Tiger Woods, the finest golfer of our time, has officially returned to competition, and to the Masters Tournament, the site of some of his most stunning achievements.
Perhaps none have been as remarkable as simply playing 18 holes on Thursday, nearly 14 months after his devastating single-vehicle car crash. And while Woods did not take the lead or break any records, he did get around successfully to shoot a one-under-par 71 and wind up tied for 10th, four strokes off the lead of Sungjae Im. It was a more-than-decent round by almost any measure.
But on Friday, he has to do it again. The biggest question is whether the long walk — five and a half hours on his feet — will have aggravated his leg injury. On Thursday, Woods limited his crouches to line up putts and appeared to wince when he took a bad step.
“The walking is not easy; it’s difficult,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult for the rest of my life. That’s just the way it is, but I’m able to do it.” He expected to ice himself overnight, he said.
As for his play, he found the trees more often than he would have liked on tee shots, and came up short repeatedly on his approaches. Some fine putting bailed him out, but improvement in both those areas would be welcome.
Still, it seems indisputable that Woods didn’t hurt whatever chances he has to win. Oddsmakers agreed, dropping his price from 50-1 to 40-1.
Woods tees off at 1:41 p.m. Eastern time with the same playing partners, Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann. TV coverage begins at 3 p.m. on ESPN in the United States and on TSN in Canada. Streaming is available all day on ESPN+, Paramount+ and Masters.com.
While Woods’s fans will be watching for areas of concern, they will also be hoping for and savoring the moments of greatness. On Thursday, at the par-3 sixth, Woods drilled his tee shot to three feet away, and his birdie took him to within a stroke of the early lead.
The roar from the crowd, and the standing ovation he received at day’s end on 18, along with the throngs that followed his every move, were a reminder that Tigermania is ready to explode again if it gets the chance.