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3rd time's charm for co-leader Quiros of Spain

Friday, April 08, 2011

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Alvaro Quiros has just two thoughts entering today.

First, he plans to hit driver on the opening hole. Second, he wants to make the cut.

Both of those are doable, considering the Spaniard's career round at the Masters Tournament. Quiros birdied three of the final four holes Thursday to match Rory McIlroy atop the leaderboard with an opening 7-under 65.

Quiros played in the day's final pairing, with long shadows creeping onto the course as he finished. The 28-year-old said he enjoyed finishing his round after 7 p.m.

"It looked like I was playing in the Sunday afternoon leading group," he said. "It was a nice feeling."

Quiros missed the cut in his previous two Masters appearances in 2009 and 2010. His low round at Augusta National Golf Club was 75. Until Thursday.

The powerful Quiros was the lone player to average longer than 300 yards off the tee, with a 309.5 average. He hit 15 of 18 greens and needed just 27 putts.

Quiros played his first competitive round with caddie Gareth Bryn Lord, Robert Karlsson's former looper. Quiros struggled with his game after winning the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February, and he decided it was time for a switch.

"It's like in soccer or futbol, you can't change the 22 players. You can only change the coach. I can't change myself," he said. "It was the only thing."

Quiros got off to a hot start with five birdies over the first 13 holes. Then, he hit a push-fade into the trees lining the 14th fairway. His second shot hit a limb, and the ball remained in the woods. Quiros chipped out, leaving himself a wedge to the green. He then rolled in a tricky, downhill 15-foot putt to save bogey.

"It was a good five," he said.

After his lone hiccup of the day, Quiros soon got back on track. He blasted a 6-iron approach to the back of the No. 15 green and two-putted for birdie.

Quiros later rolled in a 22-foot downhill birdie putt at No. 17. He closed with an approach to three feet for birdie at the par-4 18th.

"I was very lucky with the putting," he said. "I couldn't complain."

Quiros tees off at 10:41 this morning. Expecting to repeat his opening round, he said, would be foolish.

"My target tomorrow is to make the cut," he said. "It'd be stupid to think about shooting 65 again."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.

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