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Garcia and Leishman lead Masters

Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman seized joint control on the opening day of the Masters in Augusta.

Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman seized joint control on the opening day of the Masters in Augusta. Picture: sxc.hu

AUGUSTA, USA - Sergio Garcia and surprise package Marc Leishman seized joint control in Thursday's opening round at the Masters, though tournament favourite Tiger Woods was lurking just four shots off the pace.

On a mainly overcast day at Augusta National where there was very little wind, Spaniard Garcia and Australian Leishman fired six-under-par 66s to surge one stroke clear of the field in the year's opening major.

Long-hitting American Dustin Johnson, who missed last year's Masters due to a back injury, also got to six under but bogeyed the tricky par-four 17th to end the day alone in third after shooting a 67.

Former champion Fred Couples, at 53, rolled back the years as he carded a 68 to finish level with fellow Americans Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar, Englishman David Lynn, South African Trevor

Immelman and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

However, no one in the upper reaches of the leaderboard will be able to ignore the ominous presence of four-times champion Woods who, watched by girlfriend Lindsey Vonn and five-deep galleries when he started his round, finished with a 70.

The world number one opened with a 70 on the way to his first three victories at Augusta National and is perfectly placed as he bids to win his first major title since the 2008 U.S. Open.

"It was a good day, a solid day," the 37-year-old Woods told reporters after mixing three birdies with a sole bogey on greens which ran a little slower than he expected.

"The biggest challenge today was just the speed of the greens. They just weren't quite there. They looked it, but just weren't quite putting it."

Woods, who has been installed as a hot favourite this week after winning three times in his first five starts on the 2013 PGA Tour, made a solid start with a two-putt par at the first, where he has often struggled in the past.

The 14-times major champion picked up his first shot of the day at the par-three sixth, then birdied the par-five eighth to reach the turn in two-under 34.

Though Woods failed to cash in on the back nine, offsetting a birdie at the par-five 13th with a bogey at 14 before failing to birdie the par-five 15th, he was overall happy with his round.

"It's a good start. I hit the ball very solid today and lag-putted pretty good today and I made a few here and there. Right now I'm only four back and I'm right there."

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