World no. 3 Lee Westwood carded a 5-under 67 to take the lead of the opening round of the 76th Masters Tournament at Augusta, Georgia.
Westwood birdied four holes in a row on the front nine on his way to a five-under par 67 on Thursday for a one-stroke lead over Sweden’s Peter Hanson and 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa.
Westwood has been a serial top-10 finisher in the majors in recent years but here was another small landmark on a day that emphasized there’s no one to touch him from tee to green.
This is his 56th attempt to win a major title, Westwood was pleased with how his day went
“I’ve taken it very relaxed,” Westwood said. “This is my 13th Masters and I feel pretty comfortable.”
Westwood matched his low score at Augusta National from last year’s second round and round one in 2010, when he finished second to Phil Mickelson.
Sharing the second spot are South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and Sweden’s Peter Hanson who carded a 68.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and Italy’s Francesco Molinari carded 69s to share in third spot with Americans Ben Crane, Jason Dufner and Bubba Watson.
Defending champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa opened with a 72 to share with a number of players, including 1992 champion Fred Couples.
One of the pre-tournament favorites, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, got off to an inauspicious start with a double-bogey on the par-4 opening hole. But the 22-year-old recouped those strokes with three birdies on the front to make the turn in 1-under.
Overall, McIlroy was pleased with how his opening round turned out. “To finish under-par on the day, I’m very pleased.”
The other two favorites entering the tournament, four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods and three-time winner Phil Mickelson, were both shaky in the opening round.
Woods carded three birdies and three bogeys,including two on Nos. 17 and 18, for an even-par 72. He didn’t birdie either of the par-5s on the back nine, which is unusual for Woods, who won two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational to break a 30-month victory drought.
Despite his difficulties, Woods held himself together Thursday. “I just fought my way around today,” he told reporters.
Mickelson experienced his own troubles on the 10th after he lost his tee ball in deep underbrush that led to a triple-bogey 7. Mickelson said later that he’d never lost a ball – other than in a water hazard – in all his years playing Augusta National.
Instead of an even higher score, Mickelson managed a 2-over 74 thanks to birdies on two of the last four holes.
Luke Donald escaped a possible disqualification after a scorecard error was eventually blamed on an administrative lapses.
Donald shot a 75 but 73 appeared on official scoreboards and it seemed that the world number one would be disqualified for signing for a wrong score.
After an investigation, Augusta officials blamed the discrepancy on a fax machine smudging the number five for his bogey on the fifth, leading to a three being inputted into the scoring system.
-5 Lee Westwood (England)
-4 Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), Peter Hanson (Sweden)
-3 Paul Lawrie (Scotland), Francesco Molinari (Italy), Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain), Ben Crane (US), Jason Dufner (US), Bubba Watson (US)
-1 Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
Level Tiger Woods (US), Justin Rose (England), Ian Poulter (England), Charl Schwartzel (South Africa)
+1 Darren Clarke (Northern Ireland)
+2 Phil Mickelson (US)
+3 Luke Donald (England), Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland)