Fisher sets early pace

Briton shares lead with Goosen; good start for Woods

England’s Ross Fisher pitches to the green in the Masters golf tournament at Augusta on Thursday. AFP

On a glorious sun-splashed spring morning at Augusta National where birdsong echoed amid the pine trees, Fisher and Goosen got to four under par early in the opening round.

Englishman Fisher recovered from bogeys at the first and fourth with a sizzling run of four birdies in six holes from the sixth to vault to the top of the leaderboard.

Goosen, twice runner-up at the Masters, soon joined him after an explosive start. The double U.S. Open champion holed out from the fairway to eagle the par-four first and birdied the third and fourth to draw level with Fisher. Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, one of several young guns expected to flourish this week in the season's opening major, was at three under after seven holes.

Former world number one Woods, bidding for his first tournament win in almost 17 months, was level after recording a rock-solid par at the opening hole.

Woods hit a perfect three-wood straight down the middle of the fairway to set up an ideal approach into the green. After striking his second shot to 25 feet below the hole, he narrowly missed the birdie putt, his ball curling past the left edge of the cup to spark groans from the crowd crammed around the green.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson, among the late starters, was scheduled to tee off with fellow American Peter Uihlein, the U.S. amateur champion, and Australian Geoff Ogilvy in the penultimate group of the day. In another late grouping, British world number four Luke Donald was set to start with Americans Steve Stricker and 1992 winner Fred Couples.

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