Pampling 'opens' Masters

2006-04-06 15:47
Augusta - Australia's Rod Pampling launched the 70th US Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday with the opening tee shot at the par-four first hole.

The 36-year-old, who tied for fifth on his Masters debut last year, struck a perfect drive straight down the middle of the fairway on a calm, clear morning.

Pampling was followed on the first tee by Americans Lucas Glover and Olin Browne.

Glover, a debutant at Augusta National, and Browne, back at the Masters for the first time since 1999, also split the fairway with their opening shots.

World number one Tiger Woods, who won his fourth green jacket in a playoff with fellow American Chris DiMarco last year, was scheduled to launch his title defence at 10:23 local time (14:23 GMT).

Woods has been grouped with Australia's Robert Allenby and 2005 US amateur champion Edoardo Molinari of Italy.

Conditions are expected to remain dry for the rest of the day, with a mixture of sunshine and a few clouds in the afternoon.

World number two Vijay Singh, Masters champion in 2000, has been drawn with Sweden's Henrik Stenson and American Arron Oberholser. They start at 10:12, one group in front of Woods and company.

In-form Phil Mickelson, winner of the 2004 Masters, is among the late starters.

The American left-hander, who romped to a 13-stroke victory at the BellSouth Classic on Sunday, was scheduled to tee off at 13:30 with South Africa's Ernie Els and Shingo Katayama of Japan.

US Open champion Michael Campbell of New Zealand has a 09:17 start with double Masters winner Tom Watson and Irish amateur Brian McElhinney.

Spaniard Sergio Garcia, the world number six, was set to tee off at 13:08 with Australia's Geoff Ogilvy and American Chris DiMarco, who was beaten by Woods in a playoff for last year's title.

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