Singh leads Masters, Ogilvy three back
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2006 US Masters | Round One | 07 Apr 2006
For the third consecutive year, the first round leader at the Masters has shot a five under 67 and in today’s first round of the 2006 Masters, Vijay’s Singh heads a group of eighteen players who find themselves under par, the most after round one since 2002.
That would suggest that the much discussed changes made to Augusta haven’t necessarily had the impact that many felt would be the case. The important factor however in this equation is that the first day field was welcomed with some of the most benign overhead conditions in that time and there is a distinct feeling that this course is not going to get any easier over the next few days.
The cut appears at this early stage likely to be around 5 over par which would make it at least a shot higher than it has been in each of the last two years but not the dramatic difference that many were predicting.
The common comment from the field however, was that this was a much tougher golf course, despite what the leaderboard was indicating. It is true that the leaders at the end of day one came from those players out in the first half of the opening round draw but there were also several good rounds late in the day.
Most interest early on was on Tiger Woods, who struggled his way through his first thirteen holes before a brilliant lofted iron at the par four 14th to a tough flag position tucked just over the ridge, found the bottom of the hole for eagle and he was at one under. Surely this would be the momentum that would see him take advantage of the par five 15th and finish perhaps at two under 70, maybe better. It was not to be. After being forced to lay up at the par five he found a divot and had what would have been a demanding third shot approach even from a perfect lie. He was in the back of the divot as well and appeared totally unconvinced, even as the club approached the ball as to what he was trying to do. It was caught fat and the ball never made it to the green and finished in the water. The resultant double bogey saw him slip back to one over par before a birdie from twenty feet at the last saw him in reasonable shape at even par.
Finishing nearly two hours earlier than Woods had been Rocco Mediate who, has occasionally in the past, started this event well but in nine starts has a best finish of 15th. He made a great birdie at the toughest hole on the course and one of only two all day there (leader Singh was the other) and three consecutive birdies from the 13th saw him finish at four under and he was the leader until Vijay Singh joined him with a birdie at the 14th then went ahead with another at the 15th.
Singh has been playing perhaps at 90% in recent weeks and has not won since August of last year but he is closing in on good form and with a very good record at Augusta, he might just be peaking at the right time.
Arron Oberholser on the other hand is playing in his first Masters but the manner in which he compiled his opening round 69 suggested that he had done his homework on Augusta National well. His eagle at the 15th was the highlight of his round and at just two behind the leader and alone in third place he is set up well for an impressive start to his Masters career. A first time winner this year at Pebble Beach, Oberholser was also playing well at the Players Championship before the last few holes on Saturday and Sunday ruined his chances of something special there.
Those at two under 70 include another first timer in Australian Geoff Ogilvy who put together a very impressive opening round of 70. He played late in the day in the company of veteran Augusta performers Chris DiMarco and Sergio Garcia but seemed completely at home despite his lack of experience here.
Two of the pre tournament favourites, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen, are also well placed at two under 70. Goosen was out early and after an early bogey at the second he was quickly into stride. He continued his good recent form to finish within three of the ultimate leader and with a good record here he is certainly one to be watched over the next few days.
Mickelson bogeyed the first but a follow up birdie at the second had him back on track. He looked very comfortable in his round of 70 and although he missed a good chance from 8 feet at the last to join Oberholser at 69, he will be happy with his start.
Of the other heavyweights in the event, Ernie Els made a nice late comeback when he played the last six holes in two under for 71. Late in the day he appeared to be favouring the leg on which he had a knee operation last year and will no doubt be having plenty of work done on it overnight.
Of the Australians other than Ogilvy, several made very good starts. Stuart Appleby had his best opening round in now ten times to Augusta and he is now well placed to improve on his previous best finish of 21st in 1997 and perhaps do even better. He bogeyed the last for 71.
Nick O’Hern is in just his second Masters and again he has confirmed his improved status in the game when rallied back from an opening 38 to finish with 33 and at 71 is well positioned. He was 45th here in his first start last year which was a solid debut.
Rod Pampling was out in the first group of the day and was going nicely when he moved to two under through the 12th. With the par five 13th ahead, he was well placed to perhaps take the first round lead but a bogey at that hole and another at the 16th saw him finish with even par. Following the experience of his fifth place here last year he has made a good start in his attempt to improve perhaps even further on that.
Adam Scott appeared headed for yet another poor start in a major when he went to three over through five holes but by the time he reached the turn he was back at even par. He was brought undone by the dangerous and most difficult 11th when a double bogey had him back at two over. He saved par from behind the green at the 12th and then at the 13th, after missing the green left with his second, he holed it from just off the green for eagle and was back at even par. He birdied the 15th but then three putted the 16th to eventually finish at even par.
Robert Allenby staged one of the best comebacks of the day when he recovered from an opening nine of 40 to finish with 73.
Michael Campbell had 75, Peter Lonard recorded two late birdies to recover for 76 and Mark Hensby is not going to repeat his brilliant debut last year when fifth after his opening 80.
Photo – Anthony Powter