Masters gets underway in Augusta - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Masters gets underway in Augusta

 

An eagle on a hole where he once took nine gave Padraig Harrington a superb start to The Masters at Augusta today.

The 40-year-old Dubliner is trying to break a hoodoo again this year after winning the curtain-raising par three competition for a record third time.

But the chances of him doing it were certainly improved by a long drive down the 575-yard second and an approach which just carried the front nine and ran about eight feet past the flag.

It was three years ago that it had been a very different story on the hole.

Harrington was Open and USPGA champion then, but his bid for a third successive major victory effectively ended in the third round when he got into all sorts of trouble after a bad drive left into trees and ran up a quadruple bogey.

Despite a slump since then to 96th in the world, his game is clearly not in terrible shape. He began the Transitions Championship in Florida three weeks ago with a career-low 61 and in the par three competition covered the nine holes in a five under par 22.

That was matched by American Jonathan Byrd, but they were declared joint winners when the event was cancelled because of a thunderstorm.

Harrington did follow his eagle with a bogey at the difficult short fourth, however, and so was only sharing top spot with American trio Stewart Cink, Rickie Fowler and Kyle Stanley, Australian Aaron Baddeley and Japanese amateur Hideki Matsuyama, the only player in the first 33 to start with a birdie.

The action began at 7.40am local time with Gary Player joining Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as honorary starters - and showing them what he is still capable of.

The 76-year-old South African followed 82-year-old Palmer onto the tee for a ceremonial opening drive and found the middle of the fairway some 250 yards away.

It was around 50 yards further than Palmer and 72-year-old Nicklaus then split the difference between them.

With that the trio, who used to be known as golf's "Big Three" - they have 13 Masters titles between them - retired to the clubhouse and allowed the tournament proper to begin.

Conditions were perfect for the early starters. Torrential rain on Tuesday night had softened up Augusta National and it was a bright, still morning as the 76th Masters began.

Scotland's Paul Lawrie, back in the event for the first time since 2004, followed seven opening pars with a bogey at the long eighth, while England's Ross Fisher had bogey fours on the fourth and sixth.

Compatriot Justin Rose, winner of the season's second world championships last month, set off with two regulation pars as many of the crowd waited for four-time winner Tiger Woods to begin his challenge.

He was being followed by world number one Luke Donald, but Rory McIlroy, whose runaway US Open victory last June came two months after he blew The Masters with a closing 80, was out in the penultimate group of the day at 1.42pm local time.

Woods, winner on his last start, single-putted the first three holes, but only the last of them was for birdie.

His hooked drive hit a tree off the opening tee, but he saved par from eight feet and then made a six-footer for par on the next after again going left and this time taking a penalty drop.

At the 350-yard third, his pitch finished just under 10 feet from the flag and he converted that to move into a large group on one under.

New leader on three under was Swede Henrik Stenson, who matched Harrington's eagle and then birdied the fifth, while second on his own was German Martin Kaymer.

The former world number one has yet to make the cut on the course, but after an opening bogey he reached the turn in 34 and remained two under with seven to play.

Harrington started for home one under and Lawrie joined him, Woods and a whole host of others by making eagle at the long 13th.

Donald bogeyed the first after pushing his drive into the trees, but two-putted the next to return to level par alongside Rose, who parred the first seven.

Fisher birdied seven and eight, but a four at the short 12th put him one over again.

The field was reduced to 95 when 1998 winner Mark O'Meara followed Dustin Johnson in withdrawing because of injury.

That left Scot Martin Laird playing in a two-ball with American Chez Reavie. He parred the first two holes, but compatriot Sandy Lyle, the 1988 champion, followed an opening bogey with a seven at the second after hooking deep into the trees.

Lawrie had never managed an eagle in 14 previous rounds at Augusta, but when he made it two in three holes on the 530-yard 15th he joined Stenson in the lead at three under.

The 43-year-old had never broken 70 before either, but three closing pars would give him a 69 and he achieved the first of them after narrowly avoiding the bunker at the short 16th.

PA

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea