AUGUSTA, Ga. — Marc Leishman is feeling a little more prepared to play in the Masters this year.
That was apparent Thursday as Leishman, in just his second appearance at Augusta National, shot a six-under-par 66 that was good enough for a share of the first-round lead with Sergio Garcia.
Leishman, 29, an Australian in his fifth year on the PGA Tour, missed the Masters cut in 2010.
That happened, he said, after he spent too much time daydreaming about what hed seen as a kid on television back in Warrnambool, a town in Victoria, instead of concentrating on what he needed to do to compete on a famously treacherous golf course he was playing for the first time.
I would find myself thinking about Freddie Couples ball staying on the bank on No. 12, or someone chipping in on the right side of 11, said Leishman. I probably should have come here a few more times before the tournament.
Leishman, who got his Masters invitation after winning the Travelers in 2012, has just one top 10 this year (ninth at the Sony Open in Hawaii).
He began his day with a bogey and was 1 under through the front nine. Then his round took off. He played the back nine in 5-under par.
It was awesome getting on those kinds of runs, he said.
Leishman played in the early part of the day and his 66 held up until late in the afternoon, when Garcia finished a bogey-free round to tie him.
Leishman had seven birdies and used just 25 putts after hitting just seven fairways.
Long-hitting Dustin Johnson, a Myrtle Beach resident who played at Coastal Carolina, is one shot behind in third at 67. There was a six-way tie for fourth at 68 between David Lynn, Rickie Fowler, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Trevor Immelman, Couples and Matt Kuchar.
Tigers Woods, seeking his fifth Masters title, shot 70 and is four strokes back, tied for 13th with nine others.
Defending champion Bubba Watson is tied for 64th, nine shots back with a 75.
Thursdays first round was played in benign conditions, under partly cloudy skies in temperatures that hovered around 80 degrees. That could change Friday, with rain in the forecast for Augusta later Thursday that could last through the morning. As much as a half-inch was expected to fall overnight.
Garcia, who is still without a major championship, got off to solid start with a birdie on No. 1. He sprinkled five more into his round, going the entire way without a bogey.
What Im going to try to take into my pillow (Thursday night), its the first 10 holes, said Garcia. I think, without a doubt, its the best 10 holes Ive played at the Masters. Scoring-wise, maybe it wasnt, but the way I hit the ball and the amount of birdie chances I gave myself it meant a lot.
Woods was generally pleased with his round, which included one bogey (on No. 14).
A solid day, he said. Its a good start. Some years some guys shot 65 starting out here. But right now Im only four back and Im right there.
The pressure coming from established players like Woods and Garcia will be very much on Leishmans mind Friday. But he thinks the experiences from 2010 not to mention how he played Thursday can only help him deal with it.
You just put all your mistakes in a memory bank, he said, and try not to make them again. I hit it in a lot of bad spots my first year. I managed to avoid those spots (Thursday).
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