Steve Webster’s opening-hole albatross creates first for European Tour

It is the first time a player has opened a tournament in such a fashion

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The Independent Online

England's Steve Webster became the first player on the European Tour to open a tournament with an albatross, holing his approach at the par-five first at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. The five-wood he used to find the hole has history, Webster posting an albatross with it at the Open d'Italia three years ago.

"It was 254 yards to the pin, slightly into the wind off the left," Webster said. "Because I carry a big crowd following me, there were about two people behind the green and one of them started jumping up and pointing down and I didn't know if it had gone over the back into the rocks or in. I got up there and he started clapping.

"I have never been three under through one before and you wonder 'is this my day or have I had all my luck on the first hole?', but I played great after that." Webster was round in 65 to close on seven under par, one behind first day pace setter George Coetzee.

"I'm busy working on my swing, so it's nice to shoot good numbers when you're busy working on stuff. But I can't wait for it to click because I might be unstoppable," said Coetzee, who was fourth in Abu Dhabi last week.

Tiger Woods is unstoppable at Torrey Pines. The world No 1 has won more times along this stretch of the California coastline in San Diego than any other course in America, eight and counting. His last major victory, the 2008 US Open came here. The Farmers Insurance Open accounts for the other seven.

His win last year, the first of five on the PGA Tour in a season that would end with his being voted the golfer of the year, was so dominant he could afford to drop four shots over the closing five holes and still win by four.

The start of his defence of the title today marks his first appearance of 2014, a year in which he hopes to close that six-year hiatus by adding the 15th major to his tally, which would leave him three short of Jack Nicklaus' record haul.

That is not the only landmark in his sights. Woods is favourite to clean up again this week, which would take him to 80 PGA Tour titles, within two of the record set by Sam Snead. It took Snead 30 years to compile that historic total. Woods has been at the coal face only 18.

Woods' 79th victory came in the first week in August at the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, a course he has smashed seven times. Bay Hill would be the other 18 holes he favours most, winning Arnold Palmer's event on seven occasions, also, including last year.

Next week he pitches up on the European Tour in Dubai, reversing the journey made by Phil Mickelson, who opened his season in Abu Dhabi last week. These blokes cross time zones in better shape than Dr Who. Had he not suffered a double hit in attempting a right-handed escape from beneath a bush, Mickelson would have romped home in the desert.

"I am really excited for two reasons... the two areas of my game that have not been as efficient as I would like in the last three or four years have turned into strengths," Mickelson said. "One of them is putting. I putted great last year and I had a remarkable turnaround. And the other is the driver."

The field is packed with top 20 talent, including a handful of American Ryder Cuppers past and present; Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Ricky Fowler.