TIGER ROARING 'I did everything well' - Champion Tiger Woods off to a flying start at The Masters
Defending champion Tiger Woods tied his best-ever opening round at the Masters and was three shots behind early clubhouse leader Paul Casey while tournament favourite Bryson DeChambeau overcame a shaky start with a strong finish on Thursday.
Defending champion Tiger Woods created a piece of personal history with an impressive opening 68 in the 84th Masters.
Woods carded four birdies and no bogeys at a rain-softened Augusta National, the first time in 23 attempts that he has kept a clean card in the opening round of a tournament he memorably won for the fifth time last year.
It was also the 44-year-old’s first bogey-free round at Augusta since 2008 and his first such round at any stage of a major since the 2009 US PGA Championship
“I did everything well,” Woods said. “I drove it well, hit my irons well, putted well. The only real bad shot I hit today was I think (on) eight. I had a perfect number with a 60 degree sand wedge and I hit it on the wrong shelf.
“Other than that, I just did everything well. The only thing I could say is that I wish I could have made a couple more putts.”
Woods had been a 35/1 outsider at the start of the week due to some mediocre form since golf returned from the coronavirus shutdown, but the former world number one can rarely be counted out at Augusta.
“I think that understanding how to play this golf course is so important,” Woods added.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have so many practice rounds throughout my career with so many past champions, and I was able to win this event early in my career and build myself up for the understanding that I’m going to come here each and every year.
“So understanding how to play it is a big factor, and it’s one of the reasons why early in my career that I saw Jack (Nicklaus) contending a lot, I saw Raymond (Floyd) contending late in his career, now Bernhard (Langer) and Freddy (Couples) always contend here late in their careers.”
Meanwhile, England's Paul Casey showed some impressive form as he carded an opening round of 65 to take the early lead.
"I played some decent golf in 2019 overall, just not the first round of the Masters. I don’t know why it was rubbish,” Casey said after taking advantage of the rain-softened course to card five birdies and an eagle.
“But this is something I’ve looked forward to. I’m acutely aware I’m in a very fortuitous position. I still get to be a professional golfer and play championship golf, but I didn’t know how the fanless experience would be.
“And so far, I’ve not enjoyed it. I felt like the lack of energy for me (meant) I’ve had nothing or very little to draw from being out playing tournament golf.
“The Masters, though, this week it still has a buzz to it. There’s an energy and a little bit of a vibe. Yes, it’s clearly a lot less than what we are used to, but there’s something about this place that I still felt excited to be here.
“As soon as I stepped foot on property on Monday, I’ve never been so happy to pass a Covid-19 test in my life. Was genuinely nervous about that. I don’t know why I was nervous because my protocols haven’t changed.
“The kids were denied from going out on play dates last week. Can’t go on play dates. Dad’s got to go to the Masters next week.”
Casey, who finished joint second in the US PGA Championship in August, had struggled in recent weeks but feels he is reaping the rewards of some hard work on the range.
“I’ve been hitting it so bad recently, I’ve genuinely worked really hard the last few weeks,” Casey added.
“I’m usually not like (Ryder Cup team-mate) Alex Noren, I typically don’t have blisters on my hands but I do right now. A lot of work in a small amount of time has paid off.”