Fowler leads by stroke at British Masters

Thursday, June 5th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

MERIDEN, England (AP) -- Australia's Peter Fowler shot a 7-under 65 Thursday for a one-stroke lead after the first round of the British Masters.

Sharing second place at 66 were Raymond Russell of Scotland, Jesus Maria Arruti of Spain, Marcel Siem of Germany and David Lynn of England.

After 14 years on the European tour, Fowler dropped off at the end of 1996 when he lost his playing card.

"I was completely gone," he said. "I definitely wasn't good enough and I was losing a lot of money."

Lee Westwood of England was at 67 after making a 40-foot birdie putt on the final hole. Also at 67 were Ignacio Garrido of Spain, who won the Volvo PGA title two weeks ago, and Jarmo Sandelin of Sweden.

Darren Clarke, winner of the English Open on this course two of the last three years, shot a 71. He is using the event as a tuneup for next week's U.S. Open.

"I had no game today," Clarke said. "It was the worst I've played all year."

Colin Montgomerie, who missed the cut at last week's Wales Open, shot a 73 that included a double-bogey 7 at the long seventh hole. He drove into a ditch, took two to get out and clashed with photographers.

He contended they were taking pictures while he was concentrating on his shot. At one point he brandished a club in their direction. The cameramen insisted they did nothing wrong.

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