Garcia and Leishman lead Masters, Tiger lurks

AUGUSTA – Sergio Garcia and surprise package Marc Leishman seized joint control in Thursday’s opening round at the Masters, though tournament favourite Tiger Woods was lurking just four shots off the pace.
Sergio Garcia shot an opening-round 66 to share the overnight lead with Marc Leishman. Net photo.
Sergio Garcia shot an opening-round 66 to share the overnight lead with Marc Leishman. Net photo.

First-round leaderboard
* -6: M Leishman (Aus), S Garcia (Spa)
* -5: D Johnson
* -4: D Lynn (Eng), R Fowler, G Fernandez-Castano (Spa)
* -3: J Furyk, Z Johnson, A Scott (Aus)
* Selected others:
-2: J Rose (Eng), L Westwood (Eng), T Woods
* -1: P Mickelson
* Level: R McIlroy (NI)
* +1: S Lyle (Sco), G Tianlang (Chn), G McDowell (NI)

AUGUSTA – Sergio Garcia and surprise package Marc Leishman seized joint control in Thursday’s opening round at the Masters, though tournament favourite Tiger Woods was lurking just four shots off the pace.

On a mainly overcast day at Augusta National where there was very little wind, Spaniard Garcia and Australian Leishman fired six-under-par 66s to surge one stroke clear of the field in the year’s opening major.

Long-hitting American Dustin Johnson, who missed last year’s Masters due to a back injury, also got to six under but bogeyed the tricky par-four 17th to end the day alone in third after shooting a 67.

Former champion Fred Couples, at 53, rolled back the years as he carded a 68 to finish level with fellow Americans Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar, Englishman David Lynn, South African Trevor Immelman and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

However, no one in the upper reaches of the leaderboard will be able to ignore the ominous presence of four-times champion Woods who, watched by girlfriend Lindsey Vonn and five-deep galleries when he started his round, finished with a 70.

The world number one opened with a 70 on the way to his first three victories at Augusta National and is perfectly placed as he bids to win his first major title since the 2008 U.S. Open.

“It was a good day, a solid day,” the 37-year-old Woods told reporters after mixing three birdies with a sole bogey on greens which ran a little slower than he expected.

Woods, who has been installed as a hot favourite this week after winning three times in his first five starts on the 2013 PGA Tour, made a solid start with a two-putt par at the first, where he has often struggled in the past.

The 14-times major champion picked up his first shot of the day at the par-three sixth, then birdied the par-five eighth to reach the turn in two-under 34.

Though Woods failed to cash in on the back nine, offsetting a birdie at the par-five 13th with a bogey at 14 before failing to birdie the par-five 15th, he was overall happy with his round.

Chinese delight

One of the most impressive performances of the day came from 14-year-old Chinese Guan Tianlang who rolled in a 14-foot birdie putt from just off the green at the last for a 73, the best score among the six amateurs competing this week.

Three-times champion Phil Mickelson opened with a 71 while Northern Irish world number two Rory McIlroy, who squandered a four-shot overnight lead with a final-round 80 at the 2011 Masters, carded a 72.

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