Rose Leads Play Called on Day 1

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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Justin Rose fired a 5-under-par 67 on Thursday to take the early lead of the 68th Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.
 
Chris DiMarco, who played in the same group as Rose, aced the par-3 sixth and posted a round of 3-under-par 69. Jay Haas, who turned 50 this year but elected to stay on the PGA Tour rather than play the Champions Tour, also carded a 3-under 69.
 
There was a weather delay of nearly two hours Thursday as rain pelted the course at various points throughout the round. At 4:07 p.m. ET, play was suspended until the golfers returned to the course at 6:15.
 
Some players did not finish and need to complete their first rounds, so competitors will return to Augusta National at 8:00 a.m. The second-round tee times will not be affected.
 
Tiger Woods, a three-time champion of this event, seemed to struggle coming into this week's Masters and Thursday's opening round did nothing to change that.
 
He played in the penultimate group in the opening round and is 4 over par through 14 holes. Woods made the turn in 40, only the second time he played nine holes in that number at Augusta. The other time was 1997 when he went on to shatter most tournament records at the Masters.
 
Woods is in good company at that score as defending champion Mike Weir is plus-4 and will begin his day on Friday at the par-3 16th tee.
 
'I never felt comfortable,' said Weir. 'Tomorrow morning I have to try to hit it and find something.'
 
Scoring was not good on Thursday as the course played fast before the storms. Augusta did not change that much after the delay as only 13 players are under par.
 
Padraig Harrington, with two top-4 finishes in the last two starts on the PGA Tour, shot a 74. Vijay Singh, the 2000 winner of the green jacket, posted a 75 and John Daly lumbered to 78 on Thursday.
 
Phil Mickelson, widely considered a pre-tournament favorite to finally win a major title, double bogeyed the par-3 16th en route to an even-par 72.
 
For the second consecutive year, there was no honorary starter and the opening round of the 2004 season's first major was bittersweet.
 
Bruce Edwards, the longtime caddie of former Masters champion Tom Watson, died early Thursday morning at his home in Florida after a yearlong battle with ALS. He was 49 years old.
 
Watson received the news Thursday morning before his 8:44 a.m. tee time. He shot a 4-over-par 76 in the first round.
 
'He's not with us in body anymore but I can tell you he's with us in spirit,' said Watson, referring to his friend Edwards. 'He could make you laugh at the worst times. If you ever ran across him, you knew what a genuine person he was.'
 
Also on people's minds on Thursday was Arnold Palmer. The four-time champion is playing in his 50th Masters and announced that this will be the last time he tees it up in the tournament.
 
He finished with a 12-over-par 84.
 
'It was tough and I didn't play very well,' said Palmer, who may take over as an honorary starter next year. 'I understand it's time. It's time to sit back, watch and enjoy.'
 
With one Masters career winding down, another was just getting started.
 
Rose flew out of the gate quickly in the first round with a pair of birdies at his first two holes, including a 30-footer at the first. He birdied the ninth to make the turn at 3-under-par 33.
 
Rose found his first bit of trouble at the 11th, the lone hole that was changed this year thanks to 36 pine trees. He three-putted from 20 feet for bogey at the hole but rebounded at 13 when he blasted out of a bunker to four feet to set up birdie at the par-5 hole.
 
At the challenging closing holes at Augusta, Rose played more like a seasoned veteran, not a 23-year-old playing in his second Masters. At 17, Rose sank a four-footer for birdie, then holed an eight-footer at the last to polish off his 67.
 
'Obviously I had the dream start, going birdie-birdie gets you into the tournament right from the start,' said Rose. 'I crushed my drive on the first hole and felt really comfortable after that.'
 
Rose burst onto the golf scene in 1998 when he tied for fourth place at the British Open as an amateur. He turned professional the next day but struggled to make cuts, missing his first 17 in a row.
 
He broke into the winner's circle at the 2002 dunhill championship and added a second victory at the British Masters. Rose thinks all of the struggles assist him on the course.
 
'I was putting a lot of pressure on myself,' admitted Rose, who hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation on Thursday. 'I really felt like what I've been through has made it much easier and made me able to get through the finish line in a couple of tournaments.'
 
DiMarco made it through the first five holes with pars. At the sixth, DiMarco hit a 5-iron just short of the hole, then watched as the ball trickled in for the first ace at six since 1972 when Charles Coody recorded a hole-in-one.
 
'It was just a very perfect shot,' said DiMarco, who withdrew after a first-round 82 last year. 'It was one of my best hole-in-ones I've ever made. I can promise you that.'
 
He also birdied No. 15 to polish off his 69.
 
Haas, like Rose, broke out early Thursday with an 8-foot birdie putt at the first and a tap-in birdie at the par-5 second. He hit his approach 45 feet from the hole at the fifth and three-putted, missing an 8-footer for par.
 
The 50-year-old knocked a 9-iron to a foot to set up an easy birdie at No. 7. Haas hit his second into a bank right of the bunker at 13 and after his ball settled, he putted six feet short of the hole. Haas drained the birdie putt at the par-5 hole to join DiMarco at minus-3.
 
'I played extremely well, drove the ball well, hit a lot of good iron shots, made some nice putts,' said Haas. 'I think somebody 50 can (win). I just happen to be there.'
 
Darren Clarke, the first-round leader in 2003, and Chris Riley are tied at 2-under-par 70. Ernie Els bogeyed the 17th, the last hole he played on Thursday, to fall to 2 under. Alex Cejka is also 2 under with the 18th left to play.
 
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