Garcia, Leishman Tied for Lead

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Sergio Garcia is still chasing that first major title.

It never figured to come at Augusta National.

But there he was Thursday, after a bogey-free opening round, sharing the top spot on the leaderboard at the Masters.

Garcia’s 6-under 66 tied him with Aussie Marc Leishman, on a cloudy day that was made for going low. There wasn’t much wind until late in the afternoon, when a storm front approached Augusta.

The Spaniard took advantage, rekindling memories of the teen phenom known as “El Nino,” who seemed certain to win numerous major titles after he battled with Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship, losing by a single stroke.

Garcia has challenged in other majors, but rarely at the Masters – a course that doesn’t seem to fit his style or shaky putter. In 14 previous appearances at Augusta National, he has finished in the top 10 only twice.

Last year, after a dismal third round took him out of contention, he bluntly conceded that he didn’t think he was capable of winning a major.

Obviously, he feels different now – though there’s still some trepidation in his voice about what’s still to come.

“Every time I tee off in a tournament, the goal is to play the best I can and have a chance at winning. That doesn’t change this week,” Garcia said. “Today was a nice day, one of those days you really enjoy. Hopefully I’ll have three more of those and we’ll see what happens on Sunday night.”

With all eyes on Tiger Woods, the overwhelming favorite, plenty of others stood out amid the azaleas and towering Georgia pines.

There was David Lynn, a Masters rookie who was just two strokes back.

Lynn was the early clubhouse leader, then Leishman surged to the front with four straight birdies on the back side starting at No. 13. The Australian sure didn’t play like someone who had missed the cut in his only other Masters appearance, in 2010.

Dustin Johnson was one shot off the lead after a 67. Lynn was joined at 68 by a group that included Rickie Fowler, who went on the wildest ride of the day – a 4-under score despite two double-bogeys.

Jamie Donaldson turned in the shot of the day, acing the 180-yard sixth for the 24th hole-in-one in Masters history. He is only the fifth player to make a 1 at the hole known as Juniper, with its towering tee box and a green at the bottom of the hill. Donaldson was the first to do it since Chris DiMarco in 2004.

Woods was still the favorite after opening with a 70.

But it appears he’ll have a lot of competition.

“I felt like I putted well today,” said Woods, whose only lower opening-round score at Augusta was a 68 in 2010. “We’ve got a long way to go. I’ve just got to out there and play shot for shot. The golf course is going to change dramatically. You’ve just got to make adjustments.”