Westwood cuts through all the hype to deliver

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

McIlroy recovers from slow start, Woods has erratic day while Stenson suffers meltdown

Augusta

What a day for Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. While one of England's great hopes shot a 67 to lead the first round of the Masters, the other was dragged into a disqualification controversy which was nothing to do with any error on his part. Fortunately, the mistake was entirely the Augusta officials and Donald lives to fight another Georgian day.

It was pure administrative farce. Because a "5" on his scorecard resembled a "3" when faxed between officials it seemed he had signed for a 73 and not a 75. He hadn't, although at three-over the world No 1 was far from content. Westwood, in contrast, was satisfaction personified, equalling his best score at Augusta. His previous five-under round at Augusta came two years ago, when only Phil Mickelson's magical powers denied him the green jacket. Is this the time for the world No 3, who has racked up six top threes in his last 14 majors? Well, Westwood has never led after the first round of a major before; so, at least he is a quarter of the way there.

Westwood is one clear of Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, and Sweden's Peter Hanson with Scotland's Paul Lawrie in a tie for third on three-under. Rory McIlroy is two further back, while another shot separates Tiger Woods. And Mickelson? He is two-over. On yesterday's evidence they will all have to affix a turbo to catch the man from Worksop. Certainly, he was the golfing heavyweight who stepped up straight away to justify all the pre-Masters hype.

Seven birdies, two bogeys and his usual metronomic display of long and accurate driving, solid approach play mixed with a hugely encouraging on and around the greens. "This is a golf course I love playing," said Westwood, with seven out of his last 10 rounds at Augusta coming under par. "It may be the best I've ever played in the first round of a major, but I did play well in 2010. It's a good start to build from."

As the 38-year-old noted, "this is a second-shot golf course". And because of his driving he happens to be rather accomplished at second shots. He didn't miss any of the rain-sodden fairways and hit 16 greens in regulation. The only mudball he caught was on the 10th which he bogeyed. All in all it was a mighty accomplished performance. "I'm excited," he said. "My experience and fitness will stand me in good stead on a demanding course."

McIlroy's afternoon was not anywhere near as solid, but he was more than happy with two birdies in the last two holes to shoot 71. The 22-year-old started with a double-bogey on the first but came back with five birdies to negate the further damage caused by two bogeys. Perhaps it would take a round for the young Ulsterman to clear his mind of last year's final-day 80 and don't be shocked if he goes low today. The same applies to Woods, so long as he repairs his radar.

The 14-time major winner walked on the side just to left of the wild, hitting "some of my worst golf swings ever". But when it came to waywardness even he had to bow to the final-hole calamity of Henrik Stenson. Already it is buried deep within Master folklore.

The Swede constructed a quadruple bogey eight without visiting water, without hitting it out of bounds, without taking a penalty, without even three-putting. Stenson was five-under at the time – after eagles on the second and the eighth – and, two clear at the top, was looking the likely leader in a first round when the course played as long as ever because of the storm. However, they call him the Iceman and the snowman which proceeded to drip ignominy all overs his scorecard was, indeed, chilling.

A drive into the trees, a chip out, a chunk, a pitch over the green, a poor chip to edge of the green, a putt to four feet, a miss from three feet, holed from three fest... punctuate by several slams into the ground in frustration. Simple for those of us who don't know how. "It's another day tomorrow," said Stenson. showing commendable courage to face the press.

What made it seem all the more cruel was Stenson's slump. From being No 4 in the world after winning the Players three years ago, the 36-year-old has fallen to 171st in the rankings. In this time he has lost a vast portion of his wealth in the Stanford scandal, who not only sponsored him, but also in whom he heavily invested. Pete Cowen, his English coach, is still adamant the vanishing of millions was a crucial factor in his client's downfall. Golf fans and anyone else with a heart can only pray that today truly does allow Stenson some credit.

Saying that, at the start of the round he would have taken beating Woods by a stroke. The former world No 1 showed his customary brilliance in the escapology department with two par saves after dramatic hooks into the trees on the first two holes. And when he pushed forward to stand at two-under with the two par fives of the 13th and 15th it was on the green-jacketed side of ominous. But the birdies never followed and then the bogeys did. Woods' two fives of the final two par fours represented a woeful finish which had been coming all day. Yes, the pines had been alive with the sound of Tiger's snap pulls – five in all – as he was honest enough to acknowledge.

"I hit some of the worst golf swings I've ever hit today," he said. "I just grinded my way around and stayed very patient. Unfortunately that was about as good as I got right there. I could have shot one, maybe two better, but I got a lot out of that round."

The reason for Woods's wildness, following his smooth display when winning his warm-up tournament, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, two weeks ago? "I had the Hank backswing and a whole new downswing," he said. "It was the same old motor issues." Hank is Hank Haney, the former coach who has recently published a controversial book – The Big Miss – about their time together. No, he is never far from Tiger's thoughts. And neither, it seems, is the big miss. "Every now and again, some old stuff from a few years ago pops and today it popped up," he said.

In contrast, Lawrie popped up with his first post-70 round at Augusta in his first appearance here in eight years, to stand alongside the likes of Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez and Francesco Molinari, with only Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson and Ben Crane representing America in the top nine. To think, the 1999 Open champion hadn't achieved an eagle in his 14 previous Masters rounds. Yesterday he managed two in three holes. That's Augusta, for you. Even the fax machine likes a drama.

Leaderboard: First-round leading scores

(US unless stated, par 72)

67 L Westwood (Eng)

68 L Oosthuizen (SA), P Hanson (Swe).

69 F Molinari (It), B Crane, J Dufner, M Jimenez (Sp), P Lawrie (Sco), B Watson.

70 VSingh (Fiji), J Furyk, Z Johnson, S Stallings

71 N Watney, R McIlroy S Stricker, H Matsuyama (Japan), R Fisher (Eng), P Cantlay, M Kuchar, S Cink, Kevin Chappell, K Bradley, A Baddeley (Aus), P Harrington (Irl), H Stenson (Swe).

Selected others: 72 T Woods, J Rose (Eng), I Poulter (Eng). 75 G McDowell (NIrl), L Donald. 76 P Casey (Eng).

Suggested Topics
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own