Tiger Woods stole the show after a frantic opening day of the 86th Masters at a windswept but always wonderful Augusta as a fine one-under 71 left him four shots off the lead held by South Korea's Sung-jae Im.
The 15-time major winner produced brilliant birdies at the par-three sixth and 16th holes with a four at the par-five 13th hole overshadowing two bogeys on the eighth and 14th holes amid some glorious par-saving putts at the ninth and 18th holes.
Woods' return to competitive golf is miraculous after a horrific car crash in February 2021 in Los Angeles left him in hospital for three months, wondering about possible amputation of his damaged right leg, but is also in keeping with a career that continues to defy the odds after several career-saving back operations.
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He made some typically swashbuckling putts with his swing technique looking as formidable as ever, but walking around the course proved his fiercest challenge after several days preparing for his return to the fray after 17 months away.
"No, it did not get easier, let's put it that way. I can swing a golf club," said the evergreen Woods, who donned the Green Jacket in 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2019.
"The walking's not easy, and it's difficult. As I said with all the hard work, my leg, 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.
That's something I'm very lucky to have this opportunity to be able to play, and not only that, to play in the Masters and to have this type of reception.
"I mean, the place was electric. I hadn't played like this since '19 when I won because in '20 we had Covid and we had no one here, and I didn't play last year. So to have the patrons fully out and to have that type of energy out there was awesome to feel.
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Woods will begin his second round at 6:41pm (BST) on Friday with aspirations of moving further up the leaderboard ahead of the weekend well within his grasp.
"People have no idea how hard it's been. My team does," he said. "They've worked with me every single day. I've said this before, we haven't taken a day off since I got out of the bed after those three months.
"Granted, some days are easier than others. Some days we push it pretty hard, and other days we don't. But always doing something.
"So it's commitment to getting back and commitment to getting back to a level that I feel that I can still do it. I did something positive today."
Two-time PGA Tour winner Im showed his class with a round of 67 to claim the lead on five under with Australia's Cameron Smith, fresh from his heroic victory at the Players Championship last month, one stroke back on minus four.
Smith revelled in eight birdies and two double bogeys in carding 68 from a day when no bogey-free rounds were recorded.
"I almost felt like a patron out there at some points today," he said. "You can't not watch him (Tiger); he's unreal. There was definitely a lot of noise, but yeah, [I] just was really good at just focusing on one shot at a time."
24-year-old Im began his day with three straight birdies of five in total, two bogeys and an eagle on the 13th to gain the overnight lead with World No 1 Scottie Scheffler, Dustin Johnson, Chile's Joaquin Niemann and former winner Danny Willett in a tie for third on three under.
Pre-tournament favourite Jon Rahm has work to do on the second day after opening with a 74 while Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy finished one better on 73 in the fading light after an undulating day of fine margins at the Masters.
US Masters leaders
- 1 Sungjae Im -5
- 2 Cameron Smith -4
- 3= Dustin Johnson -3
- 3= Danny Willett -3
- 3= Scottie Scheffler -3
- 3= Joaquin Niemann -3
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