again.

Golf, like all walks of life, was thrown into disorder by the global outbreak of coronavirus, with what was meant to be the first of 2020's four majors ending up being the last of three.

After Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau had prevailed at the US PGA Championship and U.S. Open respectively, Johnson completed an American clean sweep in a truncated season.

The world number one will return to Augusta to defend his title amid the usual fierce competition, although there will of course be no Tiger Woods this time.

With so much to look forward to ahead of what is sure to be another memorable tournament in Georgia, we have picked out a selection of some of the best Opta Facts relating to The Masters.

- Johnson will attempt to become the first golfer since Woods to win back-to-back green jackets (2001-2002); the only other golfers to have achieved that feat are Jack Nicklaus (1965-1966) and Nick Faldo (1989-1990).

- Nicklaus holds the record for most wins at the Masters (six), ahead of Woods (five).

- Woods is the youngest player to wear the green jacket (21 years, 104 days) while Nicklaus is the oldest – he was 46 years and 82 days old when winning his last major and green jacket in 1986.

- The only current golfer to have secured a top 10 in each of his last five Masters appearances is Johnson.

- Johnson set a new Masters scoring record of 268 (-20) in last year's win at Augusta. He is 32 under par over the last two editions; that is 10 shots better than anyone else over that period (Brooks Koepka, -22).

- Woods will be missing his fourth Masters over the last eight editions (since 2014). He had participated in each of the previous 19 Masters tournaments.

- A win would see Rory McIlroy become only the sixth golfer in history to secure a career Grand Slam, after – in chronological order – Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Nicklaus and Woods.

- American golfers have won 62 of the 84 editions of this tournament to date, with Spain and South Africa joint-second on five wins each.

- The Masters is the only major yet to have been won by a Northern Irish golfer. In total, players from Northern Ireland have won seven majors (two U.S. Opens, three Open Championships, two US PGA Championships), four of them by McIlroy.

- Only one of the last seven Masters tournaments has been decided by a play-off (Sergio Garcia versus Justin Rose in 2017). A play-off had been required in three of the previous five editions.

- Fuzzy Zoeller is the last player to win the Masters at the first attempt, back in 1979.

Dustin Johnson has had little time to revel in the success of his record-breaking Masters triumph last November.

The world number one became the first player in the tournament's illustrious history to win with a score of 20 under par.

But the coronavirus pandemic meant the event could not be held in its usual April slot, with Johnson's triumph achieved amid an Autumnal rather than Spring backdrop.

This year, though, the action takes place at the traditional point in the calendar. So, here we are for the first major of 2021 and the expert team at Stats Perform News have picked out their favourites for the green jacket.

GEAR UP FOR THE SPIETH SHOW – Peter Hanson

Here is a statement of fact (okay, actually it's an opinion): golf is much more fun when Jordan Spieth is in the groove. We all know it to be true. And recently, boy have there been some tantalising moments to suggest Spieth will be flying at Augusta – a place where you could fill a lengthy highlight reel with his brilliance from years gone by. A rancid run of form saw Spieth ranked as low as 92nd earlier this year following a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. However, four top-10 finishes from six events preceded a victory at the Valero Texas Open at the weekend – his first tournament win since triumphing at The Open four years ago. Spieth is always great viewing at a venue where he was champion in 2015 and has recorded three other top-three finishes. Key to success for Spieth will be if he can get the putter firing. On the PGA Tour this season, he ranks fifth for one-putt average, while his 27.91 putts per round tallies fourth.

BRYSON REVOLUTIONISED THE SPORT, NOW HE'LL WEAR GREEN - Dan Lewis

Having helped to revolutionise the sport en route to winning the US Open seven months ago, Bryson DeChambeau will now be looking to put his power game to good use with a second major title. The 27-year-old will certainly better his previous best finish of 21st in 2016 and, if he can continue to improve his putting, he has a serious shot of unseating Johnson.

THERE'S NO CURE QUITE LIKE WINNING FOR RORY – John Skilbeck

Who was that lurking in 39th place on the FedEx Cup standings last week? Is there another Rory McIlroy or is this where we are? By now, many thought we would be in an era of McIlroy domination, given the prowess he showed in his early twenties, but those predictions have been skewered, with McIlroy struggling to mount sustained title challenges in the majors. His career card shows plenty of top-10 finishes at the very elite level, but, since landing his fourth major at the 2014 US PGA Championship, the Northern Irishman has often been chasing essentially lost causes. There have been rounds which have amounted almost to self-sabotage, such as the closing 74 when he was genuinely in the hunt three years ago at Augusta, or the 75 with which he began last year. With coach Pete Cowen now on board, McIlroy is actively looking for remedies. There's no cure quite like winning.

DON'T IGNORE THE OBVIOUS, DJ CAN MASTER AUGUSTA AGAIN – Ben Spratt

Are we ignoring the obvious? Dustin Johnson is the Masters favourite and rightfully so. Since winning on his last trip to Augusta in November, DJ triumphed at the Saudi International on the European Tour but his PGA form has been mixed – just one top-10 finish from five tournaments. But no other golfer has had the benefit of returning to the scene of their triumph just five months later. Johnson did not just squeak to victory in November either; his 20-under 268 for the week broke Masters records and secured a five-stroke advantage. Do not bet against him mastering Augusta again.

IT'S NOW OR NEVER FOR VETERAN WESTWOOD – Pat Ridge

Westwood has never won a major, but he is in excellent form heading to Augusta. He just missed out to Bryson DeChambeau at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, losing by one shot – his best result on the PGA Tour since he tied for second at the 2016 Masters. He followed that up with a second-placed finish at The Players Championship, and it could be a case if not now, then will it ever happen for the 47-year-old? A strong performance will also do his Ryder Cup chances no harm, as he looks to match Nick Faldo’s record of 11 appearances for Europe.

NEW FATHER RAHM CAN JOIN NEW WINNERS' CLUB – Chris Myson

Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau were first-time winners in golf's majors in 2020. Going further back, 12 of the last 19 winners had never before won a major, while seven of the last 10 champions at Augusta was triumphing at one of the big four events for a first time. This could be Jon Rahm's turn to continue those trends. While first-time winners have been prominent, nine of the last 10 Masters winners had landed a top-six major finish in the previous two years before breaking their duck. Rahm, who recently became a father for the first time, came in a tie for third at the 2019 U.S. Open and has three straight top-10 finishes to his name at Augusta. He has recent form too. In seven events in 2021, Rahm has five top-10s and is yet to miss a cut.

Rory McIlroy said golf's biggest stars must rally around Tiger Woods by making regular trips to his Florida mansion and he would love to be part of the sport's Grand Slam club by his next visit.

After winning an Open Championship, a U.S. Open and two US PGA Championships early in his career, McIlroy returns to Augusta for another shot at Masters glory this week.

Woods, who suffered serious leg injuries in a February car crash, would love to be involved but is recovering at home after that brush with disaster and hopes to play competitive golf again.

The American superstar became the first player since the 1960s to win all four of the sport's majors in his career when he landed the Open title in 2000 at St Andrews.

With 15 career majors, Woods is unmistakably an all-time great, and McIlroy would become just the sixth player to achieve the modern Grand Slam should he land green jacket glory. Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player are the players who achieved the feat before Woods came on the scene.

Speaking about the absent Woods ahead of Thursday's opening round, former world number one McIlroy said: "Hopefully, if his recovery goes well, who knows, he could be back in 12 months' time.

"He's always missed when he doesn't play in these big events, and that doesn't change this week, whether it's to do with his back or his leg or whatever it is.

"I know he's at home and he's fully focused on the recovery process, and I feel like he's mentally strong enough to get through that. And once he does, broken bones heel, and he's just got to take it step by step.

"I'm sure he's going to put everything he has into trying to be ready to play here next year. I went over and saw him, spent a couple hours with him, which was nice. It was good to see him. It was good to see him in decent spirits.

"When you hear of these things and you look at the car and you see the crash, you think he's going to be in a hospital bed for six months. But he was actually doing better than that. A few of us that live down in South Florida went to see him. I'm sure he appreciates that.

"I think myself, JT [Justin Thomas], Rickie [Fowler], DJ [Dustin Johnson], Brooks [Koepka], all those guys down there, we all have a responsibility to try to keep his spirits up and keep him going and try to get him back out here."

Nothing would give McIlroy more pleasure than being able to visit Woods as a Masters champion, with that Grand Slam monkey off his back. He has six top-10 finishes at the event in the last seven years, which shows what he has to offer.

The Masters is the mountain he has been unable to quite climb, meaning the 'Rory Slam' has yet to be completed.

"If I were able to do it, I'd join a very small list of golfers in history that have been able to do it. So I know where it would put me in the game and how cool it would be, and I would love to do it one day," McIlroy said.

"But for me to do that, I just have to go out and try to play four good rounds of golf on this golf course. I've played a bunch of really good rounds on this golf course before, but just not four in a row."

McIlroy revealed his visit to Woods' home in late March was an eye-opener, in terms of learning how his friend and rival has approached competing over the years.

"In his family room he's got his trophy cabinet and it's his 15 major trophies. I said, 'That's really cool. Where are all the others?'," McIlroy said.

"He said, 'I don't know'. I go, 'What?'. He said, 'Yeah, my mom has some, and a few are in the office and a few are wherever'."

It struck McIlroy, as he was driving home from that visit, that the majors were the be-all and end-all for Woods.

"I'm just thinking to myself, how easy must that have felt for him if all he cared about were four weeks a year. The other stuff must have been like practice. So that's like a really cool perspective to have, right," McIlroy said.

"That's all I could think about on the way home. And I was glad he was OK, too."

McIlroy has been working with coach Pete Cowen on simplifying his technique, saying he is "just at the start of a journey here that I know will get me back to where I want to be".

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson is also taking part this week, the 50-year-old being a U.S. Open short of a Grand Slam himself.

His prospects of completing the full set look to be slim given he is not the force he once was, but Mickelson has the capacity to surprise and would love another Augusta challenge.

Many consider McIlroy's game to be well suited to The Masters, and Mickelson always knew his own skillset was perfect for the course.

"I never really doubted that I would end up winning this tournament," Mickelson said on Tuesday. "This is a course that is very well suited for the way I grew up playing, but that joy of winning it for the first time, finally breaking through, it's beyond belief."

Rory McIlroy can snatch his next big chance to win The Masters and will "undoubtedly" one day triumph at Augusta, according to British golf great Laura Davies.

This week gives McIlroy another chance to land a first green jacket, and it marks 10 years since the Northern Irishman squandered a golden opportunity on the final day.

In the 2011 Masters, McIlroy led by four shots going into the closing 18 holes but then produced an 80 to slump into a tie for 15th place.

McIlroy has since won four majors, but his wait for a fifth has lasted since 2014, despite being a regular presence high up the leaderboard.

The Masters is the one major that McIlroy has yet to win, although six top-10 finishes in the past seven years points to his liking for the course.

"I always thought that Greg Norman would win The Masters and he never did. But I would say undoubtedly McIlroy will win The Masters," Davies, a four-time women's major champion, told Stats Perform News.

"His game's too good and he'll have a chance and maybe next time he'll take it for sure because you can't keep players like that down."

McIlroy has endured a rocky start to this year, however, missing the cut in two of his past four strokeplay events, including The Players Championship.

"Rory's game has gone downhill quite rapidly from the heights he had just more than a year ago, but he can turn it on a sixpence, he can turn it around," said Davies.

"I wouldn't have a bet on Rory McIlroy this week for The Masters, but you wouldn't want to bet against him. He can turn up and turn it on at any time. He loves Augusta, he's not won but it's a course that I think suits his game. I wouldn't fancy him this week, but he’s such an exceptional talent and something could click at any time."

If McIlroy does put himself into contention on the final day, Davies feels it would be a major test of character to ignore those memories of blowing up on the back nine 10 years ago.

"He'd be very strong mentally if it didn't come into play. I can really only speak for myself and I would definitely have been thinking about it," Davies said. "But that's where the great ones come through and win because they can put that aside and still produce the goods."

Speaking on Tuesday, U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau said it felt "pretty cool" and also surprising that McIlroy had made a recent attempt to follow his long-hitting game.

McIlroy has said he perhaps needs to "rein it back" to regain a more comfortable swing, rather than looking to match DeChambeau's distance off the tee, but he sees the American's power as a major asset.

"I knew there was going to be people trying it. I didn't know who was going to try it. But it's not an easy task," DeChambeau said.

"You have to have four or five things go right in order for you to accomplish hitting it farther and hitting it straighter and implementing it on the golf course in a tournament round. And I appreciate Rory's words.

"From my perspective, I wasn't trying to change anybody else's game. I was just trying to play the best golf I could.

"I knew there would be people there to be influenced. I didn't think it would be Rory. I think he's a pretty smart, talented individual that knows how to play the game potentially better than me. It's honouring and humbling hearing him say it's a difficult task.

"Not everybody can do it all the time, and from my perspective, I don't know what else to say other than it's pretty cool."

Reigning Masters champion Dustin Johnson has been grouped with two-time runner-up Lee Westwood to begin his title defence on Thursday.

Johnson returns to Augusta just five months on from a dominant triumph, his second major triumph after the 2016 U.S. Open.

The world number one, who has finished in the top 10 in his past five Masters appearances, set a scoring record with his sensational 20-under 268 for the week back in November.

As Johnson aims to become the first man since Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002 to win consecutive green jackets, he will start alongside Englishman Westwood and, as is tradition, U.S. Amateur Championship winner Tyler Strafaci.

The groupings and tee times were confirmed on Tuesday, with Johnson's trio going out at 10:30 EDT.

Jordan Spieth, who ended a 1,351-day wait for a PGA Tour victory at the Texas Open last week, will be in the final group to tee off at 14:00 EDT, along with US PGA Championship victor Collin Morikawa and Cameron Smith.

Rory McIlroy's latest bid to become the sixth golfer to claim a career Grand Slam sees him start straight after Johnson at 10:42 EDT.

McIlroy has finished in the top 10 at Augusta in six of his past seven appearances but is famously still waiting for a first victory, while his major drought stands at 22 events.

An intriguing group has the Northern Irishman playing alongside Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele.

Brooks Koepka will play with Bubba Watson and Viktor Hovland, while Bryson DeChambeau joins Adam Scott and Max Homa.

Justin Thomas has Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen for company, Sergio Garcia starts alongside Webb Simpson and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, and Patrick Reed will measure himself against Paul Casey and Daniel Berger.

Phil Mickelson, the man with the most major titles (five) in the field as Woods is absent, will appear alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Scottie Scheffler.

Honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Elder will get the tournament under way, with twosome Michael Thompson and Hudson Swafford the first competitors involved.

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.

Rory McIlroy admitted chasing Bryson DeChambeau's power cost him after the four-time major champion comfortably missed the cut at The Players Championship as Lee Westwood produced a flawless performance to lead the way.

DeChambeau's power play at last year's U.S. Open has changed golf for many across the PGA and European Tours, with former world number one McIlroy trying to add length to his game.

But defending Players champion McIlroy, without a win since 2019, missed the cut by 10 strokes on Friday – a second-round 75 adding to his opening 79 at TPC Sawgrass.

After another forgettable day, which included a double-bogey, three bogeys and two birdies, McIlroy explained his struggles, telling reporters: "Probably, like October last year, doing a little bit of speed training, started getting sucked into that stuff, swing got flat, long and too rotational.

"Obviously I added some speed and am hitting the ball longer but what that did to my swing as a whole probably wasn't a good thing. So I'm sort of fighting to get back out of that. That’s what I'm frustrated with."

McIlroy added: "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't anything to do with what Bryson did at the US Open. I think a lot of people saw that and were like, 'Whoa, if this is the way they're going to set golf courses up in the future, it helps. It really helps'.

"The one thing that people don't appreciate is how good Bryson is out of the rough. Not only because of how upright he is but because his short irons are longer than standard, so he can get a little more speed through the rough than us, than other guys.

"I thought being able to get some more speed is a good thing and maybe just to the detriment a little bit of my swing, I got there. I just need to maybe rein it back in a little bit."

Westwood had no such trouble during the second round – the Englishman using a six-under-par 66 to earn a one-stroke lead at nine under before darkness suspended play.

After finishing second at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, Westwood roared to the top of the leaderboard through 36 holes via a dazzling round, which included six birdies and no bogeys.

It is the third time Westwood has led after two rounds at The Players Championship – in 2005 and 2010 – but he is yet to win.

The 47-year-old is a two-time PGA Tour champion, though his last success came in 2010.

Countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick (68) is a stroke off the pace, one shot ahead of Chris Kirk (65) and Sergio Garcia (72), who led after the opening round.

U.S. Open champion and Arnold Palmer Invitational winner DeChambeau posted a second-round 69 to be tied for fifth at six under.

World number one Dustin Johnson's second round in the 70s catapulted him up 22 positions into a tie for 36th, eight shots behind Westwood, while Jordan Spieth (74) is a stroke further back.

Xander Schauffele (74) was among the stars to miss the cut – the American's Tour-best streak of 23 consecutive made cuts coming to an end.

Lee Westwood roared to the top of the leaderboard at The Players Championship as the in-form Englishman hit a dazzling 66 to reach nine under par.

After a second place last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the 47-year-old gave another indication he could be a contender this weekend as he established the clubhouse lead.

Westwood has won twice on the PGA Tour, at the 1998 Freeport-McDermott Classic and 2010 St Jude Classic, and a third title would be a long time in coming.

His girlfriend Helen Storey is also his caddie, and Westwood spoke of her positive influence, calling it "very important".

"I'm a lot less serious and fairly light-hearted," Westwood said on the Golf Channel. "There's lot of smiling going on out there and in life in general.

"We're both having fun out there and not treating it too seriously. Obviously I try 110 per cent. I do all the work off the course, in the gym and a lot of stretching nowadays.

"But when I go out on the golf course I play carefree golf, just not worrying about the consequences and the outcomes.

"I think we all try and go out there and get into the zone, whatever it may be for all of us.

"The zone for me is to go out there and not really having anything going on - just getting the yardage, picking the clubs, seeing the shot and trying to do as good as I can on it."

A birdie at the last capped a bogey-free round for Westwood.

Rory McIlroy's faint hopes of making the cut were over long before he finished his second round, with the 2019 champion following his opening 79 with a front nine of 37 before a double bogey at the par-four 10th left no doubt he would miss the weekend.

McIlroy had been undone by a quadruple-bogey eight at the 18th hole in his opening round, which was far from the worst score on the course.

A day after hitting four balls into the water and making 11 at the par-three 17th, the famous island hole, South Korean Byeong Hun An found the green from the tee this time and went close to a birdie.

He rolled a 16-foot putt to the edge of the hole and tapped in for par, getting a warm reception as he put Thursday's nightmare behind him. Like McIlroy, however, his hopes of making the cut were already shot.

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