With his words and then his play,Lee Westwood shot down the notion Thursday that this Masters was a two-horse race. On a busy opening day at Augusta National that featured mud,a little rain and a snowman on the final hole for Henrik Stenson,Westwood provided a steady hand with seven birdies for a 5-under 67 that gave him a one-shot lead.
It was the first time Westwood has led after the opening round of a major,though that was little comfort. Louis Oosthuizen made four birdies over the last five holes for a 68,while Peter Hanson of Sweden made six birdies for his 68. Bubba Watson,blasting tee shots with his pink driver,was among six players at 69.
Westwood had said it would be naive for anyone to think this major was only about Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Those two horses were happy to still be in the running. Woods took two penalty shots,hit three tee shots that rattled the pines and was thrilled to make bogey on his last hole for a 72,the first time since 2008 that he failed to break par in the opening round of the Masters.
I had some of the worst golf swings Ive ever hit today, Woods said.
McIlroy opened with a double bogey,though his big moment was on the 10th hole. A year ago,thats where his collapse began with a hooked tee shot into the cabins for a triple bogey. This time,he pushed a 3-wood into the trees on the other side and managed a par.
Better yet was a birdie-birdie finish,including a 15-foot putt from the fringe on the 18th that gave him a 71,making him one of 28 players who broke par and were within four shots of the lead. It was huge, McIlroy said. I didnt feel like I had my best out there. To finish under par for the day,Im very pleased.
Along with Woods,smiling after a 72,three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson was delighted with a 74. He sprayed tee shots all over the course,including one so far left on the 10th into bushes he didnt know existed that he never found his ball. Mickelson made a triple bogey there,then spent the rest of the back nine scrambling for his life.
Luke Donald,the No. 1 player in the world,had a few nervous moments,and that was after he signed for a 75. When his card was sent to the scoring room to be entered into the computer,an official accidentally punched in a birdie for the fifth hole,even though Donald three-putted for a 5. It took about two hours to clear up the confusion.
Donald and Westwood are the only two players to be No. 1 without ever having won a major. Westwood is atop the list of the best who have never won a Grand Slam event 36 wins around the world,formerly No. 1 in the world and a half-dozen close calls in the majors,including a runner-up finish at the Masters two years ago.
Ive come close, Westwood said. Ive won all there is to win other than a major. Thats my primary focus and its been a long time coming around since the PGA last year.
Westwood made his move on the front nine when he ran off four straight birdies,all of them inside 10 feet,including a difficult pitch from short of the par-5 eighth green that settled within tap-in range. Despite the soft conditions from storms earlier in the week,the scoring wasnt as low as some thought. Westwoods caddie,Billy Foster,walked the course earlier in the day and sent back a scouting report.
Billy had sent me a text saying that the pins were tough, Westwood said. He used slightly more flowering language than that,but well stick to tough. So I knew it was a day for patience.
Stenson celebrated his 36th birthday with a 31 on the front nine,including eagles on both par 5s,and he was the only player to reach 6-under par during the round. It just didnt last.
He hooked his drive into the trees on the 18th,took two shots to get back to the fairway,sent a wedge over the green and took four shots to get down from there. He wound up with a quadruple-bogey 8 known as a snowman in golf vernacular which matched the highest score on the 18th hole in Masters history. That dropped him to a 71.