Zhang Shoots Battling 77 in Masters First Round

ZhangApril 9: Zhang Lian-wei’s first Masters round came unstuck on the back nine of Augusta National’s famed layout as he battled to a five-over-par 77 on a tough scoring Thursday.

The first Chinese player to feature in the Masters, Zhang, playing alongside Germany’s Bernhard Langer and Spaniard Sergio Garcia, turned in 37 after a bogey on four but soon found trouble at Amen Corner.

At the par three 12th, Zhang stumbled to a double bogey and three holes later, at the par five 15th, ranked the easiest on the golf course, the Asian Tour star dropped another disappointing double bogey.

He raised loud cheers though on 16, nailing his tee shot into the par three hle right of the pin before the ball rolled towards the cup and stopped inches away for a tap-in birdie. Zhang dropped another bogey on 17

Zhang conceded he was nervous standing over his opening tee shot. “On the first tee I was nervous. There were a lot of people watching. But after the first hole, things got easier.

“I didn’t expect 15 to be so tough. That was probably my worst shot of the day. I was a bit too eager.”

His 77 left him in tied 69th position in the suspended first round and in with a fighting chance to make the weekend play in the year’s first Major. Zhang’s misfortunes were related much to his driving display, where he hit only six of 14 fairways. He was also 10 of 18 in greens in regulation.

Meanwhile, Justin Rose’s game came to full bloom in the opening round as he shot a fine 67 for the lead.

Augusta National was playing tough with several big name players struggling. Denmarks’ Thomas Bjorn, Americans John Daly and David Toms and in-form Australian Adam Scott all shot higher rounds than Zhang.

World number one Tiger Woods was also struggling as he was four-over for his round through 14 holes when darkness halted the first round, which was interrupted by a weather delay.

Asia’s challenge was led by Korean star Choi Kyung-ju, who bounced back from being three over par through 11 holes to sign for a 71 and equal eighth place. Choi, who was tied 15th in last year’s Masters, turned in 38 before dropping another shot on 11.

But Choi, who believes that he has the game to win the Masters, came fighting back with four straight birdies from the 12th hole as his fine showing eclipsed playing partners Scott and Chad Campbell, last month’s winner of the Bayhill Invitational

On Wednesday, Zhang was invited to the office of Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson. The Chinese ace presented his host with a vase and thanked Johnson for extending the special invitation for him to play in this year’s event.