Augusta, Ga. – He walked among the ajals with only a hint of a bang.
He couldn’t bend enough to read the Augusta National’s tactical green vegetable putt.
Otherwise, there was nothing to indicate that Tiger Woods lost his right leg in the wreckage of a wrecked car about 14 months ago.
Woods’ biggest comeback is still the most exciting start to Thursday in the opening round of the Masters.
With a huge gallery of stormy clouds cheering his every move through the bright spring sunshine, Woods looked every bit like the guy who won five green jackets and repeatedly denied adversity.
His first-round score of 1-under 71 put him within the screaming distance of Australian leader Cameron Smith, who finished 4-under.
Canadian Mackenzie Hughes finished in 1-over and 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir was 74 in 2-overs. Corey was still on the Converse course when Woods finished.
From the fall of her marriage to multiple surgeries, Woods has always found a way back.
She’s doing it again.
A tap-in birdie at No. 6 sent the patrons into a frenzy. A sloping bogie in Par-5 VIII brought some howls, but Woods’ great play around the greens kept him mixed up as he reached the end of a round that no one expected.
There is no one but Woods, that is.
When he decided to make the Masters his first competitive tournament since that horrific car accident in February 2021, he made every goal clear to win, with doctors saying he might need to amputate his right leg.
Woods was level 1-under after another birdie in the 13th, just two strokes from the lead at mid-afternoon.
Woods started the round with five straight purses – he missed a birdie on the hard No. 5 hole when a 15-foot putty lip was out – before giving a vintage tee shot in par-3 sixth.
The ball climbed a ridge over the green and stopped 2 feet away from the flag, putting Woods in a game that put him in the red for the first time.
A wedge shot and the wrong chip leads to a bogie at No. 8, a hole that should be a chance for a major bird. But Woods bounced back with a tactical downhill from 8 feet to equalize at No. 9.
Woods insisted he still had the perfect touch on his hands that helped him win 15 major titles – the first of which was at this venue 25 years ago – and captured the record of 82 wins on the PGA Tour.
Starting at No. 7, he misses the green in five straight holes, but continues to recover with bright wedges and clutch put.
Yes, there is a long way to go.
Still, it seemed that Woods was already a winner.
Wearing a pink shirt and black pants, Woods was greeted with thunderous applause when his name was announced in a huge gallery around the first tee.
Woods failed to make strong contact with his first shot: a 264-yard drive that faded behind a bunker to the right of the fairway. His gaze rolled to the front of the green, but he sank a 10-foot put to protect the equalizer, which brought another huge roar from the patrons.
Woods walked slowly, knowing that he could cope with four difficult days on an extremely hilly road if he could make the cut.
He couldn’t bend enough to read Put, forcing him to rely more on Cady Joe Lacavar to help him judge Augusta National’s treacherous greens.
His career was threatened after the wreckage of the car confined him to a hospital bed for three months. Woods remained out of the public eye until last November, when he posted a video of himself swinging a club with a simple message, “Progress is being made.”
The only tournament she had in 508 days when she last competed was in December for a fun-filled event where she rode a cart and teamed up with her 13-year-old son Charlie.
Despite the long cuts and the obvious physical limitations with the screws and rods still holding the bones of his right leg, Woods clearly thinks he can win his sixth green jacket.
At 46, he will be the oldest Masters champion in three weeks ahead of Jack Nicholas.
The biggest question is how the woods hold 18 holes for four days straight. She walked 18 holes last week – her first big test – during a scouting trip with her son.
Louis Ostuizen and Joaquin Niemann departed at 11:04 a.m. Thursday – 30 minutes behind schedule.
“I can hit it right,” Woods said on Tuesday. “Walking is the hardest part. It’s usually not easy to get started. Now that my legs are in that position, it gets harder.
“Seventy-two holes is a long road and it’s going to be a tough challenge,” he added. “And a challenge for which I am ready.”