Singh springs into lead as Tiger swings from sublime to ridiculous - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Singh springs into lead as Tiger swings from sublime to ridiculous

Augusta's enduring ability to thrill and chill in equal measure was given full glorious expression yesterday. Vijay Singh's classic 67 sprang him into a first-round lead, while his nemesis swung from the utterly sublime to the worryingly ridiculous with giddying haste. The American Ryder Cup captain, meanwhile, was simply glad to be here.

For while even Tiger Woods struggled to master the new, expanded, X-rated National ­ an incredible eagle on the 14th being followed by a barely credible double bogey on the 15th in a right old rollercoaster of a 72 ­ Tom Lehman was negotiating the second-longest layout in major history knowing that there are far more dangerous places to be in Georgia.

On Tuesday evening, Lehman was shot at in his courtesy car after taking a wrong turn and actually felt some debris hit the back of his head as a bullet ripped through his rear door on the driver's side.

A 26-year-old local was later arrested after firing at another car. Apparently, the sniper's intended targets were Cadillacs rather than golf professionals, which was a relief for all 90 of this field. Lehman, however, found more comfort in the fact that he was on his way to pick up his family from Augusta Airport and not his way back. "My three-year-old son, Sean, would have been sitting where the bullet hit," said the 46-year-old, wincing as he took in the full implication.

In the light of this, then, it was commendable that he played on, although his 76 did not begin to make this effort worthwhile. In contrast, Singh's most definitely did. The 2000 champion swept aside the controversial 155-yard course lengthenings as if they had never been bulldozed.

Singh's first birdie came on the extended seventh, some 85 yards longer than it was four years ago, and set the pitch for a finish fanfared by a spectacular inward-nine of 32.

"I hit a seven iron to 20 feet but as it was downhill the three-putt was a worry," said the Fijian. "So to see the first drop was very pleasing. And then on the 11th, which is the hole we all go out there thinking about, I hit a five iron into 10 feet. But the conditions favoured us today and not the holes they've changed. If the wind changes, believe me, it will be a totally different story."

But not that different an outcome, one feels, if the 2000 champion continues to play and putt this sumptuously. His was a bogeyless fiesta and the 18th was the only hole on which he had really to grind out his par. That is some achievement on a course where Retief Goosen ­ the South African whose two-under total was also ominous ­ claimed "they cheer for pars now and not birdies".

The other two members of the "Big Five", Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, enjoyed a 70 and 71 respectively that were as controlled as they were significant.

Woods, in contrast, experienced one of his most unusual rounds. He announced afterwards: "I actually played really well today," although the events just after Amen Corner summed up a day of gritted teeth and inconsistency.

On the 440-yard 14th, his eight-iron from 163 yards disappeared into the cup for a two, while on the next hole, the 530-yard par five, his second shot disappeared into the water for a seven.

"The course was firmer than I've ever known," Woods said. " It felt more like a US Open than a Masters."

Perhaps, but you do not often see a player at five-under after the first round of a US Open and, together with Rocco Mediate's 68 and Arron Oberholser's 69, the sub-70s trio must have convinced Hootie Johnson and his fellow Augusta committeemen that their controversial extensions have not been too drastic.

Mediate even went so far as to insist that the Green Jackets have achieved their aim and indeed opened up their precious major to more than just the dozen or so likely bombers, although that theory will surely only be put to the test when the greens dry up, the breeze blows or the rains arrive.

Whatever, the feat of a 54-year-old by the name of Ben Crenshaw proved what is possible "with a few miracles" at a place that has blessedly retained its magic. Crenshaw enjoyed his best round at the Masters in 10 years with a 71 and was more stunned than anybody else. His reawakening warmed the heart, as did that of the forgotten Open champion, Ben Curtis, with his 70, but there was also some Masters mayhem to cool the soul.

David Duval all but froze it with his 84 and was not the only one waving farewell to their Masters dream. Nick Faldo's 79 partly backed up his pre-tournament declaration that he was here "simply for the shits and the giggles" (there was plenty of the former, none of the latter] and Paul McGinley's 78 was just as damning.

Similarly, Luke Donald's 74 was hardly the opening of an obvious winner. At least David Howell coaxed it home in 71 to spearhead the British charge to end the seven-year major drought since Paul Lawrie's win at Carnoustie.

Henrik Stenson, meanwhile, had a riproaring row with his British caddie, David Berry, on the 17th after the Swede accused him of "confusing me" with club selection which he claimed precipitated a 77. Eagles, double bogeys, tear-ups and drive-by shootings. Yes, this Augusta day had everything.

Strangest moment

Clubhouse leaders are not usually asked about their concerns about missing the cut, but, rather surreally, Australia's Rodney Pampling was yesterday after his level par 72. Why? In 1999 at Carnoustie the former greenkeeper became the first man in Open history to lead after the first round and go home after the second, when his 71 was followed by an 86. Then a tabloid ran the headline "You plonker, Rodney". Del Boy is standing by again.

Shot of day

Despite barely a breath of wind only one man managed to birdie the first hole in the first three hours: Gary Player, 70 years old but still the 1978 champion in his head. His three-wood from the centre of the fairway was a thing of beauty. It rolled to within 15 feet.

Fluff of day

Paul McGinley knew it was not going to be his day as early as 9.11am. His rather ambitious low hook from the trees on the left of the par-four first smashed into a pine not 10 yards in front of him before taking a left into another trunk and careering back towards the fairway. A double-bogey was the least the Dubliner could expect.

First round scores

US unless stated

* denotes amateur

67 (5-under) V Singh (Fiji)

68 (4-under) R Mediate

69 (3-under) A Oberholser

70 (2-under) T Clark (SA), R Goosen (SA), G Ogilvy (Aus), P Mickelson

71 (1-under) B Crenshaw, R Beem, D Howell (GB), M Weir (Can), F Couples, N O'Hern (Aus), B Curtis, B Mayfair, S Appleby (Aus), C Campbell, E Els (SA)

72 (par) R Pampling (Aus), M A Jimenez (Sp), D Toms, T Woods, B Jobe, T Purdy, C Pettersson (Swe), D Clarke (N Irl), S Cink, S Garcia (Sp), A Scott (Aus)

73 (1-over) L Glover, R Allenby (Aus), J Furyk, J Bohn, T Bjorn (Den), P Harrington (Ire), A Cabrera (Arg)

74 (2-over) O Browne, B Crane, T Hamilton, L Donald (GB), S Ames (Can), Z Johnson, C Montgomerie (GB), S Verplank, J Ogilvie, J Daly, D Love

75 (3-over) L Mize, T Immelman (SA), V Taylor, M Campbell (NZ), J Leonard, S O'Hair, L Westwood, S Katayama (Jap), C Stadler

76 (4-over) R Sabbatini (SA), T Lehman, J M Olazabal (Sp), T Herron, B Bryant, P Lonard, F Funk, K J Choi (Kor), C Di Marco

77 (5-over) I Woosnam (GB), H Stenson (Swe)

78 (6-over) F Zoeller, P McGinley (Rep Irl), T Jaidee (Thai), T Levet (Fr)

79 (7-over) N Faldo (GB), R Floyd, G Player (SA), T Watson, S Maruyama (Japan), B Langer (Ger), *K Marsh

80 (8-over) C Howell III, *B McElhinney (Rep Irl), M Calcavecchia, *E Molinari (It), M Hensby (Aus), S Lyle (GB)

82 (10-over) *D Dougherty, S Micheel

83 (11-over) *C Ogden

84 (12-over) D Duval

89 (17-over) C Coody

Card

1st 455 yards (par 4)

2nd 575 yards (par 5)

3rd 350 yards (par 4)

4th 240 yards (par 3)

5th 455 yards (par 4)

6th 180 yards (par 3)

7th 450 yards (par 4)

8th 570 yards (par 5)

9th 460 yards (par 4)

10th 495 yards (par 4)

11th 505 yards (par 4)

12th 155 yards (par 3)

13th 510 yards (par 5)

14th 440 yards (par 4)

15th 530 yards (par 5)

16th 170 yards (par 3)

17th 440 yards (par 4)

18th 465 yards (par 4)

Total: 7,445 yards (par 72)

Weather

Mostly dry, but with plenty of cloudy spells, bolstering Augusta's reputation for unpredictability in April. With light south-westerly winds, the maximum temperature is likely to be 25C.

TV times

TODAY BBC2: 21.00-22.30

TOMORROW BBC2: 20.25-00.00

SUNDAY BBC2: 19.35-00.00

Second round tee-off times

Today (US unless stated, all times BST)

13.00: C Coody, T Purdy, B Jobe.

13.11: T Herron, N O'Hern (Aus), M Hensby (Aus).

13.22: J Leonard, S Ames (Can), S O'Hair.

13.33: B Langer (Ger), Z Johnson, B Bryant.

13.44: S Verplank, C Montgomerie (GB), J Ogilvie.

13.55: S Micheel, L Westwood (GB), B Curtis.

14.06: S Lyle (GB), B Mayfair, P Lonard (Aus).

14.17.: J Daly, C Pettersson (Swe), J Bohn.

14.28: M O'Meara, T Levet (Fr), D Clarke (N Irl).

14.39: F Funk, S Appleby (Aus), C Campbell.

14.50: S Cink, T Bjorn (Den), K J Choi (S Kor).

15.01: C DiMarco, S Garcia (Sp), G Ogilvy (Aus).

15.12: C Stadler, *K Marsh, P Harrington (Rep Irl).

15.23: P Mickelson, S Katayama (Japan), E Els (SA).

15.34: D Love, A Cabrera (Arg), A Scott (Aus).

15.56: R Pampling (Aus), L Glover, O Browne.

16.07: L Mize, B Crane, D Duval.

16.18: B Crenshaw, *C Ogden, T Immelman (SA).

16.29: N Faldo (GB), M A Jimenez (Sp), R Beem.

16.40: R Floyd, V Taylor, R Mediate.

16.51: G Player (SA), *D Dougherty, R Sabbatini (SA).

17.02: F Zoeller, C Howell, P McGinley (Rep Irl).

17.24: T Watson, *B McElhinney (Rep Irl), M Campbell (NZ).

17.35: I Woosnam (GB), T Clark (SA), T Lehman.

17.46: M Calcavecchia, D Howell (GB), T Jaidee (Thai).

17.57: M Weir (Can), R Goosen (SA), T Hamilton.

18.08: J M Olazabal (Sp), D Toms, L Donald (GB).

18.19: V Singh (Fiji), H Stenson (Swe), A Oberholser.

18.30: T Woods, *E Molinari (It), R Allenby (Aus).

18.41: F Couples, J Furyk, S Maruyama (Japan).

* denotes amateur

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