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Spieth takes instant command at Augusta

Spieth had a brilliant opening day. Credit: PA

Defending champion Jordan Spieth assumed his customary position on top of the leaderboard with a brilliant 66 in the 80th Masters on Thursday.

Spieth, who was second on his debut in 2014 and claimed a first green jacket with a record-breaking performance 12 months ago, carded six birdies and no bogeys despite swirling winds on the opening day at Augusta National.

The 22-year-old, who is looking to become just the fourth player after Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods to successfully defend the year's first major championship, led from start to finish after an opening 64 last year and w as quickly into his stride with birdies on the third, sixth and eighth to move into the outright lead.

Another birdie on the 10th was followed by crucial par saves from the trees on the 11th and over the green on the 12th, before the US Open champion two-putted the 13th for birdie.

Spieth, who set records for the highest number of birdies (28) and lowest 36 and 54-hole totals in Masters history last year, understandably kissed his putter in delight after ho ling from 15 feet for par on the 16th.

And the world number two then finished in style with a birdie from five feet on the last to reach 29 under par for his nine competitive rounds at the Masters. Assuming he is not overtaken, his leaderboard position after each of those rounds will read 12-3-1-2-1-1-1-1-1.

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McIlroy placed in last Masters grouping

Rory McIlroy faces a lengthy wait before he can begin his bid to become the sixth player to complete the career grand slam at Augusta National this week.

McIlroy will be the very last man in the 89-strong field to hit his opening tee shot in the Masters after being drawn in the final group at 2:01pm local time for Thursday's first round.

McIlroy will be the very last man in the 89-strong field to hit his opening tee shot. Credit: PA

The four-time major winner, who was fourth last year, will partner Ryder Cup team-mate Martin Kaymer and America's Bill Haas in the first two rounds of the year's first major championship.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, who is looking to join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo in winning back-to-back titles, gets his campaign under way at 9:48am alongside England's Paul Casey and US Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau.

World number one Jason Day tees off at 1:06pm with Matt Kuchar and Ernie Els, who is the lowest-ranked winner of any of the last 16 major championships. The South African was 40th in the world when he won the Open at Royal Lytham in 2012.

Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer will act as honorary starters at 8:05am, although Palmer will not hit a tee shot on the par-four first due to a shoulder problem.

American Jim Herman, who was the last man into the event by virtue of his victory in the Shell Houston Open, is the first man out in the tournament proper at 8:20am alongside Australia's Steven Bowditch.

England's Andy Sullivan will make his tournament debut with Harris English and Kevin Na at 10:32am, while new father Danny Willett tees off at 1:39pm with Sergio Garcia and Ryan Moore.

Golf player Christy O'Connor Jnr dies aged 67

Irish golfer Christy O'Connor Jnr, best remembered for helping Europe retain the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in 1989 when he fired a stunning shot with his two iron to within feet of the hole, has died aged 67.

Christy O'Connor Jnr has died at 67. Credit: PA

O'Connor's victory over American Fred Couples at the Ryder Cup in '89 helped ensure the contest finished 14-14 with holders Europe therefore retaining the trophy.

O'Connor Jnr's career highlights included two Ryder Cup appearances, 17 professional tournament wins, four wins on the European Tour and two British Open Senior titles.

It is understood he was on holiday in Tenerife when he died.

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Rome to host Ryder Cup in 2022

The Ryder Cup is heading to Rome. Credit: PA

The Italian capital city of Rome will host the Ryder Cup for the first time in 2022, Ryder Cup Europe has announced.

Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain all bid to host the event but the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, 17km from the centre of Rome, was eventually chosen.

Royal Portrush to host 2019 Open Championship

The R&A has announced that Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland will host the Open Championship in 2019, only the second time golf's oldest major will have been played outside England and Scotland.

Portrush has not hosted a major championship since 1951. Credit: PA

Portrush has not hosted a major championship since the 1951 Open won by Max Faulkner, but the Irish Open drew massive crowds there in 2012 and the likes of major champions Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell have been lobbying on Portrush's behalf.

Former R&A chief executive Peter Dawson had previously cited the record-breaking attendance at the 2012 Irish Open as both an ''eye opener'' and ''tipping point'' when it came to deliberations about taking the tournament across the Irish sea.

In August last year, club members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the course changes required to host the Open, which will be staged from July 18-21.

Spieth replaces McIlroy as world number one

Jordan Spieth has replaced Rory McIlroy as world number one after finishing second to Jason Day in the US PGA Championship.

Jordan Spieth is the new world number one. Credit: PA

McIlroy finished 17th at Whistling Straits on his return to action following the ankle injury which kept him out of the Open and Bridgestone Invitational, two tournaments he won last year.

And that meant Spieth became the second youngest player after Tiger Woods to top the rankings, despite being unable to claim a record-equalling third major title in one season.

Day's first major title lifts him from fifth to third and means the world's top three are aged 22, 26 and 27 respectively.

Supreme Spieth threatens to win third golf major of 2015

Jordan Spieth in action at Whistling Straits. Credit: Mark Hoffman/Zuma Press/PA

Jordan Spieth stormed into contention for an historic third major title in 2015 after a dramatic third round of the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

Spieth was five shots behind with just two holes to play as Jason Day threatened to take control with six threes in succession from the ninth, including four birdies and an eagle.

However, the gap was suddenly reduced to two when Spieth birdied the 17th as Day was taking two shots to get out of bunker to double bogey the 15th, and it was down to one when Spieth carded his sixth birdie in eight holes to complete a stunning back nine of 30 and a flawless 65.

Day responded superbly with a birdie from 25 feet on the 17th to shoot 66 and finish 15 under par, two shots clear of Spieth with England's Justin Rose and South African Branden Grace one shot further back.

Masters and US Open champion Spieth is now 50 under par for this year's majors as he looks to become only the second player after Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods to win three majors in a season - Woods was 53 under in winning the US Open, Open and US PGA in 2000.

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