AUGUSTA, Ga. – The scene was unlike any that has ever taken place at Augusta National.
Tiger Woods’ Masters opening round start time was still about 15 minutes away and there was the usual large gathering under the famous oak tree next to the clubhouse.
Among the large crowds milling around under these large hanging branches, which provide a huge shade on a sunny Georgia day, were members of the Augusta National in their green jackets – among them NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Peyton Manning, another high-profile member of the club, wasn’t far behind. Neither were six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus and his wife Barbara.
As the clock neared Wood’s 11:04 tee time, the scattered group of people, unconsciously and without prompting by choreography, began to form a long human tunnel from the clubhouse to the first tee.
At 10:56 the conversation ended and under that tree there was a quiet anticipation.
A minute later, Woods entered, followed by his caddy, Joe LaCava. He emerged to applause in his bright pink golf shirt, and as he arrived at the beginning of this improvised human tunnel, he looked like an NFL player about to step onto the field for a big game.
Woods paused for a moment, closed his eyes for a few seconds, took a deep breath and blankly drove past the crowd on his way to the first tee.
Get live updates from Tiger Woods’ return to the 2022 Masters with up-to-the-minute coverage from The New York Post.
And there it was: Less than 14 months after the car accident that nearly took his leg, Woods was playing tournament golf again. Not just tournament golf, but a Masters where he walked one of the hilliest golf courses in search of a record-breaking sixth green jacket.
When his day ended at 4:25 pm after a five-hour, 21-minute round, Woods was at 1-under par after 71 shooting and was three shots behind Australia’s Cam Smith, who led 4-under Time in a tie for the ninth.
All in all – still with his right leg so mangled doctors thought it might need to be amputated, and having not competed in a tournament in 17 months (the Masters in November 2020) – it was not a bad day for him at all.
If you told Woods at breakfast Thursday morning that he was going to shoot a 71, I’m sure he would have signed up for it.
Woods’ day began with a skillful par save on the first hole, where his drive shot missed the bunker on the right side of the fairway and his approach shot landed just short of the green.
Woods failed to birdie the par 5 second hole, where a par feels like a bogey.
His first birdie of the day came on the par 3 hole, putting him 1 under par and one shot off the lead at the time. It was a truly unfathomable sight: Woods’ name on a Masters leaderboard so soon after that grisly crash.
Woods bogeyed the par 5 eighth, another birdie hole, with a sloppy third shot to fall back to an even par.
He returned to the 1-under with a birdie on the par-5 13th hole, where he hit the green with two and two putts.
Woods returned it quickly, however, with a bogey on 14, where he missed a 4-foot par putt after apparently deflecting a big number with a brilliant approach shot from the left pine straw and the trees just beyond the back of the green.
So he teeed off on the 15, the last par 5 on the map, with an even par.
Woods got himself into trouble again on the 15th when his second shot to the left of the fairway landed on a wet, bare lie, forcing him to take a draw approach to the green.
He would make two putts to save par, but a birdie on the four par 5s is not a recipe for success. One of the tenets of winning a Masters is cultivating the par 5s, something Woods knows as well as anyone because that’s what he did for a living during his winning years.
Woods showed his most emotional emotion of the round on the par-3 16th, where he dumped a long birdie putt and pumped his right fist as he got back to 1-under for the round on the 17th tee.
That excitement seemed short-lived as Woods slammed his tee shot on 18 into the left trees, but he got a big break when his ball bounced out of the trees into an opening. He was then relieved of a patchy spot due to occasional water and hit his second shot just short of the green.
From there, he threw his third shot to within six feet of the pin and made the sure-par putt.
Woods hit 8 of 14 fairways and 8 of 18 greens and took 27 putts on the round.
Smith double-bogeyed the first hole and went onto a heater from there…until he got to the 18th hole, which he double-bogeed. He had played 8-under par from the second to the 17th hole before hiccupping on the last hole.
Woods’ playing partner Joaquin Niemann shot a 3-under par 69 and Louis Oosthuizen shot a 4-over par 76.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/07/tiger-woods-has-impressive-2022-masters-return/ Tiger Woods has an impressive return to Masters 2022