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Stenson tops the leaderboard at Augusta National

Thursday, April 05, 2007

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AUGUSTA -- Sweden's Henrik Stenson topped the early leaders in the Masters Tournament.

Stenson, who has two wins this year and has yet to finish outside the top-25 in seven starts, shot a 2-under 34 on the first nine of Augusta National Golf Club. Another European pro, England's Justin Rose, was also 2-under as of 1 p.m., albeit through just six holes.

Stenson won the Dubai Desert Classic and the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play earlier this season. The 31-year-old's worst finish of 2007 came three weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitation, where he tied for 22nd place.

Stenson carded seven pars and two birdies on his first nine Thursday. His birdies came at the par-3 sixth hole and the par-4 ninth.

Rose burst on the golf scene as a 19-year-old amateur at the 1998 British Open. He finished tied for fourth. He has struggled in the years since, never finishing higher than ninth on the European Tour money list.

Rose posted a victory earlier this year in Europe and also finished third at the PGA Tour's Bob Hope Chrysler tournament.

Rose has played well in the Masters in two career appearances. He led through two rounds in the 2004 tournament only to shoot a third-round 81 and fade to 22nd.

Four Americans, Georgian Davis Love III, Arron Oberholser, Zach Johnson and Ben Curtis, ere a shot back of the leaders.

Augusta's Vaughn Taylor also made the leaderboard. He was even par through 14 holes, with one birdie and one bogey in his round.

Large and early-arriving galleries greeted the golfer's Thursday. Several thousand patrons arrived at the course before the gates opened to see Arnold Palmer hit the ceremonial first tee shot.

Palmer, who retired from Masters play after the 2004 tournament, hit his drive down the left side of the No. 1 fairway.

Ian Woosnam withdrew before the start of the first round because of soreness in his back. The 1991 Masters champion had missed the cut in the last six Masters.

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