Lynn takes Gilford’s advice and excels on his debut

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Wigan Athletic FC fan David Lynn is dreaming of a glorious weekend double after carding an opening 68 on his US Masters debut at Augusta National.

Playing only the third major of his career after securing his place by finishing second at the US PGA Championship last year, Lynn carded six birdies and two bogeys to set the early clubhouse target.

Although he was subsequently overhauled by Australian Marc Leishman’s 66, the world No 53 could have no complaints after a round which saw him finish ahead of more high-profile compatriots Lee Westwood and Justin Rose, who were both round in 70.

The 39-year-old from Stoke, who has just one win in almost 400 European Tour events, birdied the first, eighth and ninth to be out in 33, and after a dropped shot on the 10th, hit back with birdies on the 11th, 12th and 15th.

A bogey on the 17th looked like being followed with another on the 18th when he was faced with a 12ft putt for par after hitting his approach over the green, but he holed out to complete a brilliant debut round.

“Everyone said playing here was about the percentages and talking to an old friend of mine, David Gilford, who came here for the first time and shot a 67 in the first round, he said ‘Don’t be too intimidated by the greens. There are birdies out there’,” Lynn said. “So I had that in my mind as well.

“I was on the ninth and my caddie said, ‘You’re leading the Masters’. He just looked at me and smiled. I said ‘I’d rather be leading it Sunday afternoon’, but it’s obviously not a bad thing to see your name up there and something you could always look back on.

“But there’s a lot to be done for the rest of the week and hopefully I can keep my name up there.

“It’s taken me a golfing lifetime to get here. You do feel like you know the place, because you see it that many times on TV. It’s fantastic.”

As for Wigan’s FA Cup semi-final with Millwall tomorrow, Lynn added: “I’d love to see Wigan progress into the final.

“I would love to see them survive a ninth year (in the Premier League) and if they can bring home an FA Cup that would be fantastic.”

Lynn had not planned to move to the United States until his performance at Kiawah Island last August opened so many doors.

Although he is not certain of staying, he admits it has given his career a new lease of life.

“It’s given me a second wind at the moment,” he said.

“Obviously everything’s new. I’m going to a different place every week, a different course, and it’s like I’ve started my career again almost.

“I’m having to knuckle down and do my homework when I get to places, and am just enjoying what the PGA Tour has to offer at the moment.

“When I am on my game I know I can compete at this level and Kiawah Island (for the US PGA) confirmed it to me.

“It gave me a bit of extra belief. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to be there Sunday night, but deep down I know that I’ve got performances in me that could put me there Sunday night.”

The 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel carded a 71 and defending champion Bubba Watson 75, while Ian Poulter fared even worse with a 76.

But world No 1 Tiger Woods, seeking a fifth freen jacket and fourth win of the year, was ominously poised on two under after an uneventful round of three birdies and one bogey, while world No 2 Rory McIlroy was one under after seven.

“I thought the greens were a little bit tough in the sense that they just didn’t have the sheen to them, they didn’t have the roll out,” said Woods. “ A couple of putts, we were talking about it in our group, just weren’t that fast.”

Sergio Garcia, who 12 months ago was complaining bitterly that he was not good enough to win a major, was five under after 10, with Spanish compatriot Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano three under with four to play.

Westwood has finished second, 11th and third in the last three years at Augusta, but had to recover from a double-bogey six on the first yesterday.

“It was a good start, well, not literally, but it’s a good first round,” said the 39-year-old, who had responded angrily to suggestions from Colin Montgomerie that time was running out for him to win a major.

“It wasn’t the ideal start, but I’ve started majors with a double bogey before – the US Open last year sprang to mind – and I fought my way back to have a chance.

“So there was no panic, really. It was nice to make birdie at the second and get one back there early. You could stand on the second tee and say, ‘well everybody in the field is going to make a double bogey, I just got mine out of the way early’.”

Rose was three shots better off than Westwood over the opening two holes after two birdies, but was unable to capitalise on such a bright start.

“I’ve led three times after the first round, which has come to no avail,” Rose said.

“You can never win it on day one, you can only lose it.

“I didn’t really make anything until the 18th, when I knocked in a nice 15-foot putt for par, which makes lunch taste good, really.”

Fernandez-Castano picked up shots at the 15th and 17th to reach five under, but bogeyed the last and had to settle for a 68 matched by South African Trevor Immelman, who has been plagued by injuries and illness since his win here in 2008.

“I got lucky to play four rounds here last year and finally you get to know this place,” he said.

“I played a practice round with Olly (two-time winner Jose Maria Olazabal) and tried to absorb as much info as I could because he knows this place like his own backyard.”

After a run of four pars, Garcia found another birdie on the 15th after an excellent pitch to join Leishman at the top of the leaderboard on six under, while American Dustin Johnson had eagled the 13th to lie five under.