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Internationals Dominate Masters' First-Round Leaderboard
Lee Westwood fired a 5-under 67 to take the lead after the opening round of the 76th Masters Tournament. The 38-year-old Englishman carded seven birdies - including four straight between the fifth and eighth holes at Augusta National Golf Club - and two bogeys Thursday in the first major of the year.
In his 56th attempt to win a major title, Westwood was pleased with how his day went. "It ties my low round around this course," he told reporters. "I played well. There was no weakness."
"I've taken it very relaxed," Westwood said later. "This is my 13th Masters and I feel pretty comfortable."
Tied for second another shot back are South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen and Sweden's Peter Hanson. Scotland's Paul Lawrie, Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez and Italy's Francesco Molinari carded 69s to share fourth with Americans Ben Crane, Jason Dufner and Bubba Watson.
Shooting 2-under 70s were 2000 Masters champion Vijay Singh of Fiji and Americans Jim Furyk, Scott Stallings and 2007 green jacket winner Zach Johnson.
Another Swede, Henrik Stenson, led for most of the day until he suffered a quadruple-bogey 8 on the par-4 closing hole. Stenson eagled the two par-5s on the front nine and added a birdie on the par-4 fifth for a 5-under 31 on the outward half. He also had two more birdies and two bogeys on the back before coming to the final hole, still at 5-under.
But after hitting into the woods on the left, Stenson twice couldn't punch from the pine straw back into the short grass. Then, lying four from 136 yards in the fairway, he hit his fifth into the gallery behind the green. After his chip came up short, he putted four feet past the hole and missed the putt for a quad, which matched the worst-ever score on Augusta National's 18th hole.
Stenson, who turns 36 Friday, noted later that despite the eagles and birdies his game was off all day. "After 11, I didn't hit one fairway off the tee, and that's obviously going to cost you at some point. Even though I didn't expect it to cost as much as it did on 18," said Stenson, who posted a 71. "Finishing with an 8, I don't think I've ever done that."
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.
After a par on the 10th, a hole that he triple-bogeyed in 2011's final round following a big hook off the tee to fall out of contention, the No. 2-rated player in the world bogeyed two of the next three holes. But McIlroy rescued his round with birdies on the final two holes and ended Thursday at 1-under.
When asked about his thoughts before teeing off on the 10th, McIlroy quipped, "It wasn't going left, I'll tell you." Overall, he was pleased with how his opening round turned out. "To finish under-par on the day, I'm very pleased."
Defending champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa opened with a 72 to share 29th with a passel of players, including 1992 champion Fred Couples. "I felt good out there. I hit some really good shots," said Schwartzel. "My golf swing felt like I was in control of it and it could have easily been a 2- or 3-under-par day."
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. "I know how to play this golf course. But I hit a few loose ones. I really stayed committed to what I was doing. Yes, I made some bad swings, but I can take something positive out of this."
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. "I missed in the wrong spots today," he said later. "This (score) is pretty good. I made a lot of mistakes but I'm only 2-over. If I can get a good hot round tomorrow I can shoot myself into the weekend."
Like fellow Brit Westwood, No. 1-ranked Luke Donald is also searching for his first major title. But the 34-year-old had a desultory start in the 2012 Masters, shooting a 3-over 75 that included six bogeys and only three birdies.
Perhaps worst of all, Donald was nearly disqualified due to a mistake caused after a fax machine smeared a number on his scorecard. On-course scorecards had him for a 73 because his score was incorrectly read by the people overseeing the scoreboards. Augusta National officials described the situation as an "administrative error.''
Later, Donald didn't discuss the possible DQ but talked about his play on Thursday. "This place . . . you know if you are a little off, it can eat you up,'' he said. "My preparation has been as good as it's ever been. I almost wanted to start on the weekend because I was hitting it so nicely. Maybe I peaked a couple of days early. Hopefully, I will find something on the range and go low tomorrow."
Mark O'Meara, the 1998 Masters champion, withdrew before the opening round because of a pulled muscle.
For all the scores, visit http://www.majorschampionships.com/masters/2012/scoring/index.cfm.
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