Danny Lee, of New Zealand, lines up his putt on the second green during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson
April 07, 2016

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) Danny Lee made sure his return to the Masters was worth the wait.

The South Korea-born Lee shot a 4-under 68 in Thursday's first round at Augusta National to finish the day in a second-place tie with Shane Lowry, two shots behind defending champion Jordan Spieth.

He mixed in six birdies and two bogeys, handling the windy conditions well. Lee's final PGA Tour appearance as an amateur came in the 2009 Masters, when he opened with a 74 and missed the cut with a second-round 81.

It took seven years to get back. Locking up a return trip was another reason to celebrate his first PGA Tour win at the Greenbrier Classic last year.

''After I made the winning putt at the Greenbrier Classic, all I was thinking about was coming back to this place,'' said Lee, who became a citizen of New Zealand in 2008. ''And now it's finally here.''

In fact, he arrived a week before the tournament started to play extra practice rounds. Seeing his name high on the leaderboard was quite an experience for Lee, who remembers watching the 1997 Masters when Tiger Woods won despite going 4 over on the front nine in the first round. Lee easily beat that, though Woods' blistering finish would be hard to top.

Lee played much of his early career on the European Tour, where he became the youngest winner as an 18-year-old. He also made stops on the Web.com Tour.

Lee isn't well known in the United States, and the patrons at Augusta National didn't seem that excited as he moved up the leaderboard. After making a 6-yard birdie putt on No. 12, Lee realized something was missing: The applause.

''I don't know, but I guess nobody was watching my putt,'' Lee said, smiling. ''I was just waving at myself to the crowds, I made birdie, guys.''

Lee, 25, has some accomplishments in the U.S. He replaced Woods in 2008 as the youngest U.S. Amateur champion ever, just past his 18th birthday.

On Thursday, he had some fortunate breaks, like hitting the flag on No. 2 to keep the ball from flying over the green.

In the process, Lee created a different set of memories from the 2009 tournament.

Among the lingering recollections from those two rounds was a six-putt on No. 10 that had playing partners Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman laughing.

''I was like, `Seriously, guys?'' Lee said.

Now, he's just off the Masters lead. Seriously.

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