Tiger Woods, as we’ve come to expect during his last few competitions, flew under the radar to begin his Masters run on Thursday.
To be fair, the man once heralded as the greatest golfer ever was never really big on starting off with a bang in this tournament. Only once in 17 opening rounds at Augusta National has he ever even broken 70. Back then, though, the doubting eyes of the world weren’t trained on Woods – waiting to see if he could finally earn back his place atop the golf universe, even if only for one outing.
Finishing the day six shots behind the leader, Rory McIlroy, Woods appeared to be at ease regarding his placing:
"I'm right there in the ballgame," Woods said after a 1-under-par 71 performance. "I'm only six back. We've got a lot of golf ahead of us."
With four Masters championships to his name, the most polarizing golfer in the world understands that this tournament is a marathon, not a sprint. While he’s eager to put an end to his five-year break between green jackets, he knows that he can’t get flustered by a less-than-stellar first day.
Woods’ day featured three birdies countered by bogeys at the Nos. 10 and 11, and then quite a few par putts that he would likely love to take a mulligan on. The worst part of the day, though, was the par-4 18th. Shortly after getting a pretty stellar approach that came within eight feet of the hole, he watched a birdie completely miss the mark.
“Just pulled it,” Woods said of the incident.
"Today was one of those days where I hit beautiful putts," he said. "I was hitting my lines and they just weren't going in. That's fine. It's not like I was pulling it or blocking it or something like that."
After his round, Woods retreated to the practice green for more work with coach, Sean Foley.