AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Of all of the 6,576 photographs that have been formally struck at Augusta National on Day 1 of the Masters, just one really mattered.
It didn’t go within the gap. It wasn’t down the middle of the green. Nothing particular about it in any respect, actually.
Except for the truth that it was off a membership swung by Tiger Woods.
With his opening tee shot at 11:04 a.m. Thursday, the Masters was really again to regular. The full allotment of patrons was crammed into Augusta National to look at a event spherical the primary time because the pre-pandemic days of 2019, the 12 months wherein Woods gained the newest of his 5 inexperienced jackets. They watched a person who might have misplaced a leg — or his life — in a automotive crash 15 months in the past return to the spot of his previous glory, and albeit transferring maybe a bit extra slowly than he used to, chase glory once more.
“If you would have seen how my leg looked to where it’s at now … to get from there to here, it was no easy task,” Woods mentioned.
The scorecard mentioned Woods shot a 1-under 71 on Thursday. That’s mainly common for Woods at Augusta National; actually, his profession common in 91 event rounds on the place is 70.9. It is straightforward for no one, not even champions, not even five-time champions, particularly five-time champions who wanted rods and screws and pins a bit of over a 12 months in the past to reassemble a proper leg and proper foot that have been mangled in a automotive crash. Yet Woods answered the bell after which some Thursday, most likely shocking some by taking part in in any respect, shocking much more by trying like somebody who might contend.
“Just the fact that, one, he’s alive, considering what that accident was about. Two, that he’s made a comeback to this point to be able to compete, it’s phenomenal,” Woods’ longtime good friend and incoming U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson mentioned. “Now, it’s also a situation where you’re talking about an individual that, I mean, are we really that surprised? … He’s the best player I’ve ever played with, and I say that in all aspects. He is the best competitor I’ve ever witnessed.”
Sungjae Im was the primary spherical chief, capturing a 5-under 67. Cameron Smith was second, one shot again with a 68, and 4 gamers — Danny Willett, Joaquin Niemann, world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and previous Masters champion Dustin Johnson — have been all two photographs off the tempo after rounds of 3-under 69.
Dustin Johnson gained his Masters in 2020. Im and Smith tied for second that 12 months. Thursday, the trio have been all on the primary web page of the leaderboard once more, the order barely adjusted.
“Yes, there is a coincidence there somewhere,” Im mentioned, his thoughts drifting again to that second.
Ah, nostalgia. No place does it higher than the open-air museum of golf that’s Augusta National.
The day began with a nod to custom, after all: Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus prolonged their run as honorary starters for the event, joined this time by Tom Watson for the ceremonial tee balls off the primary tee.
They have been all on the Masters Club dinner earlier this week, one of many many perks for previous champions. Woods was there as properly, after being unable to attend final 12 months whereas recovering from his accidents. That was Tuesday night time. On Wednesday, Woods — who mentioned the day prior to this that he meant to play — went by way of his ultimate observe spherical and determined there was no have to again out.
And on Thursday, there he was, each step he took surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people that left the grounds in a position to say that they noticed Woods’ comeback spherical. The phrase “roar” would possibly get overused at Augusta National, however that’s what the sound from these patrons positive appeared like.
“At the beginning I noticed that there was a lot of people,” mentioned Joaquin Niemann, one in all Woods’ taking part in companions Thursday together with Louis Oosthuizen. “But then I was trying to talk to my caddie, and I couldn’t hear anything that he was saying.”
Woods was removed from classic. He saved spraying tee photographs off to the left. He performed just a few occasions from the pine straw. A half-dozen or so strategy photographs would barely get to the entrance of the inexperienced, then spin again to the green, Woods punctuating a kind of dangerous breaks by shouting a profanity that an on-course microphone caught.
Thing is, he received by way of it. Three birdies, two bogeys. He gave the patrons a fist pump on No. 16 after making a 30-footer for birdie. He had nothing however smiles strolling off the course. An evening of ice baths and remedy awaited, simply to coax his physique into deciding it might stroll 18 extra holes on Friday. He performs within the afternoon, when it’s purported to be very windy. A course that took about 3 inches of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday will additional dry out. It’s going to get tougher. It’s going to get harder.
The roar was again. So have been the patrons. So was Tiger Woods.
“This is only one round,” Woods mentioned. “We’ve got three more to go.”
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