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Haas leads with Scott and McIlroy in the hunt

ESPN staff
April 10, 2014 « Ba: We've nothing to prove to Mourinho | Test Wayin World Cup »
Bill Haas birdied the last hole to take an outright lead into the Augusta clubhouse © Getty Images
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Bill Haas enjoyed the best round of his career at Augusta National to date as his 68 put him top of the Masters leaderboard at 4-under-par.

It wasn't the best start for Haas, who dropped a shot at the opening hole, but he soon responded with three birdies inside his opening nine to move 2-under at the turn. Three pars and two birdies followed, but a bogey at the par-4 17th looked to have spoiled his round.

However, the American made birdie from five feet on the last to earn his first-ever sub-70 round at Augusta and claim the clubhouse lead after round one.

My Name is Jonas

Blixt won his first PGA Tour title at the Frys.com Open © Getty Images
  • Jonas Blixt earned all the plaudits early on day one with a solid 70 in the opening round of his Masters debut. But what do we know about the 29-year-old from Sweden?
  • This is actually only his third major appearance, having played in the Open and PGA Championships last year. He finished a respectable 26th at Muirfield before going on to record a fourth-place at Oak Hill. That earned him a spot at Augusta for a maiden shot at golf's most famous item of clothing
  • Blixt took up a golf scholarship at Florida State University before turning pro in 2008. He had to wait four years for his PGA Tour breakthrough, when he won the Frys.com Open. Nine months later, it was two, when he rolled home four rounds of 67 to take the Greenbrier Classic. Blixt's only other professional win came on the Swedish Mini-Tour at the 2008 Lyckorna Scratch.
  • Jonas Blixt
  • Born: April 24, 1984, in Nassjo, Sweden
  • Lives: Jacksonville Beach, Florida
  • World Ranking: 56
  • FedEx Cup standing: 100
  • 2014 scoring average: 71.995
  • Career earnings: 5,760,826
  • Did you know? "Blixt" means "lightning bolt" in Swedish

Haas told Sky Sports: "I made some putts early on. I birdied four, which feels like an eagle, got going there. The putter was hot, I made some nice shots coming into the stretch. I had never broken 70 before. There is a lot of golf left but ecstatic with today."

Adam Scott became the first defending champion since Vijay Singh in 2001 to hit a round in the 60s as he finished with a 69 to put him one shot off Haas' lead.

A faultless front nine from Scott saw him surge to 3-under-par, which then became 4-under with a birdie at the 10th. However, a dropped shot at 12 pegged him back but a birdie and four pars in his final five holes gave Scott a solid finish to his opening day.

"I played really well from tee to green, except for a poor shot on 12. I perhaps left a couple out there on the par fives, but it's certainly something to build on," Scott said. "The adjustment you have to make over the three or four days of practice compared to a regular event is drastic.

"I think winning here calms you down. It was the calmest start I have ever had. I had a fantastic response from the patrons."

2012 runner-up Louis Oosthuizen birdied the last hole to move alongside Scott and end his day with a 69. Oosthuizen made two birdies and two bogeys in his opening four holes, before he gained shots at the 8th and 9th to move back in the red. Despite a bogey at 17, the South African finished strongly to put himself well in contention.

Bubba Watson, the man who edged Oosthuizen to the green jacket two years ago, also sits at 3-under after his first round. Watson made 15 pars and three birdies, not dropping a single shot during his 69.

Pre-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy was left rueing difficult pin positions following his 1-under round of 71. The Ulsterman suffered a mixed bag alongside debutants Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, making four birdies and three bogeys which included a dropped shot on his final hole.

"I think the golf course set-up today was very difficult for a Thursday. Some of the pin placements were like you'd expect to see on a Sunday," McIlroy said. "The wind was swirling all over the place. A lot of guys are struggling on 12 - it's tough, you just have to be patient out there.

"I feel good. Experience counts for so much on this golf course. I put the ball in the right places for uphill putts or easy two putts, because if you put the ball in the wrong place you're going to struggle."

Reed finished with a 1-over 73 while Spieth sits alongside McIlroy after his 71.

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Phil Mickelson's chances of claiming a fourth green jacket plummeted with two card-wrecking holes standing out on his scorecard. A triple bogey at the par-4 7th and double at the par-5 15th saw Lefty finish well off the pace with a 76. Justin Rose and Ernie Els, who both played alongside Mickelson, also suffered as they carded respective scores of 76 and 75.

Jonas Blixt enjoyed an opening round of 70 at his debut Masters tournament, which included leading the field when out with the early starters.

Blixt said: "I'm trying to downplay it a bit, there's still three rounds to go. It's fun to see your name up there but you've got to stay up there. I talked to Henrik Stenson a little bit yesterday - he told me not to hit it left into the water on 2, and I hit it in the water. You learn as you go round though - I'll learn again tomorrow."

Other early starters to finish 2-under included Gary Woodland, Jimmy Walker, KJ Choi, and Brandt Snedeker, as well as Kevin Stadler, the son of 1982 champion Craig Stadler.

The Stadler clan are now the first ever father-son duo to compete in the same Masters tournament, but Stadler Sr was left furious with himself after carding a 10-over 82.

"I played like a moron." Stadler Sr said. "It was ugly. My whole game stinks."

Jason Dufner, who partnered Scott for his opening round, was another who struggled. Dufner won the last major, the USPGA in August, but failed to produce champion form on his back nine. He started well, even-par after the front nine, but it did not last.

A double bogey 6 on the 10th was followed by a bogey five at 11, but he seemed to have settled with a par on the 12th. However, after getting caught in trouble at Rae's Creek, Dufner hacked his way to a quadruple bogey nine at the 13th to leave his card, and tournament, in tatters.

Fred Couples, Rickie Fowler, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Stephen Gallacher all carded under-par rounds of 71, while Graeme McDowell and Steve Stricker made even-par 72s. Bernhard Langer, playing in his 31st Masters Tournament, sunk a superb, long-range putt for birdie at the last to finish even-par.

English trio Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick and David Lynn all failed to get going. Poulter and US Amateur champion Fitzpatrick both fell to a 4-over 76, while Lynn joined Angel Cabrera and Zach Johnson at 6-over following his 78.

Luke Donald endured a day to forget as he slumped to a 7-over 79. The Brit started with a double bogey, but responded well with successive birdies to get back to level par. After that, there wasn't much to shout about. Bogey, double bogey, par, par, quadruple bogey saw Donald go out in 43.

The back nine was better - seven pars, a birdie and bogey - but the damage had already been done and Donald now has serious work to do if he is to make the cut.

2011 Open winner Darren Clarke sits 2-over after opening his campaign with a mixed-round of 74. Lee Westwood missed a putt for par on the 18th, thus ending his round 1-over, along with partner Russell Henley. Harris English made 74.

Sergio Garcia started his tournament in subdued fashion. The Spaniard was 1-under at the turn, with three birdies and two bogeys, but struggled on his return to the clubhouse as back-to-back bogeys on the last two holes scuppered his round of 74. Victor Dubuisson, who spoke to ESPN prior to the tournament, also finished with a 74. The Frenchman almost scored a hole-in-one at the par-3 6th but his effort from the tee lipped out.

Sandy Lyle, the 1988 champion, looked back to his best when 3-under thru his opening four holes, but a poor back nine saw finish with 76.

The Masters leaderboard

Rory McIlroy was concerned by difficult pin positions during the opening round at Augusta National © Getty Images
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