Thursday At The Masters: Im Leads, Woods Finishes In The Red
A drizzly start for the Honorary Starters gives way to a lively first day from Augusta National.
That rain-infused organic matter dotting the patron pathways—there’s some dialed-in Mastersspeak for you—made going all 18 with Tiger Woods impossible. But this place isn’t about going the whole way even if it’s another buzz-infused comeback in The Woods Collection.
I tried to follow Woods for a while and can report, exclusively in today’s Quadrilateral roundup, that patrons ten deep greeted him with ovations at every green, with more love was sent his way from greens-to-tees.
Stunning revelations like this and much, much more await in today’s first round roundup from Augusta National.
Round 1 By The Numbers
Low and high rounds: 67 by Sungjae Im and 82 by Sandy Lyle.
Scoring average: 73.83
Rain totals: 1.16 inches Tuesday, .85 Wednesday and .86 Thursday night for a total of almost three inches.
30-minutes: Thursday’s delay to prep the course after overnight thunderstorms.
Low amateur: Keita Nakajima, 72
Friday’s Official Forecast: “Morning sunshine, then mostly cloudy, windy and cooler. Slight chance for a brief shower. Low: 46F High: 66F Winds: W-SW 15-18, G 25-30 mph
Tiger Returns And Posts 71
Hitting just 9 of 18 greens and missing a couple of fairways with badly pulled tee shots, Tiger Woods delivered an incredible return to competitive play. The 71 was his first non-PNC, non-Hero World Challenge competitive round since a 2020 Masters final round 76 and 14 months removed from a single car accident.
“I had a terrible warmup session, I hit it awful,” Woods said. “I forgot whatever I did on the range and just go ahead and play shot for shot, hit the ball in the correct spot, commit to what I'm doing, leave myself in the right angles, hopefully make a few putts, and let's get after this thing. Yeah, I was able to do that. I'm right where I need to be.”
A long birdie putt at the 16th and an 18th hole par save provided late highlights.
Woods lamented his 8th hole bogey, one of only five on what played as the easiest hole Thursday at Augusta National. He was 50 yards short of the par-5 green in two.
“Lack of concentration on the first one. Second one, lack of commitment. Then a blocked putt. So just three bad shots in a row.”
Woods again thanked “his team” for incredible help in recovery, with plans for a busy night of ice to prepare for Friday’s 1:41 p.m. tee time.
“Lots of treatments. Lots of ice. Lots of ice baths. Just basically freezing myself to death. That's just part of the deal. And getting all the swelling out as best as we possibly can and getting it mobile and warmed up, activated and explosive for the next day. Those are two totally different ends of the spectrum.”
Cameron Smith Plays 16 Holes 8-Under-Par
Eight birdies bookended by two double bogeys saw the reigning Players Champion continue his stellar play. The opening 68 was Smith’s first competitive round since winning at TPC Sawgrass and his 12th under par score in 20 rounds here.
Smith and playing partner Bryson DeChambeau were informed by Paul Casey at the putting green of his plans to withdraw after experiencing the same back issues that caused his WD at last month’s WGC Match Play.
“I feel like today was a very long day,” said Smith. “Given that Bryson and I were just playing by ourselves, lots of waiting. Lots of mental energy I think was exhausted today, so just a good rest would be nice.”
In five Masters, Smith has gone T55-T5-T51-T2-T10.
Shot Of The Day
From the pine straw, Harold Varner (71) playing in his first Masters:
New Look 11th Hole Plays The Toughest
After a 229-yard approach finished well right of the green, Kevin Kisner chipped in for the first birdie at the 11th. Several hours later at 5:25 p.m., Will Zalatoris hit his 214-yard approach to 28 feet. It was the 11th hole’s second birdie followed by Rory McIlroy making a 30-footer in the last group through.
And that’s your 11th Birdie Recap Report, Brought To You By Crow’s Nest, the only lemon-infused Belgian craft lager on property available for just $5 at any on-course food stand.
The revamped par-4 played to a 4.45 average, ranking first while producing six double bogeys or worse. This tied it with the par-3 6th hole for most big numbers. (Yes I double checked and it’s not the Crow’s Nest blurring my vision. Seems the upper right pin on 6 did not sit well with some in the field.)
Cameron Smith (68) on watching Tiger. “I actually found myself a couple of times today, because we were waiting so much, just watching. I almost felt like a patron out there at some points today. You can't not watch him; he's unreal.”
Garrick Higgo (72) on his first Masters round. “I was definitely nervous. I was fine the whole week, and then walking to the tee, I was, like, this is real. That's why we're here. I wouldn't want it any other way.”
Danny Willett on the Masters (69): “You can't come to this place and not wake up every morning with a smile on your face. I think it's impossible. It's impossible for the players, and I think it's impossible for the 25,000 patrons who come and walk round here every day.”
Daniel Berger (71) on organic matter-infused golf balls. “I asked on the first tee if we were playing it up or down, and he was kind of shocked that I even asked the question. It was a lot of water, so it was worth the question, but the course this afternoon dried up phenomenally, and it's in great condition.”
Tiger Woods (71) on Augusta National: “This golf course is going to change dramatically -- cooler, drier, windier. You can hear the SubAirs on out there. This golf course is going to change, and it's going to get a lot more difficult.”