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Tuesday 16 September 2014

McIlroy trails leaders by six strokes after rollercoaster round

By Phil Casey

Published 12/04/2013 | 00:05

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Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits from a sand trap on the seventh green during first round play in the 2013 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, April 11, 2013.  REUTERS/Phil Noble (UNITED STATES  - Tags: SPORT GOLF)
Rory McIlroy on Day One at Augusta

Rory McIlroy is six shots off first round leaders Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman after mixing five birdies with five bogeys in his opening round.

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The world number two was two under after front nine but struggled on the run-in to card a level par 70.

A year after claiming he was not good enough to win a major and needed to "play for second or third place", Sergio Garcia today claimed a share of the lead on the opening day of the 77th Masters.

 

Garcia carded six birdies and no bogeys in a flawless 66 at Augusta National, joining Australia's Marc Leishman at the top of the leaderboard on six under par.

 

It is the first time the Spanish star has led a major since the 2007 Open, when he was in front all four days but eventually lost out in a play-off to Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie.

 

The 33-year-old finished second in the US PGA Championship as a 19-year-old back in 1999 and has had 15 top-10 finishes in 57 major appearances, but after coming 12th here last year said: "I'm not good enough. In 13 years I've come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.''

 

"If I felt like I could win I would do it. Unfortunately at the moment, unless I get really lucky I can't really play much better than I played this week."

 

Speaking today, Garcia said: "It was one of those moments where you are a little frustrated. It probably came out wrong the way I said it. It doesn't change that every week I tee it up and try to play my best golf and give myself a chance to win."

 

American Dustin Johnson bogeyed the 17th to finish a shot behind on five under.

It was a day to forget for Padraig Harrington who carded a six-over-par 78 while Graeme McDowell bogeyed his final two holes for a 73.

 

World number one Tiger Woods, seeking a fifth Green Jacket, carded a two-under-par 70, the same opening score which set up his victories in 1997, 2001 and 2002.

 

England's David Lynn, who described simply qualifying for the Masters as a dream come true, was among those two shots behind on four under, alongside Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Rickie Fowler, 2008 champion Trevor Immelman and 53-year-old 1992 winner Fred Couples.

 

Playing only the third major of his career after securing his place by finishing second at the US PGA Championship last year, Lynn has won just once in almost 400 European Tour starts but outscored the likes of Justin Rose and Lee Westwood (both 70), Luke Donald and 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel (both 71) and defending champion Bubba Watson (75), while Ian Poulter fared even worse with a 76.

 

Out in the third group at 8:22am local time, Lynn went to the turn in 33 and was two clear of the field when he birdied the 15th, but bogeyed the 17th and needed to hole from 12ft for par on the 18th.

 

"I was on the ninth and my caddie said 'You're leading the Masters.' He just looked at me and smiled," a delighted Lynn said. "I said 'I'd rather be leading it Sunday afternoon' but it's obviously not a bad thing to see your name up there and something you could always look back on.

 

"But there's a lot to be done for the rest of the week and hopefully I can keep my name up there.

 

"It's taken me a golfing lifetime to get here. You do feel like you know the place, because you see it that many times on TV. It's fantastic.

 

"When I am on my game I know I can compete at this level and Kiawah Island (for the US PGA) confirmed it to me. It gave me a bit of extra belief.

 

"I'm not going to sit here and say I'm going to be there Sunday night, but deep down I know that I've got performances in me that could put me there."

 

Westwood has already been there with finishes of second, 11th and third in the last three years, but had to recover from a double-bogey six on the first today.

 

"It was a good start, well, not literally, but it's a good first round," the 39-year-old said, who had responded angrily to suggestions from Colin Montgomerie that time was running out for him to win a major.

 

"It wasn't the ideal start but I've started majors with a double bogey before - the US Open last year sprang to mind - and I fought my way back to have a chance.

 

"So there was no panic, really. It was nice to make birdie at the second and get one back there early. You could stand on the second tee and say, well everybody in the field is going to make a double bogey, I just got mine out of the way early."

 

Rose was three shots better off than Westwood over the opening two holes after two birdies, but was unable to capitalise on such a bright start.

 

"I've led three times after the first round, which has come to no avail," Rose said. "You can never win it on day one, you can only lose it. I didn't really make anything until the 18th, when I knocked in a nice 15-foot putt for par, which makes lunch taste good, really."

 

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