Golf: Torrance troubled by greens

61st US MASTERS: British challenge off to shaky start as Westwood finds too many bunkers
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The Independent Online
The honorary starters had the right idea on a chilly Thursday morning at Augusta. As tradition dictates, Sam Snead, 84, Byron Nelson, 85 and Gene Sarazen, at a stately 95, all drove off the first tee at 8am to get the 61st Masters under way. They then picked up their balls, or in fact, had them collected for them, and disappeared into the clubhouse for breakfast.

They left the task of negotiating the fearsome greens to those who followed. Wise men. Ken Green took a seven at the par-three 16th without going in the water. Instead, he five-putted. Scott Hoch faced a 20-foot putt for his third shot at the ninth and a 50-yard chip for his fourth. Dan Forsman, despite three-putting six of the first seven greens, was one of four on 74 once the first quarter of the field had completed their rounds.

Hoch's playing partner, Scotland's Sam Torrance, was briefly joint leader when he returned a three-over 75. His first words were no longer than four letters on which he was prepared to be quoted. "I'd say the greens were unfair," Torrance said. "They are fair if you hit the ball in the right spot, but you know that before you come here. They are not normally this impossible on the first day. I'd prefer a little more leniency so guys are happy with 68s and not 75s."

Augusta officials went to great lengths on Wednesday to deny the course had been set up any differently from usual. "I've heard some comments that the greens are faster than last year," Will Nicholson, the championship chairman, said. "The greens are soft and fast and substantially the same as last year." Having said that, it was hardly likely that there was going to be a repeat of Greg Norman's opening 63 a year ago, which equalled Nick Price's course record.

Until conditions warmed up for the later starters, the cold breeze for those at the top of the draw meant a disadvantage in terms of length off the tee and spin on the greens. Green's figures were a mass of green (for over-par scores) and his 87 was higher than efforts from former champions such as 74-year-old Doug Ford, Gay Brewer, Billy Casper and Charles Coody. "It's brutal," said John Cook, another early starter who shot a 77. "The greens are rock hard. The first green is turning blue."

Torrance was forced to pull out of the tournament in New Orleans last week with a wrist injury, but he was successfully treated by a physiotherapist in Dallas were he was staying with David Feherty. The pair arrived in Augusta on Monday, Feherty to work for CBS television and Torrance to rediscover his swing on the range. He three-putted with his broom handle three times in the first seven holes but holed from six feet at the par- three sixth.

Even then, the good work set up by his five-iron tee shot almost came to nothing. "I barely touched the putt but if it had not gone in the hole then it would have been 20 feet past," he said. "It was hard work from the first tee to the last green." At least Torrance had an inkling of what was in store for him. Lee Westwood, the 23-year-old rookie from Worksop, did not and started six-six.

"It was slightly different from the practice rounds," he sighed after a 77. "When you have a card and a pencil in your back pocket, it is totally different.

"This is like nothing I have played before. It is the only one of its kind I should imagine. It was a bit overwhelming on the first tee and I started badly and got worse, but overall it was great fun."

Westwood, who was planning to marry Andrew Coltart's sister, Laurae, on Saturday, drove into the bunker on the right of the first and was in two more at the second. "I was in so many bunkers the glare from the sun could have given me a headache," he said. After splashing back on to the fairway at the first, his pitch shot went though the back of the green. He chipped back to eight feet and the putt broke less than he thought.

Saving par on the third after only just dribbling his chip on to the green and delicately two-putting at the fourth, enabled him to begin to settle down. Having gone to the turn in 40, Westwood struck a eight-iron to 20 feet at the 10th for a birdie. At the famous 12th, the wind was against and he asked his caddie for a nine-iron and hit as quickly as he could before the wind changed. He found the green and only just missed his birdie.

Lyle's missing magic, page 31