Tuesday, 25 September, 2018

Spieth leads after Masters' first day

Tiger Woods watches his drive on the first hole during a practice round Wednesday for the Masters. It has been 13 years since Woods last won the event The Latest: Woods driving well, birdies 3rd hole at Masters
Eugene Bates | 07 April, 2018, 00:56

Four-time Masters victor Tiger Woods finished the opening round one-over after hitting a 73 on his return to the majors.

He was joined by Masters newcomer Li Haotong of China, former British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden, Spain's Rafael Cabrera Bello, Canadian Adam Hadwin and Americans Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

Woods didn't blame nerves for his struggles in his major comeback moment, which saw holes lined 10-deep with spectators, who cheered him at every tee and became so quiet he could hear birds chirp when setting up to putt.

Spieth could have built a bigger margin except for his wild tee shot to the left and into the trees on No. 18. But the hole, one of two reachable par 5s on the back nine, is an opportunity.

And, finally, a one-putt from 10 feet for a 13 on No. 15 that sent golf writers scurrying to the internet to find out what to call it. His approach shot at No. 7 checked up, spun left and landed a few feet away for another short birdie. "It relaxes you, you can play more relaxed; you don't have to chase".

Woods wasn't almost as dialed in.

The 24-year-old is refusing to look too far ahead of himself after setting an early marker, but recognises he is now in control of his own Masters destiny. He also knows it could have been worse, especially after dumping a 9-iron into Rae's Creek on the par-3 12th hole and having to make a 15-foot putt for bogey and avoid falling to 4-over par. But one of them is Woods, who rallied from that daunting deficit to beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff for his last Masters title in 2005. He followed it up with two more birdies overshadowed by four bogeys to finish the day 1-under and tied for 16th.

Woods gave strokes back on the next two holes and was 1 over at the turn.

This group produced tremendous excitement for us yesterday, with Leishman hanging on to land our bet despite looking home and hosed with four holes to play.

He was good to go for Thursday, shooting a -4 with a 68, which was quite impressive given the circumstances. He chipped out and missed a 20-footer for par. He made bogey from the bunker on No.4. He putted past the hole and left the comebacker on the left edge. After being sidelined for a little more than a year, Hogan returned at age 37 and won the last six of his nine majors, including two Masters. When he charged to victory a year ago, he said - over the course of four days - that one reason he could contend was that he had come to accept that.

Her name is Azalea - yes, after the bushes that flower on the back nine of Augusta National - and she'll be a constant reminder of the greatest triumph of his golfing career.

The low point came last summer when he was arrested on a DUI charge in Florida after police found him asleep behind the wheel, his auto parked awkwardly on the side of the road with the engine still running.

"I feel like the game's in good form".

He has had an encouraging season to date, finishing joint second and tied fifth in his most recent PGA Tour events last month. Garcia often pouted when things went bad, and took to blaming unknown outside factors for his failures to capitalize in the major championships.

He drove the ball well to open Thursday's first round, but needed 11 puts through the first six holes.

Spieth added the Claret Jug past year for his third major crown, a haul that also includes the 2015 US Open, and said he felt the Sunday tension on Thursday but responded with a run of five straight birdies on the back nine before a closing bogey.

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