Campbell leads Masters field
Chad Campbell during round one (AFP)
Augusta - Chad Campbell produced the finest first five holes in Masters history on Thursday and used the momentum provided by that to grab a one-stroke lead in a low-scoring first round.
The hefty 34-year-old Texan opened his sixth campaign at Augusta National with five straight birdies and when he got to nine-under through 15 holes, the course record of 63 - held jointly by Nick Price and Greg Norman - looked to be in danger.
But bogeys at the final two holes meant he had to settle for a seven-under 65.
That left Campbell one stroke ahead of US Ryder Cup teammates Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan, who had a chance to share the lead but also bogeyed the last after over-hitting his approach shot.
A further stroke back came 50-year-old 1987 winner Larry Mize and Japan's Shingo Katayama, who broke 70 for the first time at Augusta in his eighth straight year of playing here.
Tournament favourite Tiger Woods, meanwhile, had a frustrating day battling back after a quiet start with three straight birdies from the 13th only to bogey the last after over-hitting both his approach shot and ensuing chip back.
His two-under total left him in a tie for 20th place and meant that for the 15th straight time he had failed to break 70 in the first round of the Masters.
With perfect playing conditions and benign pin placings, it was also a day for turning back the clock as former winners Mize, 54-year-old Norman and 51-year-old Bernhard Langer all returned to the leaderboard.
In stark contrast to the last two years when the weather conditions were notably tougher, 38 players in the 96-strong field bettered par.
Campbell said that never before had he started a round with five straight birdies.
"It was hard not to think of the record, but I am definitely happy with the round I played, even though a bit disappointed with the way I finished," he said.
"I started perfectly with five birdies and I was swinging it well and could be aggressive. But it's just the first round and there is a lot of golf to be played yet."
The 26-year-old Mahan, a top US hope since his amateur days, also had a stunning birdie run with four in a row from the 12th as he enjoyed immensely his third run at the Masters.
"I hit it great all day, just missed two shots," he said.
"There was barely any wind and the pins were very accessible and you could shoot a good round for sure.
"It was a great day to go out there and be aggressive."
Furyk, the 2003 US Open champion, has not enjoyed great success in the Masters, where he only has two fourth places in 12 attempts to date.
But after reaching the turn in two-under 34, he parred the three holes comprising Amen Corner and then caught fire from the 14th.
"On the back nine I hit some crisp iron shots quite close and gave myself some good birdie opportunities," he said. "There were some accessible pins out there.
"I'm very pleased with the round as I've struggled over the years to get off to a good start in this tournament. I would like to continue to keep the momentum going."
An international batch of eight players comprising Tim Clark of South Africa, Angel Cabrera of Argentina, Mike Weir of Canada, Aaron Baddeley of Australia and Americans Todd Hamilton, John Merrick, Sean O'Hair and Kenny Perry were on 68, three shots off the pace.
Woods said after his 70 that despite playing a major for the first time in almost 10 months due to injury "it felt just the same."
"I let a couple of shots slip away, but overall I am happy with the way I hit the golf ball," he said.
"I didn't make anything for the first eight holes, but hung in there and knew that the back nine could be had."
The world's top player came into Augusta hot on the heels of his victory at Bay Hill, his 66th career tournament win on the US PGA Tour and first since returning to action in late February following eight months on the sidelines to recover from major surgery on his left knee.
Woods is seeking his fifth Masters title, which would be one short of the Nicklaus record of six green jackets, and his 15th major title, three short of the all-time best of 18, once again the property of Nicklaus.
Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who is shooting for a hat-trick of major wins after lifting the British Open and US PGA last summer, was among those who finished on 69.
"A couple of birdies round there at 12 and 13 certainly got my round going as the course was set up for good scoring today," the 37-year-old Dubliner said.
"At that stage, one under par, I was looking to make a few birdies. Bit disappointed with 14, 15 and 16 there was opportunities, but to shoot three under par the first day keeps me right in the tournament."
World No.2 Phil Mickelson bogeyed the opening hole on his way to a disappointing 73 while there was more Masters heartache for South Africa's Ernie Els, who slumped to a three-over 75 and now faces a struggle to avoid missing the cut for the third year in a row.
First Round Scores:
65 - Chad Campbell (USA)
66 - Jim Furyk (USA), Hunter Mahan (USA)
67 - Shingo Katayama (JPN), Larry Mize (USA)
68 - Tim Clark (RSA), Angel Cabrera (ARG), Mike Weir (CAN), John Merrick (USA), Todd Hamilton (USA), Aaron Baddeley (AUS), Sean O'Hair (USA), Kenny Perry (USA)
69 - Kevin Sutherland (USA), Ross Fisher (ENG), Padraig Harrington (IRL), Graeme McDowell (NIR), Andres Romero (ARG), Stewart Cink (USA)
70 - Prayad Marksaeng (THA), Nick Watney (USA), Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP), Bernhard Langer (GER), Greg Norman (AUS), Lee Westwood (ENG), Zach Johnson (USA), Tiger Woods (USA)
71 - Ken Duke (USA), Henrik Stenson (SWE), Vijay Singh (FIJ), Geoff Ogilvy (AUS), Steve Flesch (USA), Ian Poulter (ENG), Jose Maria Olazabal (ESP), Martin Kaymer (GER), Trevor Immelman (RSA), Adam Scott (AUS), Jeev Milkha Singh (IND)
72 - Sandy Lyle (SCO), Dudley Hart (USA), Dustin Johnson (USA), Soren Hanson (DEN), Stuart Appleby (AUS), Bubba Watson (USA), DJ Trahan (USA), Jack Newman (USA-a), Richard Sterne (RSA), Paul Casey (ENG), Steve Stricker (USA), Rory McIlroy (NIR)
73 - Briny Baird (USA), Louis Oosthuizen (RSA), Ben Curtis (USA), Rory Sabbatini (RSA), Luke Donald (ENG), Stephen Ames (CAN), Ryudi Imada (JPN), Phil Mickelson (USA), Camilo Vilegas (COL), Oliver Wilson (ENG), Sergio Garcia (ESP), Fred Couples (USA), Rocco Mediate (USA), Boo Weekley (USA), Ben Crenshaw (USA), Yang Yong-Eun (KOR), Robert Allenby (AUS), Robert Karlsson (SWE), Ryo Ishikawa (JPN)
74 - Ian Woosnam (WAL), Justin Rose (ENG), Mathew Goggin (AUS), Tom Watson (USA), Danny Lee (NZL-a)
75 - Chez Reavie (USA), Carl Pettersson (SWE), Justin Leonard (USA), Reiner Saxton (NED-a), Retief Goosen (RSA), Ernie Els (RSA), Mark O'Meara (USA), Pat Perez (USA), Anthony Kim (USA)
76 - Brandt Snedecker (USA), KJ Choi (KOR), Soren Kjeldsen (DEN)
77 - Billy Mayfair (USA), Craig Stadler (USA), Lin Wen Tang (TPE)
78 - Gary Player (RSA), Drew Kittleson (USA-a), Alvaro Quiros (ESP)
79 - Ray Floyd (USA), Fuzzy Zoeller (USA), Steve Wilson (USA-a)
80 - Michael Campbell (NZL)