Jeev gobbles up par-5s for a ‘Masterful’ start in 11th place in first round

April 11th, 2008 - 11:03 am ICT by admin  

Augusta (Georgia), April 11 (IANS) Gobbling up three of the four par-fives, Jeev Milkha Singh shot his best-ever round at the US Masters here to get off to a flying start with a one-under 71 to justify the invitation extended to him to the year’s first Major. The 71 placed him 11th at the end of the opening day Thursday. Jeev, who was tenth after the first day last year, is now three behind the leaders South African Trevor Immelman and Englishman Justin Rose, who shot four-under 68 each.

Indo-Swede Daniel Chopra, the other Indian link at this year’s masters, opened with two bogeys but found two birdies on the back nine for an even par start of 72 that put him in 19th place.

World No 1 and four-times champion Tiger Woods, seeking his 14th major title, parred the first 12 holes before going bogey, bogey, eagle on his way to an opening 72.

Jeev’s first round score effectively shut out Colin Montgomerie’s criticism of Masters’ invitation to Asian players.

The Asian Tour No. 1 in 2006, Jeev started off with a huge putt that lifted the psychological burden of him as he birdied the first hole sinking a tense 12-footer.

Last year in the final round, when a top-20 place looked his for taking, he opened with a quadruple bogey on the first and finished with a round of 79 that left him in 37th place.

“It was a good par. I holed a 12 foot putt so that got me going,” said Jeev, who outscored playing partners, reigning British Open champion Padraig Harrington and 2003 Masters winner Mike Weir by three and two shots respectively.

“I was delighted with that par. It (last year’s quadruple) was on my mind, but once I hit the tee shot, I was totally focussed,” said Jeev. “I drove the ball really well and hit it at the right places. I made a few mistakes but I think you’re allowed a few on this course.

“I’m pretty pleased with my round. I had a good time on the par fives and had a few chances. The greens are tough and you can’t be too aggressive out there. I left a few short but I’m happy with one under par.

“It’s the best score in five rounds for me here at Augusta National. Under par on this course is always good. I’ll try to do the same tomorrow (Friday) and maintain my process and routine.”

Jeev birdied the second, seventh, 13th and 15th holes and dropped shots on the par-3 fourth, ninth and 14th. While the second, 13th and 15th were par-5s, the birdie on the seventh was on par-4.

Jeev, three shots off the early first round lead, was staring at a bogey but drained a 12-foot putt for par on the opening hole to launch his campaign on a strong note. He had vowed to get the better of the hole that had brought him down 12 months ago.

With the course drying out after a one-hour fog delay, Jeev said he was always cautious on the devilish greens. “The course was playing different from the practice rounds. The greens were quicker and firmer but we’d expected that. The course is in excellent condition,” he said.

Jeev added that when he received the Masters invitation in January, it gave him a huge confidence boost which resulted in two runner-up finishes in Indonesia and Korea.

“When you get invited to one of the best Majors in the world, you get a jump start. I am happy to be here and I did play well after getting the invite. Things fell into place and I had two seconds, which I should have won. But I’m here now and that’s in the past and I aim to make the most of this.”

China’s Liang Wen-chong had a tough Masters debut when he signed for a 76, lamenting poor driving which often left him amongst the pine trees at Augusta National that led to six bogeys.

The 27-year-old Englishman Rose strung together six birdies in eight holes between the sixth and 13th as he recovered from poor start of two bogeys in first four holes and ended with a 68. Rose, who won the European Tour Order of Merit in 2007, was tied for fifth at last year’s Masters.

Immelman missed a 10-footer at the last for a 67 but the 68 still gave him a share of the lead.

Britain’s Ian Poulter shot a hole in one on the par-three 16th on his way to an opening 70 in his fourth Masters appearance. The 32-year-old Englishman holed out with an eight-iron from 169 yards to get to three under before slipping back with a bogey-par finish.

Twice Masters champion Phil Mickelson shot one-under 71 and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, winner of last year’s British Open, opened with a 74.

Asian Tour No. 1 in 2007, Liang felt the might of the 7,445-yard Augusta National course as he pencilled two birdies and six bogeys on his card. “I definitely felt the challenge that it provided. I think I can do better.

“My drives weren’t good as I kept hitting it left and right. On the short putts, I didn’t stroke them solidly enough. I could see the lines but didn’t give it enough,” said the 2007 Asian Tour’s Order of Merit champion.

Liang believes he can still play his way into the weekend rounds and become the first Chinese to do so. “I will try harder tomorrow (Friday). I think I can do better on this course.”

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