Tiger’s back: Woods thrills patrons with Masters comeback

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — He is back. Tiger Woods is playing the first round of the Masters on Thursday. Walking with the slightest hint of a limp after a devastating car wreck that could’ve cost him his right leg, Woods sent the Masters patrons into an uproar with his solid play in the opening round.

He shook hands with his playing partners, Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann. He then took the driver from his bag, removed the head cover — a plush tiger, of course — and went through the final stages of limbering up.

Patrons lined both sides of the first fairway and surrounded the tee box, trying desperately to just capture a glimpse of the moment. Woods was first to play in the group, tugged at the bill of his cap when he was introduced to acknowledge the fans, then stepped to the ball.

He didn’t appear to like the outcome, grimacing a bit as he watched the ball fly toward a bunker along the right side of the fairway.

After five straight pars, Woods delivered a vintage tee shot at the par-3 sixth. The ball stopped 2 feet short of the flag for the tap-in birdie. Woods had a sloppy bogey at No. 8, but he bounced back with a birdie at the 13th that put him solidly in contention as he approaches the end of his round.

The sun is out at Augusta National. The wind is also up.

Just as forecasters said would be the case, morning clouds and a bit of drizzle blew away from the Masters early in the opening round of the tournament on Thursday.

But with the sun also came wind, perhaps some of the stiffest breezes yet this week.

“We all know how difficult the golf course is when the wind blows here," two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal said. “And it’s true that the greens are soft and that will make things a little bit easier, but I think Augusta is playing tough."

Woods suffered leg injuries in a one-vehicle rollover in the Los Angeles area on February 23, 2021. According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Woods had to be extricated from the vehicle, and taken to a hospital where he underwent surgery.

At the time, Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera.

Tiger Woods has won five Masters. Which was the most significant. AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson conducted a survey of 25 people from the media, including a few players and caddies. The result was resounding. This is the 25-year anniversary of his 12-shot victory in 1997 for his first green jacket. That received 60% of the votes. It was followed by his 2019 victory when he returned from four surgeries on his lower back. Coming in third was his 2001 win that gave him a clean sweep of the majors. His other wins in 2002 and 2005 received no votes.