Tiger Woods labels steady Masters return 'awesome'

Cheryl Sanders
April 6, 2018

"Jordan had a pretty strong finish there, but this is my best start in a few years". This year, the journey to Augusta National is more relevant than the final destination. Other than Spieth, who is trying to win a second before he turns 25.

His brilliant six-under-par 66 sent him surging to the top of the leaderboard - a position he has occupied in NINE of the 17 rounds he has played at The Masters. He has led alone or shared the lead after nine of them.

Only a fool would write off Woods with three rounds to go. Woods has made just 24 tournament starts on the PGA tour since the end of 2013, during which time he'd undergone three microdiscectomies and, less than two weeks after last year's Masters, lumbar fusion surgery.

Then consider the recent history of this tournament.

Despite booming his drive over the top of the hill at the par-5 second, a pushed approach with just a mid-iron stopped him from being able to take advantage of that. It was uplifting for the all-time great whose pain was so bad here past year he did not play and could barely sit through the Champions Dinner.

Marc Leishman says the pressure of playing with Tiger Woods in front of enormous crowds has sharpened his game for a charge up the leaderboard on day two at Augusta National.

Defending champion Sergio Garcia, meanwhile, will play alongside world No.2 Justin Thomas, while two-time victor Bubba Watson has been drawn in a group with former Open champion Henrik Stenson and Jason Day.

McIlroy is going in search of the career Grand Slam, something only achieved previously by five golfers.

Rickie Fowler once told me that the first couple of days at a tournament were boring.

Remarkably, Woods has only once broken 70 in a Masters first round, and it never looked likely here. Eastern in a group with Alex Noren and Louis Oosthuizen. It's any tournament. If you get off to a good start, you're in control of your own fate, versus needing a little bit of help.

ESPN has live TV coverage from 3 until 7:30 p.m. Friday and on WatchESPN.

If anything was determined Thursday, it's that what appeared to be a wide-open event now has a clear favorite. Its online coverage can be found at CBS AllAccess.

A run of pars came before the hordes of people were bummed with a bogey on 11 and a water ball into Rae's Creek on 12. Tiger is a mind-boggling 142 under at the 2nd, 8th, 13th and 15th holes over his career. Consult the full live stream schedule here.

Only a year ago, Woods said he had trouble just sitting through the dinner at the Masters Club of past champions because of pain from his lower back shooting down his legs. However, he loved his 3-wood all day.

One of the two players behind two shots behind Spieth is Tony Finau, making his Masters debut. Both shot 68, which was a truly awesome performance by Finau considering he dislocated his left ankle just 24 hours earlier while celebrating a hole-in-one during the Par 3 Contest.

Sergio Garcia, with his 13 shots at the par-five 15th, proved this law to be true in his disastrous first round here, while Rory McIlroy can wake up this morning knowing that he has won nothing but, at the same time, he has not lost anything, either. You could have heard a pin drop as he stepped forward to hit his much-anticipated opening blow and yet it is normally quite noisy around that area.

"It's Round 1", he said.

Then he added, "But I'll always have -- I'll always have a tremendous amount of confidence out here".

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