AUGUSTA • South Korean-born New Zealander Danny Lee was laughed at by his fellow competitors the last time he contested the Masters in 2009.
Nobody was laughing, however, at his performance at Augusta on Thursday as he sprinkled six birdies with two bogeys, to end the first round of the Masters in a share of second place after a four-under 68.
"I'm having a blast out there," said Lee, who headed the Asian-born contingent, two strokes behind leader Jordan Spieth.
On a day when world No. 14 Hideki Matsuyama of Japan shot 71, Lee made a positive return to Augusta seven years after his only previous appearance there.
Back then, he six-putted the 10th hole during the second round, much to the bemusement of playing partners Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman.
"I was very disappointed but Adam and Trevor were just laughing at me," recalled Lee, a New Zealander since 2008. "I was like, 'Seriously guys?' "
He missed the cut following rounds of 74 and 81, but earned the chance to redeem himself there when he secured a berth with his first USPGA Tour title at last year's Greenbrier Classic.
"After I made the winning putt, all I was thinking about was coming back to this place," he said.
Thai duo Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat also posted respectable scores on Thursday, with both shooting 72. But Chinese amateur Jin Cheng, 18, had a sobering Masters debut as he struggled to a 79.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE