Rookies Set Early Pace in Augusta

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Who needs course knowledge. Apparently not Chris DiMarco and James Driscoll. DiMarco, who played Augusta National for the first time three days ago, fired a 7-under-par 65 to grab the early clubhouse lead in the 65th Masters Tournament.
 
Just three shots back is Driscoll. The 2000 U.S. Amateur runner-up birdied three of his first four holes en route to a 4-under-par 68; one shot shy of the record for best Masters round by a first-year amateur.
 
Free Video - Registration Required James Driscoll talks about his round one 68
 
DiMarco is on pace to become the third consecutive Masters rookie to lead after 18 holes. Two years ago, Brandel Chamblee shot 69 to share the first-round lead. He then failed to break 70 over his next three rounds to finish in a tie for 18th. Dennis Paulson followed suit in 2000, shooting 68 to lead after Day One, only to card rounds of 76-73-72 to tie for 14th.
 
Not to slight Chamblee or Paulson, but DiMarco would much rather be in the company of Fuzzy Zoeller. Zoeller is the only player in the modern era to win the Masters in his first appearance (1979).
 
I dont think anybody expects me to win, DiMarco said, except me.
 
Free Video - Registration Required Chris DiMarco talks about his round one lead
 
Two days of rain softened the greens, making the course susceptible to red numbers. And under Thursdays ideal scoring conditions, DiMarco took advantage.
 
His round was highlighted by four birdies in a five-hole stretch beginning at the par-4 5th. After making the turn in 4-under-par 32, DiMarco played Amen Corner in 2-under, and then added one final birdie at the par-5 15th to finish his day at 7-under.
 
My strategy was to stay patient but still be aggressive in spots and do nothing crazy, said DiMarco, who recorded eight birdies and one bogey. My patience was good. I never got ahead of myself.
 
Twelve years after turning professional, DiMarco finally earned a spot in the elite Masters field by finishing 19th on last years PGA Tour money list.
 
2000 was a banner year for the 32-year-old Florida Gator. He collected his maiden victory at the SEI Pennsylvania Classic to go along with over $1.8 million in official earnings.
 
DiMarco has continued to produce in 2001. Hes made eight cuts in ten starts, including a pair of top-10 finishes. At last weeks BellSouth Classic down the road in Duluth, DiMarco shared the 36-hole lead, but shot 73-77 on a 36-hole Sunday to tie for sixth.
 
The BellSouth was really good because it got me ready for here, he said. It got me ready for the speed (of the greens).
 
The Masters greenhorn needed only 25 putts on the slick, yet damp, surface on Thursday.
 
Driscoll, too, admirably handled the pressure of competing in his first Masters. The 23-year-old birdied the 1st, 2nd and 4th holes to quickly move up the leaderboard. He then added his fourth birdie of the day at the par-4 9th to match DiMarcos front-nine 32.
 
Driscoll twice made bogey on the back nine, but on each occasion atoned with a birdie. First he dropped a shot at the par-4 10th, and then rebounded with a birdie at the par-5 13th. Then, after bogeying the par-5 15th, he birdied the par-3 16th.
 
Driscoll earned his invitation by finishing runner-up in the 2000 U.S. Amateur. He overcame a three-down deficit with three holes to play in the finals to force a playoff with Jeff Quinney. Darkness eventually suspended play after 38 holes of competition. The following Monday, Quinney took home the title by sinking a 30-foot birdie putt on the 39th hole.
 
No amateur has ever been awarded the green jacket. Frank Stranahan (1947), Ken Venturi (1956) and Charles Coe (1961) all earned the silver medal for second place.
 
Defending champion Vijay Singh was among those teeing off in the afternoon, as was overwhelming favorite Tiger Woods.
 
Full Coverage of the 2001 Masters Tournament