- The Masters: Round One
Sergio star of show as Tiger makes solid start
Tiger Woods made a confident start to the Masters on Thursday, but it was Sergio Garcia who shone brightest as almost all the pre-tournament favourites opened with under-par rounds.
2013 Masters: First round scores
- -6 Sergio Garcia
- -5 Dustin Johnson
- -4 David Lynn
- -2 Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose.
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Woods, the world No. 1 and a four-time champion at Augusta National, finished the day four shots off the lead after a two-under par round of 70 - as birdies at the sixth, eighth and 13th were only offset by a solitary mistake at the 14th.
Playing partner Luke Donald finished a shot behind the American in the end, as a run of three successive birdies between the 13th and 15th helped the Englishman overcome a stumbling start. It was a score later matched by a similarly inconsistent Phil Mickelson, although Rory McIlroy could not break par as he finished where he started following a 72.
That left the Northern Irishman six shots off the lead. Australian Marc Leishman was the first in the clubhouse after an impressive round of 66, but that was subsequently matched by Garcia - who led the charge of a number of the later starters.
David Lynn is the leading Englishman after an impressive round of 68 in the early part of the day, but Justin Rose and Lee Westwood are both just two shots behind after also starting purposefully with matching rounds of 70.
Woods awoke on Thursday as the overwhelming favourite in many quarters to win a fifth green jacket but, while others picked up shots around him, made a quiet start with five pars to open his round. A birdie at the par-three sixth after a fine approach followed, before the 14-time major champion reached two-under with a regulation four at the reachable par-five eighth.
Another such shot came at the dogleg 13th, before it was given straight back at the par-four 14th after a three-putt from long range. Some slightly woollen approach shots then prevented Woods, who has won three times already in 2013, from picking up any further shots - as a series of regulation pars saw him settle for 70.
"It was a very solid day," Woods said afterwards. "I'm very pleased with the result. There's a long way to go."
Donald, who started his tournament with a birdie, would have matched that tally - and those of Westwood and Rose - but for a bogey at the 17th, a hole caught out a number of players over the course of the day.
His score of 71 was subsequently matched by former Augusta champion Charl Schwartzel and reigning Open champion Ernie Els, before Mickelson missed a birdie putt at the last to settle in alongside that illustrious company.
The American did not quite make the start some expected, with a handful of wild shots off the tee leaving the notoriously gung-ho player in some unusual spots. At one point the three-time Masters winner dropped to two-over, but four birdies in his closing seven holes (albeit with another bogey at the 17th) demonstrated that Lefty's powers of recovery remain as strong as ever.
Five shots off the lead, he will want a 66 of his own on Friday. Garcia has never won a major, and 12 months ago at this course said that he felt he never would, but he raised his prospects considerably with a sparkling opening round that saw him compile six birdies and not a single bogey.
The Spaniard's putting was rock solid for much of the afternoon but there were scary moments - as he found trees off the tee at both the 14th and 17; scrambling to save par on both occasions.
"That was great," Garcia said afterwards. "Made a couple of good saving pars, so I'm pleased with that.
"If you hit the ball well, it was there for the taking. But you have to hit four- and five-irons into greens. If you can do that you can score because it was not too windy."
Garcia was at the vanguard of a number of low late-afternoon rounds, as playing partner Adam Scott slotted in at three-under while, just a group behind, Dustin Johnson and Fred Couples both planted themselves near the top of the leaderboard at five-under and four-under respectively.
McIlroy, a matter of minutes behind those groups, could not find the same easy scoring in the conditions, however, as some erratic play eventually left him level-par. Last year's US PGA champion had reason to be optimistic looking ahead after five birdies during the day, but five bogeys - often the result of mental errors around the green - left him faced with some ground to make up on his most notable rivals.
The early running was made by unheralded Englishman Lynn, who held a two-shot advantage when he reached the 17th tee at five-under, before ultimately finishing four-under following a 68.
The Billinge-born player had a hot putter to thank as he impressed on debut in Georgia, with assured birdie putts at 12 and 13 particular highlights from a memorable day.
"It's not a bad thing to see your name up there leading the Masters," Lynn said afterwards. "That's always something I can look back on."
Lynn briefly sat in the clubhouse as the Masters leader but he was eventually overtaken by Leishman, thanks in particular to a run of four successive birdies between the 13th and the 16th - the last coming thanks to long birdie putt up the hill.
Leishman, making his second appearance in the tournament, had reached the turn in 35 after beginning with a bogey at the first, before a birdie at the 10th gave him a platform to grab the outright lead.
Lynn's score was later matched by Matt Kuchar, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Rickie Fowler, who perhaps enjoyed the most inconsistent of afternoons of any player. The California native opened with a double-bogey at the first and added another at the tenth, but managed to pick up six birdies elsewhere - not to mention an eagle at the 15th - to nevertheless reach four-under by the close.
The performance of the day, however, perhaps belonged to 14-year-old Tianlang Guan - who defied the fearful prognostications of some observers to begin what could prove a long Masters career with a fine round of 73.
The Chinese birdied the 18th from off the green to sit one-over, despite averaging less than 270 yards off the tee and hitting fairway woods into a number of the par-fours.
Elsewhere, former US Open winner Graeme McDowell has work to do on Friday after carding a 73 - as does the reigning champion of that event, Webb Simpson, who completed a matching score.
By the end of the day, it was perhaps easier to narrow down the pre-tournament contenders by those who had started poorly than by those who had started well. Defending champion Bubba Watson was unfortunately one of the former, the left-hander finishing three-over after saying at the start of the week that his aim was simply to make the cut.
He was nevertheless a shot better off than Ian Poulter, who bogeyed both 17 and 18 to slump to four-over and leave the Ryder Cup hero likely needing to break 70 by a number of shots on Friday if he is to even make the cut. Louis Oosthuizen, runner-up last year, shot 72.