Sunday 21 January 2018

Golf's veteran 'Big Three' get Masters underway

Jack Nicklaus is applauded by Arnold Palmer as he is introduced during the ceremonial start for the 2013 Masters. Photo: Reuters
Jack Nicklaus is applauded by Arnold Palmer as he is introduced during the ceremonial start for the 2013 Masters. Photo: Reuters

Phil Casey

ENGLAND'S David Lynn was today enjoying a dream Masters debut as the daunting opening hole at Augusta National threatened to derail the chances of some more famous names.

The first, ranked the hardest hole on the course in 2012 at an average of 4.39, quickly claimed two high-profile victims in the opening round as 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood ran up double-bogey sixes.


But Lynn, out in the third group at 8:22am local time along with 1991 champion Ian Woosnam, calmly made a birdie three on the 445-yard par four, and when he added another on the par-five eighth following a string of pars, led on his own at two under par.


Westwood, seeking a first major title at the 60th attempt, had responded angrily to suggestions from Colin Montgomerie that he was running out of time to break his drought, with his 40th birthday later this month.


And he quickly repaired some of the damage with a birdie on the par-five second as he looked to improve on a Masters record which reads second, 11th, third in the last three years.


Schwartzel, who chipped in for birdie on the first in the final round two years ago, carved his drive into the trees and hit more timber with a left-handed escape attempt.


His third shot went across the fairway and into the first cut of rough, from where he played an excellent approach but could only two-putt for a six.


What he would have given for any of the drives hit by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in their role as honorary starters some two hours earlier, with Player in particular hitting a superb shot of some 250 yards which found the right-hand side of the fairway.


With that the trio who used to be known as golf's "Big Three" - they have 13 Masters titles between them - retired to the clubhouse and allowed the tournament proper to begin, with Sandy Lyle hitting the first shot on the 25th anniversary of his victory here.


Lyle, with a peculiar pause in his backswing and a putter which resembled a frying pan, chipped from one side of the green to off the other side to bogey the first, and also dropped a shot at the fourth before a birdie on the eighth took him out in 37.


Justin Rose started well with birdies at the first two holes before a bogey on the third, while Ryder Cup team-mate Peter Hanson - the third-round leader here 12 months ago - was also one under after three.


Lynn, playing only the third major of his career after finishing second to Rory McIlroy in the US PGA Championship last year, also birdied the ninth to be out in 33.


But a bogey on the 10th dropped him back to two under and out of the lead now taken by Jim Furyk, who had picked up shots at the third, sixth and seventh.


Tiger Woods began his quest for a fifth Masters title with a textbook par, but playing partner Luke Donald became another victim of the opening hole.


Donald missed the green by just a few feet, but his chip failed to get over the top of a slope and rolled back past him and 10 yards further away than where he started.


From there the world number four did well to salvage a bogey, the same score managed by defending champion Bubba Watson in the previous group.



Lynn responded to his bogey on the 10th with birdies on the 11th and 12th - the latter from eight feet on the tough par three - and at four under par had regained the outright lead.


Furyk had reached four under after eight but bogeyed the ninth to match Lynn's outward 33, while Rose was just one shot behind after also taking advantage of the par-five eighth.


Westwood had also recovered superbly from his opening double bogey - a poor drive led to a third shot which rolled off the green - to turn in level par and birdie the 10th to lie one under, alongside Donald, who had birdied the second and fourth.


Woods remained level after four straight pars and Poulter likewise after five, while Lyle was also level with just two holes to play.

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