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Liguori: Americans Ready To Pounce At Masters

Tiger Woods lines up a putt on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2013 Masters. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Tiger Woods lines up a putt on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2013 Masters. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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By Ann Liguori
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An Aussie named Marc Leishman, playing in only his second Masters, and Sergio Garcia, still looking for that elusive first major championship title, are the co-leaders after round one of the Masters.

Both players took advantage of the mild conditions on Thursday and shot an impressive six-under 66.

With seven birdies and one bogie, and four straight birdies on holes 13, 14, 15 and 16, Leishman looked like a seasoned veteran as he navigated his way around Augusta National.

Leishman picked up the first PGA Tour victory of his career last June when he won the 2012 Travelers Championship. There he was six shots off the lead but shot an eight-under 62 in the final round to win the title. So we know this 29-year-old can shoot low!

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Leishman said he has had a relaxing week, only played nice holes on each day of the practice rounds. He enjoyed playing in the par-three competition with his parents here from Australia enjoying the experience as well.

Sergio’s best finish at the Masters is tied for fourth, back in 2004. He certainly has the talent to win here but does he have the mental fortitude? He has been runner-up twice in two previous majors – the 2007 British Open and the 1999 PGA Championship. He and Lee Westwood still carry that “most talented players yet to win a Major” burden on their shoulders. Westwood, with his two-under-par 70, is tied for 13th place with a bunch of players, including Tiger.

Tiger said he was satisfied with his two-under 70 score. He played methodically and somewhat carefully. And he’s gone on to win three times after opening with a 70.

Dustin Johnson and Freddie Couples are the two Americans who stole the early headlines, however. Johnson shot his best round ever here – a five-under-par 67. Freddie Couples looked as fluid as can be. And at 53 years of age, he can still bomb drives off the tee. A few of them were as long as Johnsons, who he is playing with these first two rounds. Can Freddie continue his stellar play here? Wouldn’t it be great if he could be in contention for yet a third green jacket come Sunday?

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Conditions should be ripe for scoring! Like Thursday, there is no wind out here as of yet. Phil Mickelson, who had an up and down round and finished with a one-under 71, said that he is really going to attack the greens today, play more aggressively. He says that unlike the course years ago, players are able to go for the pins more aggressively. The course is softer, making it somewhat easier to hit your spots when attacking the greens.

Rory McIlroy will start round two at even par. Defending champion Bubba Watson struggled with a plus-three 75.

And the 14-year-old amateur player from China? Well, Tianlang Guan carded an impressive plus-one 73. This eighth grader can play. And he’s playing to win, he said. I like his attitude and confidence!

With Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler right behind Freddie and Dustin Johnson, and Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, David Toms, Brandt Snedeker Tiger and Phil Mickelson all within striking distance, Round two will be anybody’s ball game.

The cut is any player within ten shots of the lead and the top fifty players and ties, different from in the past when it was the top 44 and ties.

Fasten your seats belts. It’s going to be a heck of a ride!

Who are you rooting for at Augusta? Be heard in the comments!