Trademark Woods short game magic sees him cover 13 holes in one-under

Mark McGowan

Tiger Woods chipping on the 12th hole on day one of the 2024 Masters (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Mark McGowan

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Despite playing just five rounds since limping away from Augusta National last year – and four of those came in the Hero World Challenge in December – Tiger Woods impressed on day one of the Masters, completing 13 holes in one-under to lie provisionally tied for 17th as play was suspended for darkness.

A two-and-a-half hour weather delay meant that Woods – in one of the last groups to get their opening rounds underway – was never going to get much more than two thirds of the round completed, but as 30mph winds ensured that the heavy overnight rain wouldn’t leave Augusta National ripe for the picking, the five-time Masters champion showed that there is still more than a little roar left in his windpipe.

But even though he’s the most successful Masters player since Jack Nicklaus, when his birdie putt on the first found the bottom of the cup, it was the first time since 1999 that he’d begun the tournament with a birdie on ‘Tea Olive’, though he did birdie his opening hole in 2020 when the split-tee start saw him begin on number 10.

It was far from vintage Woods, however, and he was forced to play a left-handed recovery shot on two and overshot the green with his third, making an excellent par save after being faced with a tricky downhill chip.

“I don’t remember the other time, to be honest with you,” Woods said when he was informed of the significance of his opening birdie afterwards. “Yeah, I hit a nice 3-wood off of 1, hit a nice little 8-iron in there about 10, 12 feet and made the putt. Then quickly hit the next one almost in a hazard, played lefty, got out there, and boy, I hit a nice pitch from over the green. That was nice.”

He missed a birdie chance on three, and then gave the shot back on four after airmailing the green with his tee shot.

But that would be the only bogey of the 13 holes, with his legendary short game utilised in expert fashion for a sand save on seven, before a two-putt birdie on eight moved him back into red figures. Another sublime sand save on 10, was followed by a delicious chip on 11 that spun viciously and almost dropped for birdie, and then he got up-and-down from over the back of 12.

Darkness had rapidly begun to descend at this stage, and the hooter sounded as he was on his way to the 13th green where a downhill 20-footer awaited, and though he could have opted to mark and return on freshly rolled greens in the morning, he chose to finish the hole, tapping in for par after the putt drifted right and he now faces a quick turnaround and is due on the 14th tee at 7:50am (12:50pm Irish time).

As always, how Woods was moving, how he was swinging the club and how his body was holding up was under scrutiny and all aspects passed the eye test on day one. But recovery and wear and tear over the course of a tournament have proven difficult in the past, and the shortened recuperation period, combined with the prospect of having to play 23 holes on Friday will be the acid test as he looks to make his 24th consecutive cut at Augusta National which would set a new record, eclipsing the 23 mark he currently shares with Gary Player and Fred Couples.

“The wind was all over the place,” Woods said. “It was one of the most tricky days that I’ve ever been a part of. It was hard to get a beat not only on what direction it was going, but the intensity, and it kept switching all over the place, and then you had to — the timing was affecting putts on the greens. It was a very difficult day.”

He admitted that he’d have work to do to ensure that his body is ready to handle the stresses of day two, but feels that the short gap between the completion of round one and getting round two underway can work in his favour.

“It was nice to finish up 13,” he said. “We’re going to warm up and just kind of head down there and start our round, and I think the flow would be pretty much almost like between 20 and 30 minutes in between rounds, so it’ll be a natural flow from the finish of the first round and continuation of the second.”

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