Sergio Garcia (Getty Images)
Sergio Garcia made his best ever start at Augusta National to claim a share of the lead on the opening day of the 77th Masters Tournament.
Garcia carded six birdies and no bogeys in a flawless 66 at Augusta National, joining Australia's Marc Leishman at the top of the leaderboard on six under par.
It is the first time the Spanish star has led a Major since the 2007 Open Championship, when he was in front all four days but eventually lost out in a play-off to Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie.
The 33 year old finished second in the US PGA Championship as a 19 year old back in 1999 and has had 15 top-ten finishes in 57 Major appearances.
“Today was one of those good days,” he said. “It was one of those days that you really enjoy and hopefully I can have a few more of those and see what happens on Sunday night.”
American Dustin Johnson bogeyed the 17th to finish a shot behind on five under, while World Number One Tiger Woods, seeking a fifth Green Jacket, carded a two under par 70 - the same opening score which led to his victories in 1997, 2001 and 2002.
Rory McIlroy fired a level par 72 after five birdies and five bogeys, causing the 23 year old Northern Irishman to complain once again this season of the need to eliminate "silly mistakes" from his game.
Garcia was five under after ten holes and added: "The first ten holes was amazing. I felt so good and hit so many great shots. Even though I was hitting four, five or six iron into the greens, it felt like I was ten-15 feet away all the time, and it's hard to do that on this course."
England's David Lynn, who described simply qualifying for the Masters as a dream come true, was in a six-strong group on four under, alongside Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, 2008 champion Trevor Immelman and 53 year old 1992 winner Fred Couples.
Playing only the third Major of his career after securing his place by finishing second at the US PGA Championship last year, Lynn has won once in almost 400 European Tour starts but outscored the likes of Justin Rose and Lee Westwood (both 70), Luke Donald and 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel (both 71) and defending champion Bubba Watson (75).
Westwood has had finishes of second, 11th and third in the last three years, but had to recover from a double-bogey six on the first today.
"It was a good start - well, not literally, but it's a good first round," the 39 year old said.
"It wasn't the ideal start, but I've started Majors with a double bogey before - the US Open last year sprang to mind - and I fought my way back to have a chance."
Rose was three shots better off than Westwood over the opening two holes after two birdies, but was unable to capitalise on such a bright start.
"I've led three times after the first round, which has come to no avail," Rose said. "You can never win it on day one, you can only lose it.
"I didn't really make anything until the 18th, when I knocked in a nice 15-foot putt for par, which makes lunch taste good, really."