Tiger Woods made an encouraging start to the Masters by playing the first nine holes in one under, but things could have been much better for the 14-time major champion as he struggled with the putter early on.
Woods, chasing a fifth win at Augusta and his first since 2005, drove the ball well for the most part on the front nine and picked up shots at the second and ninth, either side of a solitary bogey at the fifth.
However, he missed multiple putts inside 10 feet, with presentable birdie chances going begging on the sixth and eighth after he had failed to save par from six feet on the fifth following a rare loose tee shot.
Woods, met with a deafening roar of approval at his first-tee introduction on Thursday, erased any jitters by opening with a perfect drive to draw an even bigger response as he began the 2019 tournament on a course where he has thrilled fans for more than two decades.
He teed off just after 11am local time in almost perfect scoring conditions — virtually no breeze and warm temperatures — grouped with Haotong Li and Jon Rahm.
A front-9 35 for @TigerWoods.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 11, 2019
Tournament favourite Rory McIlroy was in the group behind Woods and completed the front nine in level par, twice bouncing back from bogeys with birdies.
The early clubhouse leader was South Africa’s Justin Harding, a Masters debutant, who shot 69 despite bogeying the last.
That put Harding one clear of Corey Conners, who only made it into the year’s first major by winning as a Monday qualifier last week at the Texas Open. Playing in the first group on Thursday, Conners also bogeyed the last in a round of 70.