Pieters tames blustery Augusta to take three-shot lead at Masters

Thomas Pieters made an early move to hold a three-shot lead over nearest challenger Rickie Fowler at the Masters, while Phil Mickelson dropped back after a promising start to his round at Augusta.

Blustery conditions in Georgia made life difficult for those teeing off early, but Belgian Pieters made light of the high winds to move to five under par through 10 holes.

Pieters, making his Masters debut, made three birdies in his opening five holes and a 300-yard drive on the eighth set him up for a further gain.

Another birdie followed at the 10th to leave him out in front on his own.

Fowler, regarded by many as one of the best talents in the game yet to win a major, birdied two of the opening three and, after dropping a shot at the seventh, another gain left him two under at the turn.

Three-time champion Mickelson had the Augusta patrons on their feet when he drained a 41-foot putt for eagle at the second before proceeding to birdie the par-three fourth.

However, he saw his early momentum derailed by back-to-back bogeys at the fifth and sixth holes and the popular American was one under through seven.

Jordan Spieth, aiming for a second green jacket in three years, was steady through his opening nine holes. A birdie at the second was handed back at the fifth and he was level par through five.

Defending champion Danny Willett, who capitalised on a Spieth meltdown to win 12 months ago, endured a torrid start after hitting a double-bogey six on an opening hole that has proved tricky so far.

Several big names are yet to start their tournament, with Rory McIlroy set to tee off alongside promising rookie Jon Rahm and Hideto Tanihara at 1:41pm (local time), while world number one Dustin Johnson is expected to begin his round despite suffering a back injury after falling down the stairs at his rental home on Wednesday.

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