AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The latest on The Masters (all times local):
Tiger Woods had good times, unlucky results and a few mistakes in his first round of the Masters.
Considering what he’s been through for the past 17 or so months, he surely wasn’t going to complain.
Thursday’s first round at Augusta National was Woods’ first round of competitive golf against the best players in the world since playing in the final round of the pandemic-delayed Masters on Nov. 15, 2020.
The final numbers Thursday: three birdies, two bogeys in a 71-under-par round.
Incidentally, the average score in the first round of Woods’ five Masters wins: 70.8.
Cameron Smith finished the first round of the Masters as he started it.
With a double bogey.
Brilliant for much of Thursday’s first round at Augusta National, Smith settled for a 4-under 68 round after his practice on the tree-facing par-4 finishing hole on the right side and started all a finishing adventure. He ended up three putts for a double, falling to a tie at that point with Sungjae Im for the Masters lead.
Holes 2 through 17 were all birdies and pars for Smith – 8 birdies, 8 pars in that stretch. He birdied four times in five holes from numbers 12 to 16, at one point opening up a three-shot lead.
Cameron Smith’s Masters started with a double bogey.
It got a lot better.
Smith was the first player in the field to reach 4 under, getting there with a birdie on the par-4 14th. And he was just getting started.
Birdies followed the par-5 15th and par-3 16th, the three-in-a-row streak pushing him to 6 under for the first round at Augusta National and by then two shots ahead of Sungjae Im.
Smith was 2 over after four holes, then played his next 12 to 8 under – which sparked that push with back-to-back birdies to close his front side.
Smith is playing the Masters for the sixth time. His best result is a tie for second place in 2020.
Tiger Woods again fell below par for the day at the Masters.
He left a short eagle putt on the par-5 13th hole and birdied for a birdie to return to 1 under for the tournament.
That left him with two headers which, by then, were shared by five players. Danny Willett, Daniel Berger, Cameron Smith, Sungjae Im and Joaquin Niemann were all 3 under. Niemann is in Woods’ group for the first round.
Through the 13th, Woods had two birdies and a bogey for the rest. The rest at this point were gone.
The sun is shining at Augusta National. The wind is also there.
Just as forecasters predicted, morning clouds and a bit of drizzle moved away from the Masters as the first round of the tournament began on Thursday.
But with the sun also came the wind, perhaps some of the strongest breezes this week.
“We all know how difficult the golf course is when the wind is blowing here,” said two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal. “And yes the greens are soft and that will make it a bit easier, but I think Augusta is playing hard.”
Joaquin Niemann is the first player to reach 3 under at this year’s Masters.
Niemann played his second shot on the par-4 9th hole well over the cup, then watched the ball fly back for an eagle and what was then a one-stroke lead over four other players.
Niemann was playing with the largest group of spectators at Augusta National on Thursday, as he happens to be in the same group with Tiger Woods.
A year after a Japanese player won the Masters, another is off to a flying start at the Masters.
Takumi Kanaya birdied each of his first two holes Thursday and found himself alone atop the standings at Augusta National.
Kanaya is one of three Japanese players on the court, along with Keita Nakajima and defending champion Hideki Matsuyama.
Tiger Woods makes his first Masters 2022 birdie.
After five straight pars to start his round, the five-time Masters champion stuck his tee shot on the 180-yard par-3 6th hole to tap out within about 2 feet of range. Patrons around the green gave Woods a predictable round of applause and cheers after seeing the shot. He gave them a few greetings and a few taps on the visor of his cap.
The birdie put it at 1 under for the day and tied for second. Harry Higgs took the lead at 2-under on nine holes.
Woods had just played a brilliant second shot on the par-4 5th hole, getting a bit unlucky when a ball that seemed to come to rest just yards from the cut barely caught the edge of a slope and rolled about 15 feet. a way.
He nearly birdied there anyway, his putt fell apart.
Paul Casey has withdrawn from the Masters.
Casey had had back spasms this week and told Augusta National on Thursday morning that he would not be able to play.
He was scheduled to play at the 10:53 a.m. tee time with Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Smith.
Casey has played the Masters 15 times. His best result was a tie for fourth in 2016.
Tiger Woods started the Masters.
His round began at 11:04 a.m., officially marking his return to competitive golf after around 18 months away, first due to back surgery, then – and mostly – due to a car accident. so bad that it almost cost him one of his legs.
He shook hands with his playing partners, Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann. He then pulled the driver out of his bag, removed the headgear – a stuffed tiger, of course – and went through the final stages of easing.
Patrons lined both sides of the first fairway and circled the tee box, desperately trying to capture a glimpse of the moment. Woods was the first to play in the group, tugged on the bill of his cap when he was introduced to greet the fans, then headed for the ball.
He didn’t seem to like the outcome, wincing a bit as he watched the ball fly towards a bunker along the right side of the fairway.
But he was back. His Masters was in progress.
Tiger Woods warms up for his first round of the Masters.
Dressed in a pink shirt and black pants, the five-time Masters champion follows his routine of putting, chipping and swinging to prepare for his first round of professional golf competition since November 15, 2020 – also in Augusta National. It was the final round of the Masters, delayed that year due to the pandemic.
Woods received handshakes and even a hug as he walked from one training area to another.
He leaves at 11:04 a.m.
At the very start of the Masters, there was a three-way tie for the lead. Padraig Harrington, Guido Migliozzi and Min Woo Lee were all 1 under, all still playing forward for Augusta National.
As Tiger Woods’ tee time at the Masters approaches, Jose Maria Olazabal has netted the first birdie of this year’s tournament.
Olazabal is a two-time Masters champion and is taking part in the tournament for the 33rd time. His approach on the par-4 opening hole settled along the right side of the green and he rolled into the putt.
Olazabal was playing in the first group of the day, leaving at 8:30 a.m.
Woods starts his round at 11:04 a.m.
Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and newcomer Tom Watson played their ceremonial tee shots and opened this year’s Masters.
And they brought a little humor to the proceedings.
Player, the three-time Masters champion who has long been a fitness advocate, was the first to play. And Watson, who was part of the ceremony for the first time, couldn’t resist having a little fun with Player as he made his way to the tee.
“Is he going to do push-ups?” Watson asked.
The player replied, “I did it while you were sleeping this morning.”
Nicklaus, the six-time champion, was next in line, joking he would be surprised if he could put the tee in the ground without falling. “Yes! It was successful,” he said, prompting more laughter.
And then the stage was set for Watson, who won the first of his two green jackets 45 years ago. He tipped his cap when his introduction of Augusta National president Fred Ridley was over, then asked if he could say a few words.
“I would like to say how honored I am to be with Gary and Jack,” Watson said. “I’ve watched this ceremony many times in the past…and to be a part of this thing, I’m really humbled.”
Watson is now the 11th person to have been an honorary starter at the Masters. After walking away, he joined Nicklaus and Player for a hug.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the 86th Masters Tournament is officially underway,” Ridley said. “Enjoy the tournament.”
The start of the Masters was a little delayed due to overnight rain.
The whole thing was pushed back 30 minutes because of thunderstorms, which followed daytime deluges on Tuesday and Wednesday as well.
Tiger Woods is due to start at 11:04 a.m. Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama will be on the first start at 11:15 a.m.
Forecasters say there’s not a great chance of more rain Thursday at Augusta National, though strong winds are expected to greet the afternoon flurry of players. Cooling is forecast for the rest of the week, with low temperatures on Saturday evening dropping into the upper 30s – unusually cold for Augusta at this time of year.
More AP Masters coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/the-masters