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Haas, Hoffman share early lead in Houston

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Low scores were plentiful Thursday in the Lone Star State, as more than half the field broke par in the opening round of the Shell Houston Open. Here's how things look heading into Round 2 at the Golf Club of Houston, where Bill Haas and Charley Hoffman share the early lead:

Leaderboard: Bill Haas (-7), Charley Hoffman (-7), Matt Kuchar (-6), Keegan Bradley (-6), J.B. Holmes (-6), Erik Compton (-6), Jim Renner (-6)

What it means: The leaderboard is stacked with big names as the Masters looms, but they're all chasing Haas and Hoffman. Kuchar and Bradley set the early pace, but birdies abounded throughout the day as 37 players opened with 68 or better.


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Round of the day: Haas got off to a slow start, but caught fire on the front nine, his inward half. The former FedEx Cup champ eagled the par-5 fourth hole and added three straight birdies from Nos. 6-8 to briefly grab sole possession of the lead. As it is, he's tied at the top as he looks to win for the first time since the Quicken Loans National last summer.

Best of the rest: Hoffman has quietly been playing some good golf, and that stretch continued Thursday in Texas. Hoffman made seven birdies and didn't drop a shot, joining Haas atop the standings. After a 65, he's in position for his fourth top-25 finish in as many starts.

Biggest disappointment: Dustin Johnson entered this week among the Masters favorites, but his opener in Houston went about as poorly as possible. DJ was 9 over after just six holes, including a quadruple-bogey 8 on No. 6, and he sat in last place after an opening 80. Shortly thereafter, he withdrew from the event without offering a reason, and will now head to Augusta with a bit less momentum than he had 24 hours ago.

Main storyline heading into Friday: With soft conditions, low scores are likely again in the second round. Kuchar and Bradley are among the hotter players who might emerge from the chase pack, but a number of top names got off to a solid if unspectacular start, as the group at -2 includes Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Graham DeLaet, Lee Westwood and Rickie Fowler.

Quote of the day: "I feel terrific. In a matter of five days or so, it has healed up." - Phil Mickelson, who opened with a bogey-free 68 after withdrawing from the Valero Texas Open last week because of a strained oblique muscle.