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Singh in charge with 67, Woods five back

Written by: Staff

AUGUSTA, Georgia, April 7 (Reuters) Vijay Singh rattled up four birdies in five holes to take a one-shot lead in the US Masters while defending champion Tiger Woods ground out a solid 72 here.

Champion in 2000, Singh picked up shots at the 11th, 13th, 14th and 15th holes for an opening five-under 67 in difficult conditions at a sun-baked Augusta National yesterday.

That left the Fijian one ahead of American Rocco Mediate, who birdied the same stretch of holes in a blemish-free display.

''I played pretty decent today and didn't make too many mistakes,'' world number two Singh told reporters. ''I had a lot of chances early on and I putted very well.

''That was probably one of the better rounds I've played here.'' Another American, Arron Oberholser, began with a 69 to finish a stroke better than 2004 champion Phil Mickelson, who surged into contention with birdies on two of the last four holes.

Level with left-hander Mickelson were Australia's Geoff Ogilvy, world number three Retief Goosen and fellow South African Tim Clark.

Only three players broke 70 on the fast-running layout but 12 eagles were recorded, falling just one short of the record number achieved in the opening round in 1991.

Mediate, a five-times PGA Tour winner, was delighted to be back at a challenging venue where he feels comfortable.

''It was fun, I had a blast today,'' he said. ''I putted better today than I may ever have putted here.

FAST GREENS ''The greens were very fast but they're excellent, as always. The years that I've played here have helped me. If I missed it today, it was where I could still play a second shot to the green.

''It's firm out there and the ball is running. I think the golf course is harder for the longer hitter right now because there's so much trouble out there.'' MORE REUTERS DH KP1438

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