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DiMarco leads Masters after first round

| Friday, April 6, 2001

AUGUSTA, Ga. - So much for all that talk about needing a great deal of experience to compete at Augusta National Golf Club and remain in contention at the Masters.

Chris DiMarco - the 2000 Pennsylvania Classic champion - played just two practice rounds, but found all the right spots Thursday, making eight birdies and posting the low round of the day, 7-under-par 65.

DiMarco has company at the top of the leaderboard. Steve Stricker and Angel Cabrera made enough birdies to finish with 66s, a shot behind.

'I had heard how hard the course was and not to hit it here and there,' DiMarco said. 'You know, if you play well, I don't care where you are playing, you are going to play well. I've been driving the ball well and putting well, so I just kept that going.'

With DiMarco in the lead after one round, a first-timer at Augusta has led this tournament three straight years. Dennis Paulson and Brandel Chamblee led the previous two years.

DiMarco's 65 was the lowest by a first-time player in the tournament since the 64s shot by Mike Donald in 1990 and Lloyd Mangrum in 1940, and was the lowest first round in the Masters since Greg Norman's 63 in 1996.

After bogeying the third hole, DiMarco nearly was flawless. Playing on a course that obviously was vulnerable after rains early in the week, the long-hitting DiMarco went on a birdie binge.

'It was the kind of course today that sets up good for me,' DiMarco said. 'I'm driving the ball real well now. I actually switched drivers (Wednesday) morning, right before I went out. I hit it hard and I was like, 'Wow,' after struggling with my driver last week, it made a big difference.'

The first round started off with a definite Pennsylvania flavor. Greensburg native Rocco Mediate birdied the first two holes and was on top of the leaderboard, until he was joined by West Chester native Jim Furyk, who birdied the second and third holes.

Then, DiMarco birdied three of his first six holes to make it a three-way tie. All of this happened before 10:30 a.m.

Stricker, who had one bogey and an eagle in his 66, said Augusta is a wonderful paradox after shooting his best round in the Masters.

'I guess, for me, it's become a matter of getting more comfortable with the fact that this is not a comfortable place,' said Stricker, who won the World Golf Championships Match Play tournament in Australia in January. 'I've really been frustrated with the results I've gotten right up until today.'

Mickelson, who led a trio of players (Lee Janzen and John Huston) at 5-under, overcome a broken sand wedge on the second hole to post his seventh under-par round in his past eight starts.

'I felt today was the day to score low with conditions being a little soft,' he said. 'I birdied the 12th through 15th, that's what really put me in good position.'

Janzen, a two-time U.S. Open champion, is pleased to be where he is, but he is not carried away with it.

'I've been in a good position on this course several times after one or two rounds, but never after four,' he said.

Tiger Woods made four birdies and two bogeys for a round of 70.

'The golf course is set up awfully difficult out there today,' Woods said. 'The pins are tucked in some corners and you have to be able to make a lot of 15-footers if you want to make birdies, and I wasn't able to do that today.'

David Duval, playing in his first event since having to rest his wrist because of tendinitis, had a 71.

Defending-champion Vijay Singh turned in a strong 69 and has himself in good position for his title defense.

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