Golf: Watson becomes oldest to break par at Masters

AUGUSTA, United States (AFP) - Tom Watson became the oldest player with a sub-par round in Masters history on Thursday, the 65-year-old American firing a one-under 71 in the opening round at Augusta National.

Watson broke the mark of the late Sam Snead, who fired a 71 in the last two rounds of the 1974 Masters at age 61.

"It's fun to be able to at least be in red figures at Augusta National," Watson said. "At my age, it's a minor miracle."

Watson, who won the Masters in 1977 and 1981, nearly became the oldest major winner in golf history at the 2009 British Open, losing a playoff to Stewart Cink at Turnberry at age 59 in an epic bid to claim a sixth Claret Jug.

Augusta National has proven tougher to handle for Watson, who has made the cut only four times in 20 years, most recently in 2010.

"Yeah I want to make the cut," Watson said. "I haven't done that for a few years."

Watson, who captained the losing US side in last year's Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, said containing his ego was as important as his experience to firing his best round since a 67 to start in 2010.

"Old age and treachery," Watson said. "I've played the golf course enough times to know where I'm supposed to hit it and where I'm not supposed to hit it.

"I struggled the last few years hitting it, trying to hit shots like I used to, when I know that I had to hit my best shot, and the ego gets involved. My ego got involved too much the last few years. Today, I just kind of played within myself."

At 18, Watson struck a tree but found the fairway, hit a 3-wood approach over the green and then made a clutch eight-foot par putt.

"I was hoping I was going to break par," Watson said. "I was concentrating on that putt. I really wanted to make that."

Watson opened with a three-putt bogey but birdied the par-5 second and par-5 eighth before closing the front nine with a bogey.

"Nine's awfully tough for me to get the pin," Watson said. "Kids are hitting 8- and 9-irons and I'm back there hitting 3-irons off the down slope. It's a hard shot for an old guy like me."

Watson began the back nine with a birdie and added another at the par-3 16th before taking a bogey at 17.

"My game is pretty good. I was happy with the way I played. Perfect conditions. No wind. Greens are very soft. It was there for the taking."

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