For Trevor Immelman, his 68 in the opening round of the Masters brought back memories of his start in 2008 when he became the second South African to don the green jacket.
“I think I’ve had some under par rounds to start the tournament, but I’m not sure that I’ve had a 68 to start the tournament since I shot 68 to start in 2008,” he said after his opening effort at Augusta National left him nicely poised two strokes off the lead of Australia’s Marc Leishman and Sergio Garcia.
“Any time in a major you can get out to a nice start and get a few under your belt, birdies are precious commodities at these types of tournaments,” he added. “So you try and bank them for as long as you can.”
He started solidly, making birdie on the second, and then reeled off a string of pars until he birdied 13 and 14 consecutively and made his fourth birdie in an error-free round at 17.
“I’ve made some inroads to what I was trying to do with my full swing, and I started seeing some better stuff in practice,” he said. “Obviously I think coming here helps me because I know the greens so well and I've played here many times and know some of the lines.”
It’s not all the way back for Immelman just yet, however, as he was quick to caution: “I think one of the missing ingredients for me right now is I need to start to gain some of the confidence that I had five or six years ago. But I definitely found a nice rhythm on the back 9 and started hitting some quality shots and then converted the putts. So that was a nice feeling.”
Garcia and Leishman shot six-under-par 66s and were joined at the top briefly by American Dustin Johnson, who made bogey on the 17th hole to finish with 67, his best round at Augusta National.
Immelman was tied for fourth after the first round with David Lynn of England, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain, and Americans Fred Couples, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar.
Defending champion Bubba Watson fired a three-over-par 75 to be in a share of 64th.
Tim Clark had a solid start to his campaign with a two-under-par 70, while Ernie Els and 2001 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel were the next best of the South Africans after Immelman at one-under.
Richard Sterne finished at one-over, 2012 runner-up Louis Oosthuizen two-over, George Coetzee three-over, and Branden Grace six-over.