Snedeker starts fast; Woods tries to pick up pace


It didn't take long for Brent Snedeker to break the logjam at the top of the leaderboard today at the Masters.

The former U.S. Public Links champion, playing at Augusta National for the just the second time, collected birdies at Nos. 6 and 7 to grab the lead at 6-under. Eight players started the day within two strokes of co-leaders Justin Rose and Trevor Immelman, who made the turn in 35 and was a stroke back of Snedeker.

Tiger Woods, who always takes a while to get warmed up at this place, shot an even-par 72 in the opening round and was scheduled to join the chase at 1:52 p.m.

Woods seemed content to "just plod around" Augusta National on the way to a rather pedestrian 72, an even-par round that left him buried beneath 18 others in the red.

Hmmm, haven't we been down this road before?

Woods spotted the leaders a three-shot headstart back in 1997, but still captured the first of his four Masters in a 12-shot runaway. The first-round deficit was five strokes in 2001, three in '02, a daunting seven in '05, when the world's greatest player chased down Chris DiMarco, then finished him off in a playoff.

No wonder he didn't seem too concerned as he strolled off the 18th green.

"I feel good about how I played all day," said Woods, who has never broken 70 in the opening round of the Masters. "I hit the ball really well. I hit a lot good putts that just didn't go in. I just have to stay patient out there, and hopefully it will turn."

Chances are it will. The pretenders usually fade away, leaving Woods to battle it out with expected contenders such as Jim Furyk (70), Phil Mickelson (71), Retief Goosen (71) and Vijay Singh (72).

"I just had to stay patient out there," Woods said. "I ended up OK, even par."

Give the guy credit: He doesn't have to hog the spotlight all four days as he tries to get started on a Grand Slam, the feat he has called "easily within reason."

Let's give a tip of the hat to guys like Rose, who sure knows how to handle the first 18 holes of the Masters, even if he's yet to master the other three days. This is the third straight time the gangly Englishman has at least shared the Thursday lead, posting a 4-under 68 that left him tied with Immelman.

Now, he's just got to figure out how to finish one of these things.

"You stay in the moment," Rose said. "That's so easy to say, but it's harder to do it. I guess that's what I've learned. I feel more comfortable on the leaderboard now."

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