AUGUSTA, GEORGIA – After all the anticipation, the weeks of speculation and the frenzied daydreams about what Tiger Woods might do in this Masters, the reality is the day belonged to Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and others.
For Woods, a first-round 1-over-par 73 had a distinctive could-have-been-better, could-have-been-worse feel to it.
For a time, it appeared Woods was headed toward an inglorious return to major championship golf, slow-bleeding bogeys across his scorecard as thousands followed him waiting to see magic.
Instead, they saw him bounce a shot off a spectator’s chair and tape together a round when it was on the verge of coming apart.
A pair of back-nine birdies took the sting out of an aggravating start and allowed Woods to head into the second round still in position to be a factor on the weekend.
“I got myself back in this tournament, and I could have easily let it slip away,” Woods said. “And I fought hard to get it back in there, and I’m back in this championship. There’s a lot of holes to be played.”
It was a gorgeous day at Augusta National with barely a breeze but it was a challenging day to score. The combination of firm and dangerously quick greens along with some edgy pin positions made it difficult for players to be aggressive.
Woods was a perfect example, finding himself playing defense on the greens, especially on the front nine because he kept leaving himself downhill putts.
“I told that to (caddie) Joey (LaCava), can I please have an uphill putt here? He said you did on No. 1. Yeah, from about 150 feet,” Woods said.
“I kept leaving myself above the hole and giving myself defensive putts. But that’s the nature of this golf course. A 6-footer downhill is so much more difficult than a 15- or 20-footer uphill.”
The biggest frustration of Woods’ first round was his failure to birdie any of the par-5s, wasting good tee shots at the second, where he missed the green with a 6-iron, and the eighth, where he pulled a 2-iron second shot. It was only the fifth time in 79 Masters rounds that Woods failed to birdie a par-5.
After chunking his 9-iron shot into the water at the par-3 12th and holing a 15-foot bogey putt, Woods figured he could get two strokes back with birdies at the 13th and 15th holes. Instead, he birdied Nos. 14 and 16 to slide in with a 73.
“(Shooting) 73 is fine,” Woods said. “By the end of the week this will be a pretty packed leaderboard the way the golf course is set up. They have it right where they want it. It’s really hard to run away from it, but it’s also really easy to lose it out there. By the end of the week there will be a bunch of guys with a chance to win this tournament.”