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Spieth in sensational form, McIlroy leading the early Irish challenge at the Masters

The 21-year-old heads up at the leaderboard at Augusta.

Spieth is the early leader.
Spieth is the early leader.
Image: Chris Carlson

Updated at 00.00

JORDAN SPIETH LEADS by three shots after Thursday’s opening round of the 79th Masters.

The 21-year-old US star was shared second at last year’s Masters in his Augusta National debut and hit nine birdies and one bogey to score an eight under par 64.

He and Ernie Els had moved past the clubhouse leaders, American Charley Hoffman and 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose of England, who each fired 67s. However, a bogey on the 18th saw Els drop back to five under after shooting a 67 while Jason Day is also level with that trio.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy is best of the Irish at this early stage.

The world number one declared himself satisfied with a “solid start” after shooting 71. McIlroy found life tough, but birdies at each of the par fives on the back nine – 13 and 15 – enabled the Ulsterman to come in under par.

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“It was ok. It’s a solid start,” he told Sky Sports. “It could have been better but it could have been worse as well. I battled well, I held some nice putts and one under par was a decent score.”

Much attention has surrounded McIlroy’s pursuit of a third major title in succession, as he looks to become only the sixth player to complete a career grand slam.

[I was] a little nervous, very excited and just tried to keep telling myself to stay as patient as possible,” he added. “Four days of golf around here is a long time and you don’t want to get off to an anxious start or press too early.”

Graeme McDowell is one under, while Padraig Harrington is par and Shane Lowry is three over. It was a mixed day for Darren Clarke, who shot an opening round of 74 which left him two over par.

Phil Mickelson hit a 70 to lie two under, defending champion Bubba Watson finished his opening round on one under par, while Tigers Woods is one over.

Originally published at 16.57, additional reporting from - © AFP, 2015

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