Rose, Immelman lead after round 1

Thursday, April 10, 2008
By Adam Van Brimmer
Morris News Service

The British are coming ... again.

Queen Elizabeth's subjects, led by Justin Rose, won the first-round battle Thursday in the 72nd Masters Tournament.

Rose shot a 4-under 68 to lead at the Augusta National Golf Club, with two of his countrymen, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, also on the leaderboard and two more, Paul Casey and Sandy Lyle, at par or better heading into Friday's second round.

It almost felt like the late-1980s, early-1990s again, when Britons Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam were perennial contenders at Augusta. They won enough green jackets - five - it was inaccurate to refer to them as redcoats.

"Historically, we had a pretty good run here," Rose said. "It would be nice to get that going again."

Rose and his countrymen will face challengers from around the globe. South African Trevor Immelman also shot a 68 Thursday to share the lead with Rose while Americans Brandt Snedeker and Brian Bateman stood a shot back at 3-under along with Westwood.

Poulter, who aced the par-3 16th hole, is tied with defending Masters champion Zach Johnson and three others for sixth at 2-under.

Tourney favorites Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson struggled but remained within four shots of the leaders.

Woods shot an even-par 72, the fifth-straight Master round he's failed to break par in. His day included a rare bogey on a par-5 hole and no birdies.

"Nothing kind of went" my way, Woods said. "But I kept myself in the tournament. I'm right there. If the weather worsens on the weekend, I'll be right there."

Mickelson finished a shot better than Woods after opening his round with back-to-back birdies. But Mickelson lost his momentum with a bogey at the par-3 sixth and never regained it. He made a birdie at the par-5 13th but gave that shot back with a bogey at No. 14. He parred his way in for a 1-under 71.

Rose will assume his place among those favorites with another solid round today. He has a history of playing well at Augusta National: He held a share of the first-round lead last year on his way to a fifth-place finish and also led the 2004 Masters after the first round.

Rose said if he fades this year, he will offer no excuses.

"I seem to throw the home run early," said the 27-year-old, who burst onto the golf scene a decade ago with a fourth-place finish in the British Open. "I've gone out there today with a really relaxed frame of mind and that's obviously what I've got to recreate the rest of the week. The more times you're up there (on the leaderboard), the more comfortable you begin to feel and the easier it becomes."

Rose dealt with early adversity Thursday. He bogeyed two of his first four holes only to run off four birdies in a row at Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 0. He made two more birdies on Amen Corner, the first at the par-3 12th followed by the other at the par-5 13th. He parred his last five holes for a 68.

Immelman played a much more consistent round. He was bogey-free, in fact. He hit 12 fairways and 13 greens in posting the second-best round of his Masters career. Immelman shot a third-round 65 in the 2005 tournament and finished in a tie for fifth.

"It definitely makes me feel good, so it will give me some self-confidence," Immelman said of Thursday's round. "But major championships, you can't get too far ahead of yourself and you can't get overconfident. I've kind of just bank that round of golf and go out there tomorrow and just play shot by shot."

A pair of Masters legends, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, also made news today.

Palmer hit the ceremonial tee shot shortly before 8 a.m. The heavy fog this morning didn't stop Palmer, but it did delay play by an hour.

Player, the three-time Masters champion, teed off this morning for his record 51st start at Augusta National. He broke the record previously held by Palmer. Player shot an 11-over 83 in his opening round.