AUGUSTA, Ga. – The sun came out of a narrow opening in a cloudy sky as Tiger Woods approached his first career in the Masters Championship on Thursday. He threw the field in a kind of brilliance. But the focus was not needed.
It was already felt that all eyes on the Augusta National Golf Club land – as well as millions of others around the world – were turning to Woods, who was making an impossible return to elite golf after a terrifying and life-threatening 408 days. single-vehicle car accident.
About five hours later, Woods walked up 18th Street amid loud applause, not only in recognition of the success of his return to competitive golf, but also in acknowledging that he had done so on a commendable level.
At 17 months into his first professional career, Woods fired a 71-yard touchdown pass with three birdies and two bogeymen. It certainly looked rusty, and many of the usually reliable iron shots were missing from the easily accessible greens. He got out of his shirt with his driver and played Augusta National’s par 3 under two and 5 in the same pair, the opposite of his usual pattern.
But Woods, always his greatest strength, repeatedly saved him. He came out of the 18th hole with a wider smile than the one that shone briefly in the first hole.
Then he thanked Woods, and his usual competitive self. As the tournament progressed he was already eager to move up in the standings.
“I’m where I need to be,” Woods said, tied for 10th place with his position (Sungjae Im led the field on Thursday with a 67 under five). Among the thousands of fans who approached every hole he played, he said: “The place was electric. I’m very lucky to have this opportunity to play and to have this kind of reception. “
Although Woods sometimes saw a little practice outside, it seemed hard enough to deal with the need to walk up and down many of the hills of Augusta National. However, there were signs that he was making concessions to his surgically reconstructed right leg and foot, which now holds the rod, plates, and screws together. Rarely, for example, did he occupy himself behind his golf ball, as he once did to read putts near the level of the playing field.
In the ninth hole, when Woods left the tee, he shivered sharply as he landed his awkward right leg. He grimaced at each of the next steps. As Woods took a stronger step back, he became more and more lame as the days went on.
“Walking is not easy; it’s hard, ”he said. “It’s going to be hard for my whole life. That’s the way it is, but I’m capable of it. “
Not accepting a partial victory, Woods, however, admitted that being at Augusta National and making 18 holes was enough of a victory. Asked why, he said, “If you could see how my legs look where they are now; getting there is not an easy task.”
Woods started the day with a safe first career run, where he met with enthusiastic spirits. After bending his hat, he made his way to the first street. But the approach shot, like many he hit on Thursday, fell short. After a mediocre pitch on the green, Woods faced a type of putt that the golfer didn’t have on the first green: a 12-foot slip break. But it sank to the ground, and the gallery around the green rumbled.
It wasn’t so sharp 5 in the second hole, usually Woods was almost a bird, if not an eagle, it was almost a place to tell with a bird. But a tee shot from below led to a rescue, an unmarked chip and a pair of two putts. The other three pairs started when Woods settled in at a comfortable pace. Then, hitting a tee raised in the sixth hole of par-3, Woods deftly pushed his shirt into the air. A few seconds later, he fell into the green and stopped about 18 inches from the hole to make an easy bird.
Fans of the huge white markers everywhere saw the Augusta National pitches show Woods ’name appearing at the top of the standings under a pair. More roars.
Leaving the sixth green, Woods shrugged his shoulders slyly and covered his mouth, barely hiding a smile. Perhaps returning to the tournament and competing for the Masters lead within an hour seemed a long way off, too.
But, starting from the seventh hole, the mistakes repeatedly confused Woods to keep up with the leaders. In five holes, from seventh to 11th, he wasted quality tee shots with approach shots when he lost the green.
Woods saved a pair on the seventh green with a nervy putt, but didn’t come close to sinking a pair of 8-footers into the eighth hole par-5 and came out with the first bogey of the round.
In the ninth hole, he slipped into the trees on the left side of the street before leaving his record in another short approach, though he saved it again with a clutch putt. He did the same when he approached the 11th green area when he bent down. In the 12th small, treacherous hole he had a pair of two putt pairs, then he made a birdie in the 5th par-13. in the hole, after two blows to reach the green area. This led to an underdog for the turn.
Another walk into the woods in the next hole brought out the old Tiger, who hit the ball hard to get over some mammoth pines that were on their way to the green. His putter, however, could not be saved, and he fell on the same day with a bogey.
Another lost street led to a pair of regular holes in par-5 hole 15, but Woods, as he has done many times in the past, saved a little drama for par-3 hole 16 when he sank a 23-foot winding putt uphill. for the bird. This sequence also prompted Woods ’first animated fist of the day.
A turn in the 60s didn’t go unnoticed, but Woods only managed a couple of regulars in the 17th hole. In the waiting hole, another misguided driver came out for a moment. But the round ended in bloom, sinking an 8-foot putt and securing a unique turn.
Leaving the final hole, Woods, the five-time Masters champion, seemed to be almost giving a warning.
“We have a long way to go,” he said of the tournament. “This golf course is going to change dramatically: cooler, drier, windier. It’s going to be a lot harder. ‘