Less than 14 months after a near-fatal car crash, Tiger Woods made his return to the hallowed grounds of Augusta National for the 86th Masters tournament.
The five-time green jacket winner didn’t disappoint. Woods finished 1-under 71 Thursday in his first competitive round of golf since he nearly lost his right leg in the horrific accident. Woods looked comfortable through 18 holes, despite nursing a small limp.
But will he be able to do it again on Day 2? And even then, is there the slightest chance he might contend? Or possibly … win a sixth green jacket?
Korean golfer Sungjae Im is currently atop the leaderboard at 5-under. Woods is currently tied for 11th place as the first round winds down.
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TIGER TRACKER:Follow Tiger Woods shot-by-shot Thursday at the 2022 Masters
Sungjae Im leads after first round
Korean golfer Sungjae Im landed on top of the leaderboard after shooting a 5-under 67 during the first round of the Masters on Thursday, with one eagle, five birdies and two bogeys.
“I think the key to my good round today was getting off to a hot start. I birdied the first three holes and I got into a rhythm,” Im said afterwards.
Cameron Smith is in second place after finishing 4-under.
Dustin Johnson, Cameron Smith, Sungjae Im tied for first place
The top 3 finishers at the 2020 Masters are now tied atop the leaderboard. Sungjae Im joined co-leaders Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith after sinking an eagle on No. 13. They are all at 4-under.
Tiger finishes 1-under after first round
Tiger Woods ends his last hole of the day with one of his worst tee shots, this one went left from the jump into the trees. You’ve heard of the members bounce, but Tiger got a five-time champion’s break here. His ball ended up in a wet spot with casual water in mud, and he got relief into the second cut. After taking his drop, he did well to advance his ball up the fairway and hit a beauty, finding the green and spinning it back to leave, you guessed it, a par save from inside 10 feet. He’s 1-under after the first round.
— Adam Woodard, Golfweek
Tiger holds for another par
On the par-4 17th, Tiger Woods left himself a decent shot at a birdie that would’ve been his second in a row, but he left the putt short and had to two-putt for par. His tee shot had plenty of pace, but found the rough. In the end, Tiger heads to his final hole of the round in decent shape.
Elsewhere, Dustin Johnson has posted two birdies through his first seven holes, putting him in an early tie for sixth place.
A fist pump on 16
Tiger Woods sank a birdie putt after his tee shot on the par-3 16th landed within 30 feet. It put him at 1-under for the day, despite missing nine greens in regulation.
The putt prompted Woods to celebrate with one of his customary fist pumps as he now sits in a tie for eighth place, five strokes off the lead.
Tiger still even
At No. 15, Tiger Woods’ drive looked good but it ran just a little too far left and rolled into the patrons off the fairway. His second shot stayed left and again he found the patrons.
With 123 yards to the hole, Tiger found the middle of the green and spun it back a bit, leaving 31 feet for birdie. His birdie try was on the right path, but he left it just a touch short, forcing the two-putt par.
Battle at the top
Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im are duking it out atop the leaderboard, though both are on opposite ends of the course. Im has posted a blazing hot front nine, birdieing in four of his first seven holes. His latest came on No. 7. And with pars on Nos. 4, 5 and 6, he’s sitting in second place at 4-under.
Smith, however, has dropped in consecutive birdies at Nos. 14, 15 and to elevate him to 6-under par, and sole possession of a two-stroke lead.
All the more impressive, considering he opened the round with a double bogey.
After getting himself into trouble, landing in the pine straw after a wild tee shot, he did this to put himself in position to save par.
He would still drop a stroke, though, after his up-and-down chip carried too much steam and went past the pin and a two-putt bogey dropped him to even par.
Elsewhere, Cameron Smith’s birdie at No. 14 made him the first player to get to 4-under, which put him in sole possession of the lead. He leads five others tied for second at 3-under.
AUGUSTA, Ga. — If Joaquín Niemann does this again, people may stop believing him when he tells them to get out of the way.
Niemann thought his tee shot at No. 13 had gone awry, and could be heard yelling “Fore!” on the webcast.
Only problem was, his tee shot was pretty much perfect.
“Oh. It’s fine,” one commentator said.
Niemann’s ball landed on the right side of the fairway, ahead of playing partners Tiger Woods and Louis Oosthuizen. He had a clear look at the green and reached it with his second shot, giving him an eagle opportunity on the par-5.
“You can’t yell fore and hit it in the fairway, Joaquín,” a commentator said. “Come on.”
He two-putted for a birdie.
— Nancy Armour
Tiger back in the red
Tiger Woods hit it 273 yards off the tee at No. 13 and found the fairway. With 213 yards to the pin, Tiger gave himself a great look at eagle, finding the green just 24 feet away.
He tried to swing the putt left-to-right but didn’t give it enough pace. After a tap-in birdie, he’s back in the red at 1-under.
— Adam Woodard, Golfweek
Another par for Woods
Tiger Woods converted his third consecutive par on No. 11 to stay even for the day. Things are going very differently for one of Woods’ playing partners, Louis Oosthuizen, who posted consecutive bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11. That means Woods is now due for a date at Amen Corner.
Meanwhile, Cameron Smith’s birdie on No. 12 tied him with Sungjae Im atop the leaderboard at 3-under par. Im birdied his first three holes and posted a par at No. 4.
Im on fire
No one has started better than Korean golfer Sungjae Im. Through three holes, he is the current leader at 3-under par after notching birdies on each hole. He takes a one-stroke lead over five players tied for second place at 2-under.
Im was the runner-up in the 2020 Masters, after he tied with Cameron Smith for second place (-3), just one stroke behind eventual champion, Dustin Johnson.
Logjam at the top
Just one hole after Joaquín Niemann climbed to the top with an eagle at No. 9, he dropped a stroke when his approach shot at No. 10 was well right and landed in the bunker. A bogey put Niemann at 2-under par, tying him with Cameron Smith, Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood.
Then, with a birdie on No. 13, Danny Willett joined the pack atop the leaderboard, as did American Scottie Scheffler with consecutive birdies on Nos. 8 and 9.
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, once again saved par in what has been a theme for his opening round. He remains at even-par, in a tie for 17th.
A new leader on an eagle at No. 9
Chilean golfer Joaquín Niemann, 23, jumped into the lead with a historic shot on No. 9. His approach shot off the tee, from around 104 yards, landed several feet beyond the pin, but the back spin helped the ball catch the slope that allowed it to track all the way into the hole.
It was the sixth eagle in Masters history at No. 9. Niemann, playing in Tiger’s group along with Louis Oosthuizen, now holds a one-stroke lead as he makes the turn.
After a tee shot that veered to the pine straw left of the fairway, Woods saved par to stay even.
First bogey on No. 8
Tiger Woods found his way back into the fairway on No. 8 but had to wait a good five minutes for the group ahead to finish on the green before hitting his approach shot, which he laid up, leaving 50 yards to the right.
His pitch came up woefully short, landing on the slope in front of the green and stopping short. From there his chip ran long and left, leaving a testy nine-footer to save par that didn’t drop. That marked Woods’ first bogey of the day to drop him to even-par.
— Adam Woodard, Golfweek
Tiger out of trouble on No. 7
Tiger Woods pulled out a 3-wood once again off the tee, this time at No. 7. It looked good early off the face but just kept moving right and got a big kick into the pine straw, his first missed fairway of the day.
Tiger punched out and did well to avoid the bunkers guarding the front of the green, leaving 20 yards to get up-and-down to stay in the red. Tiger pitched it within a couple of feet to tap-in and save par. He remains one stroke off the lead.
— Adam Woodard, Golfweek
Another highlight on No. 6
Getting to the second par-3 in three holes, Tiger Woods cut a beautiful shot with a six-iron to place his tee shot within three feet. He easily sank the birdie putt after his birdie chance on No. 5 lipped out. Six players are currently under par; Woods is one of them, at 1-under.
Elsewhere, after a double-bogey on the fifth, Woods’ playing partner, Louis Oosthuizen connected on a long birdie putt on No. 6 to bounce back.
Four holes, four pars, but a highlight on No. 5
Tiger Woods kept chugging along, but missed a chance to gain a stroke on the short par-3 fourth hole, the first par-3 hole of the course. He left the tee shot short and then tried for a long putt, but left that short, too, before he made par.
But, then on the fifth, Tiger’s approach off of the tee, from 218 yards out, was a thing of beauty. He placed it on the green about 10 feet from the pin. In position to get his first birdie, Woods, however, saw his putt lip just out before he converted his fifth-consecutive par to open the Masters.
Adam Scott had to play through the fans on No. 2.
The 2013 Masters champion’s second shot flew into the gallery on the left side of the green on the par-5. Fans were seated several rows deep in the area, and several of them had to pick up their chairs and clear out briefly while Scott first located his ball and then hit his shot.
His chip shot rolled 5 feet past the pin, and he made the putt for a birdie that put him at 1-under, one stroke behind leader Harry Higgs.
Tiger Woods made short putts to save par on the second and third holes.
Woods’ long birdie putt on the par-5 No. 2 rolled about six inches past the hole, and he tapped it in. On the par-4 No. 3, his tee shot was near perfect, in the fairway and giving him a straight shot to the pin.
But his second shot hit the bottom of the green and spun backward, stopping just off the putting surface. Woods got to within 4 feet, then rolled that in for par.
Off to a good start
Tiger Woods began his most improbable Masters yet by saving par with a 10-foot putt on the first hole.
Playing in his first significant competition since shattering his right leg in a February 2021 car accident, the five-time Masters champion is the main attraction at Augusta National. He drew a Sunday-type crowd — maybe even larger — on the first tee, and every inch of the fairway was lined with fans hoping to get a glimpse of him.
He drew big cheers when he was introduced, and loud applause as he walked off the tee box with Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquín Niemann. Woods didn’t show any reaction to the reception, just his shots.
He was right off the tee. landing just behind a large bunker. He grimaced as he watched the ball land, but the lie wasn’t as bad as it could have been, giving him an unobstructed shot to the green. His second shot landed on the front of the green but trickled off.
He chipped to within 10 feet, then made the putt to begin his round with a par. That left him just one stroke behind the leaders, a group that includes Padraig Harrington.
Out of the field
Paul Casey withdrew before the start of his first round Thursday, the first time he’ll miss the Masters since 2014.
Casey has been dealing with a back injury.
His best finish at Augusta National was a tie for fourth in 2016. He has four other top-10 finishes in 15 appearances at the Masters.
Tiger Woods sighting!
It’s really happening. Ahead of his 11:04 a.m. ET tee time, Tiger Woods was warming up on the practice range at Augusta National.
Wearing a pink — azalea pink? — shirt, black pants and black hat, the five-time Masters champion worked through the clubs in his bag, testing out his irons first before moving to his woods. He took only a few shots with each club, possibly trying to conserve his stamina for the round ahead.
The Masters is Woods’ first significant tournament since he shattered his right leg in a February 2021 car crash.
Like he’d never been away.
Welcome back, Padraig Harrington!
The three-time major champion, playing the Masters for the first time since 2015, was atop the leaderboard early Thursday after making birdies on Nos. 3 and 4.
Harrington’s best finish at Augusta National is a tie for fifth, which he did in both 2002 and 2008. He qualified for this year’s field after tying for fourth at last year’s PGA Championship.
J.J. Spaun, last player invited, off to rough start
J.J. Spaun was the last player invited to play in the Masters thanks to his victory at the Valero Texas Open in his 147th PGA Tour start.
Through four holes in the first round of the Masters, his first appearance in the tournament, the 31-year-old Spaun is at 3-over par. After parring the first two holes, Spaun had a double bogey on the third hole and bogey on the fourth.
How far did you hit it, Gary?
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The start of the 86th Masters had a new look.
Tom Watson made his debut as an honorary starter Thursday, joining Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus to hit the first shots of the tournament. Watson, a two-time Masters champion, was the last of the three to tee off.
“I want to say how honored I am to be with Gary and Jack,” Watson said. “I’ve watched this ceremony many times in the past with Arnie, Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson. To be a part of this thing, I’m truly humbled.”
Watson then readied to hit his first shot, asking Player how far he’d hit his ball.
“I could hear it land,” Player replied. “Not very far.”
The ceremonial tee shot began in 1963 and has become one of the most cherished traditions at the Masters. Fans get to Augusta National early so they can get a place around the 1st tee as soon as the course opens, hoping for a glimpse of golf’s greats.
Nicklaus, an 18-time major champion who holds the record with six Masters wins, joined Arnold Palmer as an honorary starter in 2010. Player, a three-time Masters champion, joined the two in 2012 and the trio shared the honors for five years before Palmer’s death.
Lee Elder joined Nicklaus and Watson last year, but poor health kept him from hitting a shot.
— Nancy Armour
Brennan: Just playing in this Masters is Tiger Woods’ crowning achievement
AUGUSTA, Ga. — One of the most enticing days in sports in a very long time dawns Thursday on the lush emerald fairways of Augusta National Golf Club. That is where a man who thought he might lose his leg or never walk again will begin one of the most improbable quests in sports history.
Ranked 973rd in the world, Tiger Woods, 46, is playing in the Masters, barring an overnight setback of some sort. It will have been 408 days since he wrecked his SUV and shattered his right leg on Feb. 23, 2021. A year ago right now, he was in the midst of three consecutive months of lying in a hospital bed.
What an incredible story this is, one for the ages, no matter how it plays out.
“It’s just truly amazing,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said Wednesday. “He is one of the most determined, dedicated athletes that I have ever seen in my life.”
— Christine Brennan
Hole locations for the first round
Today’s pin placements for each hole.
Weather delay at The Masters
The 2022 Masters won’t begin on time because of thunderstorms in the area, Augusta National Golf Club said in a news release. Gate openings and tee times will be delayed by 30 minutes. That means the first tee time will be at 8:30 a.m. ET, and the Honorary Starters Ceremony will be at 8:15 a.m.
Phil Mickelson declined invitation to this year’s Masters
AUGUSTA, Georgia — Phil Mickelson was not disinvited from the Masters, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley told the media Wednesday in his annual pre-tournament press conference. Ridley said the three-time Masters champion informed him via text message that he would not be competing in this year’s tournament.
Mickelson announced in February that he was taking a leave of absence from golf. He last competed in January at the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open.
Mickelson finds himself in the midst of a heated controversy for derogatory comments he made about the PGA Tour and its commissioner, Jay Monahan, as well as the Saudi Arabian regime that’s backing a breakaway league led by Greg Norman.
“I know I have not been my best,” Mickelson wrote in February, “and desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be.”
— Beth Ann Nichols, Golfweek
No problems for Tiger in Wednesday’s practice round
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Under a bruised sky with mist in the air, Tiger Woods completed his Masters Boot Camp on Wednesday morning with another nine holes at Augusta National Golf Club.
“Everything’s good, brother,” Woods said as he walked into the clubhouse following his round on the back nine and 20 minutes’ worth of work on the practice putting green.
Everything’s looked fine since the five-time Masters champion started his march to the 86th Masters. There haven’t been any missteps or mishaps since he arrived at Augusta National on Sunday and played the back nine by himself.
Counting last Tuesday’s 27 holes, he’s put in 54 holes at Augusta National. And this comes on the heels of simulating a 72-hole tournament by walking and playing 18 holes four consecutive days at The Medalist near his home in Jupiter Island, Florida.
So, come Thursday, 508 days after playing in his last official tournament – a tie for 38th in the November 2020 Masters – Woods will head to the first tee Thursday for his 10:34 tee time with Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann.
— Steve DiMeglio, Golfweek
Tiger Woods a betting favorite at Masters, but still a longshot to win
Tiger Woods’ decision to return to competitive golf — a Masters appearance 14 months after his harrowing car crash — stirred bettors to support a longshot sixth title for the golfing great.
Tipico Sportsbook established Woods, 46, as a 50/1 selection to win the tournament — a position behind more than 20 others.
Other shops posted far less hopeful figures.
While FanDuel Sportsbook also set Woods’ odds of winning the Masters at 50/1, the Las Vegas SuperBook listed him at 60/1.
The Masters favorite at Tipico is Jon Rahm (+1000), followed by the formidable field of Justin Thomas (+1300), Cameron Smith and Scottie Scheffler (+1500).
The group gets crowded with Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy all listed at 20/1.
— Lance Pugmire
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