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Rose, Immelman open with a roar

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By DOUG FERGUSON
Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Standing on the sixth tee as he contemplated his next move, Tiger Woods’ concentration was broken by a crescendo of cheers. He looked over to see Ian Poulter’s tee shot tumble into the cup for a hole-in-one on the neighboring 16th, one of several spectacular shots Thursday at the Masters.

Only one of them belonged to Woods, and all that did was keep him from losing more ground.

Woods might believe the Grand Slam is “easily within reason,” but the first round at Augusta National showed that no one was going to lay down for him.

Thursday at the Masters: A quick 18

Justin Rose overcame a rugged start with four consecutive birdies that carried him to a 4- under 68 and his name atop the leaderboard, which is becoming a tradition like no other — at least on Thursday.

It was the third consecutive time he has held at least a share of the 18-hole lead at the Masters.

Trevor Immelman, who made a weekend getaway to Augusta a few weeks ago with Rose and Poulter, also shot 68. They were one shot ahead of Lee Westwood, Brandt Snedeker and Masters rookie Brian Bateman.

Woods failed to make a birdie for the first time since the opening round in 2003, although there was no reason to panic. His lone highlight was chipping in for eagle from 25 feet behind the 15th, the ball falling on the final turn that sent Woods into a fist-pumping crouch. It helped him salvage an even-par 72, putting him in a tie for 19th, four shots behind.

“I played a lot better than what my score indicates,” said Woods, who has never shot better than 70 in the first round of the Masters. “I kept myself in the tournament. I’m right there.”

But he was hardly alone.

Eighteen players broke par on a warm, gentle day that might be as good as it gets this week — receptive greens, only a trace of wind and several hole locations that allowed for birdies.

There were a few surprises, such as 51-year-old Mark O’Meara, who celebrated the 10-year anniversary of his green jacket with a 71. And among the familiar faces were Phil Mickelson, the ‘04 and ‘06 champion, who opened with an amazing birdie and settled for a 71.

There also was a familiar sound — a few of those Augusta roars — even if Woods didn’t hear them.

“The way the golf course plays now, you don’t really shoot low rounds here anymore,” Woods said. “You’ve just got to plod along. It’s playing more of a U.S. Open than it is a Masters. There was really one roar I heard all day, and that was Poulter’s eagle. But other than that, it was really quiet.”

Woods must not have been listening closely to a few familiar sounds on a warm, spring afternoon in golf’s prettiest garden:

– Mickelson was 60 feet over the first green in a walkway, his ball on pine straw. Using a putter, the ball scooted up the slope and rattled the pin before falling, turning bogey or worse into a birdie.

“It was at least a two-shot swing, possibly three,” Mickelson said.

– Johnson, hoping to prove last year was no fluke, could only shrug when his 45-foot birdie putt went up over a ridge and into the cup for a birdie on the fifth.

– Poulter used an 8-iron from 169 yards on the 16th, watching the ball funnel down the slope and into the cup for an ace.

There was a big ovation again for Arnold Palmer, smacking his ceremonial tee shot so far that he never saw it land — but that was only because of soupy fog that caused a one-hour delay. More cheers followed Gary Player up the 18th fairway as the three-time Masters champion set a record by playing for the 51st time. He shot 83.

“I heard some roars today,” Arron Oberholser said after a 71, despite playing with injuries that will keep him out for two months after this tournament is over. “But this is about as easy as it’s going to play for the week.”

Rose was 2 over through four holes until making a slippery 6-foot birdie on the sixth, the first of his four consecutive birdies. He added two more on the 12th and 13th, and settled into pars the rest of the way to join some elite company — Palmer, Player, Jack Nicklaus and Lloyd Mangrum are the only other players to have a first-round lead at least three times at the Masters.

Now if the Englishman can only figure out how to finish.

“I seem to throw the home run early,” Rose said. “I’ve gone out there today with a really relaxed frame of mind, and that’s obviously what I’ve got to recreate the rest of the week.”

Immelman is getting close to full strength after a strange year of health problems. He lost 20 pounds because of a stomach parasite after last year’s Masters, and late in the year had a benign tumor removed from his diaphragm.

He was in good company two weeks ago.

Rose, Immelman and Poulter flew up to Augusta for two days of practice, playing a few money games (Rose won) and sharing tips with each other. Immelman could only smile when he saw his mates on the leaderboard. Poulter was among those at 70.

“It’s a great coincidence,” Immelman said. “Hopefully, we keep it going.”

Woods will be trying to get it in gear, although this is nothing new. In the four years he has won the Masters, Woods has trailed by at least three shots after the first round — seven shots after 18 holes in 2005, his most recent title.

Even as red numbers for birdies were going up on the board, Woods had to settle for 12 pars. And just when he thought he had his first good look at birdie, his 4-iron into the par-5 13th hopped hard and went over the green into the worst stop. It showed, too. Woods gripped the head of his club and swung it in anger.

His pitch got halfway to the hole when it peeled off to the right and down the swale, leading to bogey. Then came a pulled tee shot into the trees on the 14th, leading to another bogey.

Standing behind the 15th green in two, though, his chip checked up a few feet from the hole and took one last turn into the cup.

“I feel good about how I played all day,” Woods said. “I hit the ball really well. I hit a lot of good putts that just didn’t go in. That’s just the way it goes. I’ve got to stay patient out there, and hopefully it will turn.”

Brandt Snedeker and Lee Westwood both reached 4 under until dropping shots in twilight, the sun dipping quickly behind the Georgia pines because of the one-hour fog delay in the morning. Former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk bogeyed the last hole for a 70, and was curious what the rest of the week held for everyone.

“It’s 8 o’clock, it still feels like it’s 70 degrees, there’s no wind, the greens were somewhat receptive,” Furyk said. “I think we had an opportunity to play today. And I don’t expect that to keep up.”

Scores with relation to par from the first round of the Masters, played April 10 at the par-72, 7,445-yard Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. (Note: a-amateur):

1. Justin Rose 68

-4 1. Trevor Immelman 68

-4 3. Brian Bateman 69

-3 3. Brandt Snedeker 69

-3 3. Lee Westwood 69

-3 6. Ian Poulter 70

-2 6. Robert Karlsson 70

-2 6. Zach Johnson 70

-2 6. Stephen Ames 70

-2 6. Jim Furyk 70

-2 11. Heath Slocum 71

-1 11. Mark O’Meara 71

-1 11. Peter Lonard 71

-1 11. Arron Oberholser 71

-1 11. Jeev Milkha Singh 71

-1 11. Paul Casey 71

-1 11. Retief Goosen 71

-1 11. Phil Mickelson 71

-1 19. Justin Leonard 72

E 19. Robert Allenby 72

E 19. Jerry Kelly 72

E 19. Tiger Woods 72

E 19. Johnson Wagner 72

E 19. Steve Flesch 72

E 19. Boo Weekley 72

E 19. Sean O’Hair 72

E 19. Sandy Lyle 72

E 19. Daniel Chopra 72

E 19. Vijay Singh 72

E 19. Stewart Cink 72

E 19. Andres Romero 72

E 19. K.J. Choi 72

E 33. Brett Wetterich 73
+ 1 33. a-Michael Thompson 73
+ 1 33. Luke Donald 73
+ 1 33. Mike Weir 73
+ 1 33. Angel Cabrera 73
+ 1 33. J.B. Holmes 73
+ 1 33. Richard Sterne 73
+ 1 33. David Toms 73
+ 1 33. Mark Calcavecchia 73
+ 1 33. Steve Stricker 73
+ 1 33. Camilo Villegas 73
+ 1 44. Nick O'Hern 74
+ 2 44. Nick Dougherty 74
+ 2 44. Padraig Harrington 74
+ 2 44. Henrik Stenson 74
+ 2 44. Todd Hamilton 74
+ 2 44. Bernhard Langer 74
+ 2 44. Bubba Watson 74
+ 2 44. Ernie Els 74
+ 2 52. Ben Curtis 75
+ 3 52. Nick Watney 75
+ 3 52. Ben Crenshaw 75
+ 3 52. Vaughn Taylor 75
+ 3 52. Rory Sabbatini 75
+ 3 52. Geoff Ogilvy 75
+ 3 52. Ian Woosnam 75
+ 3 52. Soren Hansen 75
+ 3 52. Tom Watson 75
+ 3 52. Niclas Fasth 75
+ 3 52. Jonathan Boyd 75
+ 3 52. Adam Scott 75
+ 3 52. Aaron Baddeley 75
+ 3 65. Shaun Micheel 76
+ 4 65. D.J. Trahan 76
+ 4 65. Fred Couples 76
+ 4 65. Martin Kaymer 76
+ 4 65. Jose Maria Olazabal 76
+ 4 65. Liang Wen-chong 76
+ 4 65. Stuart Appleby 76
+ 4 65. Toru Taniguchi 76
+ 4 65. a-Drew Weaver 76
+ 4 65. Sergio Garcia 76
+ 4 75. Larry Mize 77
+ 5 75. Hunter Mahan 77
+ 5 75. Miguel Angel Jimenez 77
+ 5 75. Scott Verplank 77
+ 5 75. Michael Campbell 77
+ 5 75. Craig Stadler 77
+ 5 75. Richard Green 77
+ 5 75. John Rollins 77
+ 5 75. Tim Clark 77
+ 5 84. a-Trip Kuehne 78
+ 6 84. Charles Howell III 78
+ 6 86. Woody Austin 79
+ 7 86. Shingo Katayama 79
+ 7 88. Anders Hansen 80
+ 8 88. John Senden 80
+ 8 88. Raymond Floyd 80
+ 8 91. Fuzzy Zoeller 81
+ 9 91. Steve Lowery 81
+ 9 93. Prayad Marksaeng 82
+ 10 94. Gary Player 83
+ 11

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