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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 April 2006, 22:58 GMT 23:58 UK
On-song Singh claims Augusta lead
MASTERS LEADERBOARD
Vijay Singh
US unless stated
-5 Vijay Singh (Fij)
-4 Rocco Mediate
-3 Arron Oberholser
-2 Tim Clark (SA), Retief Goosen (SA), Geoff Ogilvy (Aus), Phil Mickelson
-1 Ben Crenshaw, Rich Beem, David Howell (Eng), Mike Weir (Can), Fred Couples, Nick O'Hern (Aus), Ben Curtis, Billy Mayfair, Stuart Appleby (Aus), Chad Campbell, Ernie Els (SA)
World number two Vijay Singh, the 2000 champion, carded four birdies in five holes to claim the lead after the first round of the 70th Masters.

The 43-year-old Fijian posted a five-under 67 to pip unheralded American Rocco Mediate, who shot a 68.

One behind Mediate is Augusta debutant Arron Oberholser, a shot clear of four men - Geoff Ogilvy, Phil Mickelson, Tim Clark and Retief Goosen - on two under.

David Howell and Ernie Els are on one under, with Tiger Woods on level par.

Having reached the turn on one under, Singh birdied the 11th, the hardest hole on the course, and followed that with birdies at 13, 14 and 15.

It wasn't difficult for me to shoot 67 - I left a lot of shots out there
Vijay Singh

Among the 11 players on one under alongside England's Howell - the best-placed European - and South African Els are 2003 champion Mike Weir of Canada, 1992 champion Fred Couples and two-time Masters winner Ben Crenshaw.

Singh's effort was his best first round at Augusta - he carded a level-par 72 in his Green Jacket-winning year.

"This is one of the better rounds I've played here," Singh said.

"The course was pretty tough from the get-go. I played really good golf. It wasn't difficult for me to shoot 67. I left a lot of shots out there."

The 43-year-old Mediate, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, was delighted with his first-round effort.

There were a few miracles out there
Ben Crenshaw
"It was fun, I had a blast," said the American. "I putted better today than I may ever have putted here.

"It's firm out there and the ball is running. I think the golf course is harder for the longer hitter right now because there's so much trouble out there."

With Singh leading and Mickelson and Goosen in a tie for fourth, golf's "big five" are well represented on the leaderboard.

World number five Els is just four shots behind Singh, while world number one and tournament favourite Woods is only five back after an eventful round of 72.

The 30-year-old had an eagle, two birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey on his card but finished with a birdie at the last and will not be overly concerned about his slow start as he has never beaten 70 in 12 first rounds at Augusta.

Crenshaw, who won here in 1984 and 1995 but has not made the cut at the Masters since 1997, produced a superb display of chipping and putting for his 71.

"There were a few miracles out there," the 54-year-old Texan said after mixing four birdies with three bogeys.

"It's quite a test and one hard course. It's one difficult hole after another. You must hit a long ball here.

"This is definitely a young man's course. But that's where we are with the game right now. We're lengthening courses all over the globe."

Augusta National has been stretched to 7,445 yards since last year's tournament, making it the second longest course in major championship history.




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