AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods hit two nasty, slinging hooks on the first two holes Thursday at Augusta National. Then he stood on the fourth tee 1 under and was quickly on the first page of the Masters’ leaderboard.
In those next 15 holes Woods got to 2 under par, failed to take advantage of the par 5s, hit two more disconcerting hooks and closed with consecutive bogeys to shoot even-par 72, a score that was neither good nor bad on a day where birdies were a luxury item.
Often Woods will say that he played well, that he hit it better than his score would indicate. Other times he’ll say the opposite, that he played poorly even when shooting a good number, a device he often uses to make himself think better golf is only a round away.
On this steamy Georgia day Woods was in great spirits, was thoughtful and downright philosophical about his round. He even found a way to throw a barb at former swing coach Hank Haney, who Woods is miffed at for writing a book about their time together.
All things considered, it was a good day for Team Woods.
“I could have probably got one, maybe two more out of that but that was about it,” said Woods, who sits five shots behind leader Lee Westwood. “Today I squeezed a lot out of that round. Didn’t hit it very good at all. Warmed up bad too, and it continued on the golf course.”
“Same old motor problems,” Woods said. “Now I’m struggling with it all the way around with all the clubs.
“The Hank backswing with the new downswing.”
Woods knows golf history and his place in it. Odds are he’s aware that he has broken 70 only once in his previous 17 opening rounds at the Masters. He likely knows that in 2010 he shot 68 in the opening round and ultimately tied for fourth place.
The opening-hole hook didn’t seem like a problem at the time, especially when Woods scrambled to make par. But another hook, this one more pronounced, led to an unplayable lie on the par-5 second hole. Woods then blasted a 3-wood just short of the green and he was able to get up and down for par. Wary of the driver, Woods hit iron off the third tee and it resulted in birdie.
After 10 holes Woods was 2 under and it looked as if he was taking a walk through the park. But he failed to capitalize on both par 5s on the back nine (Nos. 13 and 15) and the bogey-bogey finish was missed opportunities, especially the home hole where he hit another hook that resulted in his second unplayable lie of the day.
“He missed a little bit from the tee, but you miss the fairway here, you have no chance to hit the flags,” said Woods’ playing partner, Miguel Angel Jimenez. “But the rest … I think he’s playing very well.”
It was Tiger 2000 as far as grinding was concerned. Remember the Woods who would find a way to turn 75 into 70? The Woods here Thursday found a way to shoot even par after hitting six of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens and taking 29 putts. At vaunted Augusta National.
“I really stayed committed to what I was doing; I made some bad swings,” Woods said. “That’s fine. My commitment to each and every shot, what I was doing – my alignment, my setup, everything – was something that I’m excited about and I can take some positives going into tomorrow about that.”
Although Woods was at peace with the opening round he knows that a duplicate of that in Round 2 won’t give him the best chance of winning that coveted fifth green jacket. But he also knows that this is not a birdie fest, that there won’t be too many scores this week lower than, say, 68.
“This golf course is playing too difficult to go super low on,” Woods said.
Super low? Yes. Low enough? Quite possible.