ENGLAND’S Lee Westwood is desperate to win his first golfing major and after leading the 2012 US Masters on day one has his fingers crossed.
The 38 year old is regarded by many as the best current player never to have won a major and admits it is a big ambition.
He shot a 5-under par 67 today to be a stroke in front of 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Ryder Cup team-mate Peter Hanson of Sweden.
“I’ve been playing well all year so I was pretty confident,” said Westwood, who for the first time in his long career leads a major after the 1st Round. “But trying not to let myself get carried away. I just wanted to come out and start steady and strong and play my way into the tournament, which I’ve done.”
One stroke further back on 3-under were Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez, Italian Francesco Molinari and Americans Ben Crane, Jason Dufner and Bubba Watson.
The 96 man field, down one due to the withdrawal before play of Dustin Johnson due to injury, went through their paces on a soft but nastily set-up Augusta National that dodged some predicted inclement weather.
It was feared for a time that World No.1 Luke Donald would also be a casualty, disqualified because of a scorecard error.
But officials eventually decided the Englishman had correctly signed for a 3-over 75, including a bogey 5 on the fifth hole. The scoring system awarding him a 3 on that hole had been an internal error and a misreading of his accurate scorecard entry.
Tournament favourites Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods had their moments but are still well in the hunt.
McIlroy began with a double bogey but finished his up and down round with two final birdies for a 1-under 71.
Woods hit a 72 to finish even, saying some of his bad old swing patterns had intruded into his game.
“I hit some of the worst golf swings I’ve ever hit today, and that’s all right,” the now world No.7 said. “I just hung in there and grinded my way around the golf course and stayed very patient, stayed in the moment. I got a lot out of that round.”
Woods won the last of his 14 majors in 2008 and after his recent Tour win was obviously still feeling confident that overall he was back on track.
Phil Mickelson had one of his typical adventurous tours around the course to eventually sign for a 2-over 74.
The three-time winner said he didn’t play “well or smart” but still felt his game was in good shape.
“I missed the ball in the wrong spot, my short game didn’t save me, I hit a bad drive on 10, but I’m only two over. I’m excited about that,” Mickelson said.
Aussie contingent battling
Overall the Australian contingent didn’t fare too well with Aaron Baddeley the only one to break par. He shot a 1-under 71 to tie for 14th place.
John Senden and Geoff Ogilvy were the next best on 2-over while Adam Scott struggled for rhythm to post a 75, Jason Day is hampered by a foot injury and had a 76 while Victorian amateur Bryden Macpherson can be rather pleased with his debut major round of 77.
But with no super low scores being recorded by the leaders, the Aussies aren’t out of the contest by any means and the big issue now is to make the weekend cut. Day needs something like the 64 he shot in the second round last year.
Day is determined to fight back and doesn’t want his tendon injury to get in his way.
“It hurt on a couple of shots and I’ve been told it will take two-to-six weeks to heal properly but I was obviously going to play here…it’s the Masters,” Day said.
Scott wasn’t happy with his round and not even a chip in eagle from 20m off the green on the par five 8th could get him going.
“It was disappointing. The rhythm was poor. I made none of the putts to save pars (on the front nine) when my scrambling was poor early,” he said. “There were pins in difficult positions but there are no excuses. Conditions were ideal. I know the game is in good order. I have to have a good round from here.”
Stenson has a birthday “Snowman”
And just to prove the golfing gods really do enjoy sticking in the knife, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson was having a great 36th Birthday, leading the US Masters on six under after 15 holes but then it was obviously decided he’d had enough fun.
Still in front at 5-under on the last he was gifted a “Snowman” 8. The quadruple-bogey put him back to 1-under and a share of 14th. The Swede wasn’t a happy camper when he left the course.2012 US Masters Live Leaderboard