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Stenson surrenders Masters lead with collapse on birthday

By Julian Linden

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Henrik Stenson blew a chance at leading the Masters on his birthday after a horror ending to his opening round at Augusta National on Thursday.

Everything had been going perfectly for the Swede, who was celebrating his 36th birthday, when he suddenly came unstuck at the 18th, one of the toughest finishing holes in major golf.

He ending up shooting a quadruple-bogey eight, to match the highest score ever recorded on the 465-yard hole, but this was not a record he wanted a part of.

Arnold Palmer is among the other six players to shoot eight on 18, but the four-time Masters champion was 70 years old at the time.

"I don't think I've ever done that," said Stenson. "You make a little mistake and then you compound it with another one and it just keeps on snowballing. I got the snowman in the end."

Until the 18th, Stenson had been enjoying his best round at Augusta National. He made two eagles and a birdie on the front nine to reach the turn at five-under 31, just one stroke off the tournament record.

He traded two birdies for two bogeys on the back nine and stood on the 18th tee with a two-shot lead.

"I hit it way left off the tee, a low hook, and the ball was playable in the bushes," he recounted. "So I went in there and got a small gap and didn't manage to get it out, gets stuck, and then it's like in a pretty worn spot in the pine needles where everybody has walked, and carved it up the fairway."

After messing up his first three shots, Stenson slammed one of his clubs into the ground but finally got the chance to get back on the green.

However, his approach sailed over the back and he needed four shots, including three putts, to finally finish it off for a one-under-par 71.

"The worst part of 18 was really overhitting the wedge and hitting it up in the crowds behind the green and then it took me four to get down from there," said Stenson.

"Well, I've got a temper, but it's almost like I got past that stage.

"It's easier to walk away with just changing the bag, no full length clubs anymore or just forget about it and I need my clubs tomorrow, so I choose that part."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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