Friday, 19 March 2010
Angel Cabrera continued to tap into a rich vein of form at Augusta National as he carded an excellent six under par 66 in the first round of the 65th Masters tournament to lead the European Tour challenge for the Green Jacket.

The 31 year old from Cordoba, who won the inaugural Open de Argentina on The European Tour last week, exhibited the confidence gained from his maiden victory with a bogey free round which saw him move into a tie for second with Steve Stricker, both players one stroke behind debutant Chris DiMarco.

Cabrera, who missed the cut on his Masters debut last year, immediately set about ensuring there would be no repeat of that with a superb outward half of 32 which featured birdies at the third, fourth, sixth and ninth.

Another birdie followed at the par five 13th before the Argentinian picked up his last birdie of the day at the long 15th, finding the back of the green in two before two-putting for a four.

Further down the leaderboard, Miguel Angel Jiménez maintained The European Tour challenge with an opening 68. The Spaniard, who finished tied second in the US Open at Pebble Beach last year, got to five under through 14 holes but dropped a shot at the 15th before ending with three par figures.

Jiménez’s fellow countryman José Maria Olazábal looked set to join his compatriot on the four under par mark but the Champion in both 1994 and 1999 dropped shots at the 15th and 18th to have to content himself with an opening 70.

It was a score matched by Thomas Björn and Sergio Garcia and although the Dane and the Spaniard’s totals were identical, both players reaching the turn in level par 36 before coming home in two under par 34, their respective inward halves were constructed in different fashion.

Björn, winner of the Dubai Desert Classic last month, carded eight par figures in total, his only departure from par coming at the 500 yard 15th where he managed an excellent eagle three, pitching in from the back right edge of the putting surface.

Garcia, who currently lies 15th on the Volvo Order of Merit, enjoyed a more adventurous back nine with birdies at the 12th and 14th before he dropped a shot at the 15th. It looked like the 21 year old would have to settle for a 71, but joined his European Tour colleague on the two under par mark with an excellent birdie three at the last.

Another player to finish on 70 was World Number One Tiger Woods, who failed to set the galleries alight, but who did enough to keep alive his dream of holding all four major titles simultaneously.

Other European Tour members to complete their first round included a quintet on one under par 71, Ernie Els, Bob May, Jesper Parnevik, Greg Norman, and the 1991 Champion Ian Woosnam.

Two shots further back was current leader of the Volvo Order of Merit Pierre Fulke, two-time winner Bernhard Langer, former European Number One Colin Montgomerie, and the 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie, who continued to come to terms with the demands of Augusta National Golf Club, carding a 73, his best score in his third competitive round over the famous Georgia course.

Steady golf from Lawrie took him to the turn in one over par 37, his only dropped shot of the front nine coming at the 435 yard fifth hole.

Another shot went at the tenth but the Scot, who memorably triumphed at Carnoustie in a play-off with Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard, gritted his teeth and battled back with birdies at the two par fives on the back nine, the 13th and 15th. A par three followed at the short 16th but Lawrie bogeyed the 17th to be home in 36.

Another European Tour player to have completed his round was the 1988 champion Sandy Lyle. The Scot, who has missed the cut in four of his last six outings at Augusta, gave himself a chance of competing at the weekend with an opening 74.

Much of the damage for Lyle came at the notorious par three 12th where he stumbled to a double-bogey five but he rallied in the closing stages, covering the final seven holes in level par figures.

There was no such trouble for DiMarco however. The American with the unorthodox putting stroke went out in 32 and played the back nine in 33 as he came within one stroke of the record low opening round score for a Masters rookie shared by Lloyd Mangrum (1940) and Mike Donald (1990).

"I don't think the spotlight's on me because nobody expects me to win, but me," said DiMarco, invited to Augusta National after his 19th place on last year's US PGA Tour money list.

“I hope my name is there on Sunday afternoon, that’s the main goal, but this feels good. I deliberately put on a green shirt today because it’s my first Masters and green is synonymous with Augusta – but I had everything go my way.”

The 32 year old took advantage of greens softened by rains earlier in the week and only a hint of wind as he posted three birdies in a row from the fifth and added another for good measure at the ninth. He went on to sink a 15 foot downhill putt at the sixth, stuck his wedge shot within six feet at the seventh and sank a four-footer at the ninth to close his strong opening nine.

He then took advantage of the par-fives on the back nine, posting birdies at the 13th and 15th holes after making a ten foot uphill putt for birdie at the 12th. For good measure at the 18th, DiMarco, who won last year's Pennsylvania Classic on the US Tour, saved par with a tricky five foot putt.

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