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Page last updated at 01:27 GMT, Friday, 10 April 2009 02:27 UK

Augusta opener pleases Harrington

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Amen Corner was key - Harrington

USPGA and Open champion Padraig Harrington declared himself happy with his three-under-par 69 as he began his bid to a win a third successive major.

"That was definitely one of the more generous days ever here," said the Irishman following a round that kept him touch with the leaders at Augusta.

"Thursday is all about staying in the tournament, but you've got to feel it's going to get tougher," he added.

"At some stage I really expect a course that's really right to the limit."

McDowell expects tougher days to come

The weather was near perfect for golf, though rain is forecast for Friday."It was as easy a day as I have ever seen at Augusta," said Harrington. "Greens were soft. Pins were nice.

"There was a bit of urgency but you couldn't go hell for leather all the time. You could throw it away by attacking too much."

If Harrington is to win a third successive major he will have to make up four shots, though he had to come from behind in his two previous major triumphs, when he trailed five shots at the Open at Birkdale and three at the USPGA at Oakland Hills.

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, on his debut in the event, took over as the leading European from Harrington and England's Ross Fisher when birdies at the 15th and 16th lifted him to five under.

Fisher dismayed with poor finish

McDowell looked set to post the lowest score of all the Europeans when he birdied 12 and 15th and then hit a wonderful tee shot at 16 to set up another birdie and move to five under.

But his par putt on the 17th just slid past the hole, and a wild drive on the 18th saw another shot go there.

"I've had a pretty quiet start to the season but I've been trying to conserve energy for the main part of the season, starting this week pretty much," said the man from Northern Ireland.

"I love watching the Masters - one of the disappointing things about being here is not sitting on the couch at home watching it."

Playing only the fifth major of his career, Fisher finished two shots behind McDowell.

"The finish was disappointing, but if you score 69 at Augusta National you're obviously doing something right," said Fisher.

Wilson disappointed with Masters debut

"I'm going to cherish every moment this week, but at the same time I'm here to do a job and have come with a feeling that I have a chance of winning."

Teenage sensation Rory McIlroy had two bogeys and two birdies as he recorded a level-par 72 on his first appearance at the Masters.

On a day that produced the most sub-par opening rounds in Masters history, the 19-year-old Ulsterman was not too despondent at ending the day seven strokes off the pace.

"I just played myself into the round, strung a few pars together," he said. "Par golf in major championships is usually pretty good. Tomorrow if I can go out and shoot something in the 60s I will be there for the weekend.

"I feel I am playing well enough to be there."

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Paul Casey, who was well fancied ahead of the tournament after winning the Houston Open last week, bogeyed two of the last three holes to finish level par for his round.

The 1988 Masters champion Sandy Lyle began with a double bogey at the first but the 51-year-old Scot recovered well to finish on level par.

His fellow 51-year-old Ian Woosnam of Wales, another former winner of the Green Jacket, was two shots further back after a 74.

Some Brits hoping to be a first-time winner included Lee Westwood, whoreturned a 70, Ian Poulter was round in 71, Luke Donald and Oliver Wilson finished with 73s, with Justin Rose one behind after double bogeys at the 11th, 12th and 17th.

Europe's number one Sergio Garcia of Spain carded a disappointing 73 on a good day for low scoring.



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see also
Masters photos
09 Apr 09 |  Golf
Augusta tee-off times
07 Apr 09 |  Golf


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