At somewhat after 11am on an overcast morning at Augusta, the eye of The Masters, as soon as once more, stopped for one man. As Tiger Woods emerged onto the primary tee the patrons, packed behind the ropes and alongside the opening fairway, took within the scene and for a second the traces of sporting drama, legend and fantasy blurred into one.
There was little proof of what Woods had been by to achieve this level, his face displaying solely an image of focus as he addressed his ball, an absence of a limp to offer away the presence of steel plates and pins fastened into his proper leg. The hush advised you that golf was once more underneath his spell, its universe centring on this one nook of Georgia.
Tiger Woods was again and in that instantaneous it paled all the things else round this course into insignificance, simply because it had performed this week when he was asserting his sensational return, or when, 14 months in the past, he despatched his rental automobile tumbling down a ditch in a near-fatal 75 mph crash.
This was one other of these moments – and the surgical procedures to his proper leg, the three months spent in a hospital mattress, the numerous hours of restoration and physio, painstakingly lived when there was nothing else for him to show, had led to it. And in a flash as he despatched his opening drive down the golf green, somewhat additional proper than he would have appreciated, one unattainable mission was over and one other had simply begun.
Woods doesn’t enter golf tournaments until he believes he can win them. Even 18 months away from competitors had not modified that perception, not to mention the accidents. Hitting the ball, he stated, was tremendous. “Strolling is the exhausting half.” Such an admission made what he would obtain on the opening day all of the extra exceptional.
And so Woods set off on his stroll. There had been a romanticism about his comeback, however there would even be ache to endure. He’s, in any case, in ache “every day”. Requested whether or not there have been any specific lies on the course that introduced bother – both uphill, downhill or sidehill – Woods replied, “All”. They are saying it’s important to go to Augusta to actually recognize how undulating and fearsome the course is, in between the color and the wonder. A flat course would have been rather a lot simpler, Woods stated, “however there’s nothing flat about this place”.
A lot focus had been positioned on Woods’s bodily circumstances that maybe we missed the significance of his psychological skills, and the cumulative information of the course he tamed 25 years in the past and the place he’s a five-time champion. Why fear about the place your ball would possibly find yourself when the pictures to focus on and the holes to respect, and whereas Woods wasn’t good, his management and measure round Augusta led to a exceptional opening spherical of 71, one underneath par.
A ten-foot putt saved par on the opening gap and from there Woods began to point out why, with him, there ought to by no means merely be a suggestion of the unattainable. He was denied a birdie on the fifth as a putt lipped out, solely to land a surprising tee shot on the par-3 sixth to inside two ft. Woods was within the pink. Nonetheless early within the day, you may wager it was observed across the subject.
It marked the beginning of a disciplined entrance 9, as Woods eased himself again into competitors, solely blighted by two moments of rustiness with errant pitches on the following gap to drop a shot. The frustration was obvious on the missed alternative of bogeying a par-5, however reaching the flip at stage par was a tremendous entrance 9 with few low scores elsewhere. Amen Nook was negotiated sensibly, an exquisite method on the par-5 thirteenth organising a tap-in for his second birdie of the day.
It was on these holes wherein you took Woods at his phrase, because the leaderboard confirmed him nestled within the top-10, all whereas reminding your self of the truth that he had performed so little aggressive golf earlier than pitching up in Augusta final week. The sloppy pictures, such because the bogey at 15, had been comprehensible. The moments of magic, such because the chic birdie on the following sixteenth, had been there to be loved and will solely be greeted by shocked admiration. The 25-foot putt on the amphitheatre of a inexperienced, wherein Woods has loads of his personal historical past, was the standout second of what was turning out to be a special occasion.
“I’m proud,” Woods stated afterwards, as he took within the early leaderboard to see that he was solely three pictures off the early tempo set by Cameron Smith. However as one colossal effort was dropped at an in depth, one other begins nearly instantly. Consideration turns to the physio and therapy required to get the 46-year-old able to go once more tomorrow. He has one other stroll to return.