Vijay Singh makes leading look easy | india | Hindustan Times
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Vijay Singh makes leading look easy

Vijay Singh fired a five-under par 67, his lowest opening round in 13 starts at intimidating Augusta National Golf Club, to seize a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Masters on Thursday.

india Updated: Apr 07, 2006 14:07 IST

Vijay Singh fired a five-under par 67, his lowest opening round in 13 starts at intimidating Augusta National Golf Club, to seize a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Masters on Thursday.

Only three players broke 70 over the lengthened layout, the second-longest in major championship history at 7,445 yards.

But even more daunting for rivals was the 43-year-old Fijian's declaration that his lead came rather easily.

"It wasn't difficult for me to shoot 67," Singh said. "I left a lot of shots out there. But I made the putts that counted ... This is probably one of the better rounds I have played here."

The bogey-free round by Singh matched his second-best at Augusta, trailing only a second-round 65 in 2002, and gave him a one-stroke edge on American Rocco Mediate and a two-stroke lead on his US playing partner Arron Oberholser.

Defending champion Tiger Woods, seeking a fifth Masters title and 11th major crown, fired a 72, his best Masters start since a 2002 victory. He opened on 74 in 2005, seven strokes behind Chris DiMarco, but beat him in a playoff.

"Better than I was last year, so I'm in good shape," Woods said. "I thought I could have gotten under par but it just didn't happen. I hit the ball well all day. I controlled my shots well.

Singh, the 2000 Masters winner and a two-time PGA Championship winner, has eight top-10 finishes in 11 worldwide starts this year. He considers himself a better manager of his game than when he won here in 2000.

"I didn't make mistakes. I putted very well," Singh said. "I think I manage my game a little bit better. My mis-hits are a lot better. I know when to attack the pins and when not to."

Singh and Mediate each made three birdies in a row starting at 13 and birdied the par-4 11th, lengthened into the toughest hole on the course.

"You're not supposed to do that on that hole," Mediate said. "I apologised to the hole as I left."

The difference came when Singh birdied from 15 feet on the par-4 seventh, another lengthened hole. Mediate, who only qualified by sharing sixth at last year's US Open, began with 10 pars in a row.

"This course now in these conditions par is a good score," Mediate said. "If you had said I could have 18 straight pars around here I would have taken it, especially the way the course is playing.

"I played far from perfect but hit a lot of good shots," Mickelson said.

Goosen, a two-time US Open champion in tough conditions, warned that the greens could become burned out and over the edge as they were in his 2004 Open triumph at Shinnecock.

"I've played on that sort of conditions before and won so I have some confidence about playing that way," Goosen said. "If it gets windy and drying out really quickly, the greens are going to get funny."

Ben Crenshaw, 54, fired a 71 to share eighth with past Masters winners Fred Couples and Mike Weir plus major-winning US players Ben Curtis and Rich Beem, England's David Howell, South African Ernie Els, Aussies Stuart Appleby and Nick O'Hern and Americans Chad Campbell and Billy Mayfair.

Crenshaw's surge came 11 years after his 1995 Masters triumph, which came 11 years after his first Masters victory.

"I had a few miracles happen out there," Crenshaw said. "It's quite a test. It's one difficult hole after another.

"In many ways, this is a new course for all of us with the new tee boxes. We don't know how the course will play.