England’s Luke Donald moved into a strong position on his Masters Tournament debut by returning to Augusta National on Friday morning and playing his last four holes in one under par for a round of 68 and a share of second place with Vijay Singh, one stroke behind leader Chris DiMarco of America.
Donald returned to a saturated course after the rain of Thursday to run in a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe of the sixth, his 15th hole, to move to four under for his round.
He then made what he felt was a “rookie mistake” to miss out on birdie on the long eighth and also failed to pick up a shot from four feet on his final hole.
"It was a great start, nothing more than that," said Donald before turning straight round to begin his second round. "There's a long way to go and this course can bite back. I feel very happy with my control and ball flight. It's tough to keep it on the shelf at the sixth and luckily the putt went in from about 20 feet.
"On the eighth, it's part of being a rookie. I hit too full a shot in. I think I needed less than a full shot there to that pin."
Singh also finished strongly on the back nine, picking up two strokes to match Donald’s 68 while Australians Mark Hensby and Stuart Appleby were on 69 with Ryan Palmer and defending champion, Phil Mickelson on 70.
Frenchman Thomas Levet moved into a share of eighth place on 71, alongside Retief Goosen of South Africa, Thomas Björn of Denmark and Australian Adam Scott.
Levet, who has missed five straight cuts on the US PGA Tour in 2005, was thrilled with his 71. He admitted: “I’ve been waiting for a round like this since the start of the season. That is my first round under par this year so this is now the start of the season for me!
“I think my game plan is suited to the bigger tournaments. I enjoy the strategy of planning your shots and not being too aggressive. It’s a good start.”
Among the players to finish on level par were Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, England’s Ian Poulter and Padraig Harrington of Ireland. The Ryder Cup pair were satisfied with their start in the circumstances and Poulter admitted: “The more times you play here, the more you realise what is required and where you have to place the ball. I am right in there and really happy.”
Harrington, who claimed his first win on the US PGA Tour last month, said: “I’m happy enough. It’s good to see just where you are after the first round and it’s just a case of staying patient.”
European Tour Number One Ernie Els of South Africa carded a three over par 75 but said: “It’s not the ideal way to start the tournament but it could have been worse. I made some silly mistakes but I’m not out of it.”
Former winners, Bernhard Langer of Germany and Scotland’s Sandy Lyle both shot 74, while other champions José Maria Olazábal of Spain and Ian Woosnam, signed for 77 and 78 respectively.