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Power hitter Alvaro Quiros saves best for last

By Julian Linden

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Spain's Alvaro Quiros birdied the last two holes at Augusta National on Thursday to join Rory McIlroy as the first round leader at the Masters.

No one was more surprised than Quiros himself to see his name at the top of the leaderboard but his late charge was as spectacular as it was unexpected.

With the sun already setting over the pine tree-lined course, only the golfing faithful remained to watch the final group finish their rounds but it was certainly worth the wait.

Quiros, who claimed his fifth European Tour title at the Dubai Desert Classic in February but has since struggled for form and confidence, was playing one of the best rounds of his life.

In each of his two previous appearances at the Masters, the 28-year-old Spaniard had missed the cut and had never broken par for a round.

But the massive hitter who consistently drives the ball over 320 yards changed all that after reaching the turn in three-under-par 33 and then covering the back nine in 32 for a spectacular seven-under 65.

"The two previous years, I came to the Masters thinking that I can play well, shoot low, and this was my main mistake," the self-deprecating Quiros explained.

"This golf course, it's too tough. Every single situation has to be measured -- the risk, the reward. Today, I was very happy making pars. This is why probably shoot 65."

Quiros, who has often said he has the hands of a bricklayer, was even more surprised to learn that he ended the as joint pacesetter because he never bothered to check the leaderboard before starting his round.

"I just checked what the other Spanish guys were doing, nothing else," he added.

"You have to see, this is my third appearance (at the Masters) and my best score was 75. I cannot be pretending to see the leaderboard, it would be stupid."

Despite his sizzling start, Quiros said his past experiences at Augusta National had left him with modest ambitions for the rest of the tournament.

"My target tomorrow is make the cut," he said. "It would be stupid to think about shooting 65 again because it's not my way.

"As I said before, 75 was my best round here. It could be just one good round of golf. So to avoid that, I want to think about the next shot that I'm going to have, which is the tee shot on the first hole."

(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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