Sports

Tiger Woods Had a Rollercoaster First Round at the Masters

He’s back at Augusta—doing some spectacular vintage stuff and some bad new stuff.

Tiger Woods looking downward, thoughtful, a little dejected
Tiger Woods walking to the 13th green during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday, in Augusta, Georgia. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

In his first professional event since driving his SUV off a cliff in Los Angeles last February, Tiger Woods shot a 1-under-par 71 on Augusta National on Thursday. He is currently, as of 5:13 p.m. Eastern Time, in a tie for 11th place at the Masters.

OK!

Tiger managed to score despite having a game off the tee that was roughly the equivalent of … mine? We’re talking weak, spinny, wipey fades with the driver that barely went anywhere.

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In some cases this helped him. On the first tee, Tiger’s ball was heading just right of the fairway, where two bunkers are well-placed to gobble up anything going their way. Tiger’s ball, however, landed in the fairway short of the bunkers. He had hit his driver a mere 264 yards.

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After playing defensively for most of the first few holes, Woods’ approach on the meaty fifth put him in good position for his first birdie. His birdie putt appeared so certain to land in the dead center of the cup that he made an early walk for it, only to face a harsh lip-out. In my opinion, this putt went in, and he actually shot 70.

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But look at this on the par-3 sixth hole! Hot dog!

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Following that birdie and a nice par save on the seventh hole, Woods was at 1-under and just one shot back of the lead. At this point, it seemed only logical that every other player in the field quit, because Tiger was certain to not just beat them, but humiliate them.

Then things took a stressful turn that set the timbre for the rest of the round. On the scorable par-5 eighth hole, Woods had only 50 yards left for his third shot.* He hit his pitch short of the green, however, then gunned the subsequent short chip way past the hole. He ended up with a bogey six on the hole.

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On the ninth hole, meanwhile, Woods yanked his tee shot left into the trees and had to scramble for his par—but he did get it. Here is our man telling his second shot on the ninth to “FUCK OFF.” Tiger is definitely BACK, in that regard.

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He continued on to grind out pars on 10, 11, and 12; sank a birdie on the easy par-5 13th, and then unleashed what appeared to be a toe-y chunk with the driver on 14, one of the worst swings of his career. Oh, Tiger!

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Having precisely zero to work with from the trees, he then did this, with a Golden Age of Tiger–era recoil.

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A nice lil’ birdie on 16 got him back to 1-under.

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On 18, Woods yanked another drive abysmally left and into a tree, of which there are many on the left side of the chute. It only went 193 yards, about what a normal mid-iron shot for him would fly. After knocking his second shot up toward the green, he then hit a tremendous pitch to about 8 feet from the hole, and made the par putt.

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I don’t know if he can keep this up. Each day the pain in his leg—and his back, which he was clutching a couple of times today; yikes!—will be a little worse. He’ll be a little more gassed. He had to rely on the putter for a number of clutch saves. And without distance, he’ll struggle to create a lot of the birdie opportunities he’ll need to move up the leaderboard. Then there’s another factor that has nothing to do with his body, or the rust in his game: The wind is expected to kick up to 20 to 30 miles per hour—with gusts—in the afternoon wave on Friday, of which Woods is a part. Playing in 20 to 30 mile-per-hour wind, at Augusta, in your first tournament since November 2020, will be taxing.

So allow us to lower expectations (he’s going to win): Who cares how the rest of the week goes? Tiger Woods, a 46-year-old whose back and legs are made of screws, scrap wood, and certain medical glues, shot an under-par round at the Masters little more than a year after he almost died in a car accident. That is just awesome. He is crazy! It’s fantastic.

Correction, April 8, 2022: This article originally misidentified the par-5 eighth hole as the sixth.

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