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Posted April 05, 2018 10:04 pm
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Tiger Woods pleased with 73 in opening Masters round

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    Tiger Woods pleased with 73 in opening Masters round
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    Tiger Woods reacts after saving par on the first hole during his first Masters round since 2015. He would go on to card 73. [ANDY NELSON/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE]

Regrets, Tiger Woods had a few on Thursday. But then again, too few to mention.

“It felt great to be back out there again,” Woods said after an opening 73 in his first Masters round since 2015. “I only came up here the last couple of years just to have food. It’s nice that I came out to play and know that I had the golf course in front of me.”

Playing a competitive round at Augusta National for the first time in 1,090 days, Woods recovered with late birdies at 14 and 16 to keep himself in relative reach of a crowded leaderboard.

“I could have easily let the round slip away from me, but I got it back and I’m right back in this tournament,” Woods said.

PHOTOS: Tiger's first round at the 2018 Masters

On a day when Woods failed to make a birdie on any of Augusta’s par 5s for only the fifth time in his career, he managed to grind out a decent result. After a front nine littered with too many slippery downhill putts, he started running into real trouble in Amen Corner.

A poor drive into the trees on 11 left him trying to punch it down the right side. But despite efforts to get the gallery to move far enough out of his way, several patrons jumped into the way of his ball. One of them knocked it down with a knee, which led to a bogey and drop to 2-over par.

“It was a great shot there, unfortunately people ran out and it clipped them,” Woods said. “Otherwise it’s just short right of the green, an easy up and down from there, where I was trying to leave it.”

Matters were fixing to get much worse on the par-3 12th when his tee shot bounced off the bank into Rae’s Creek. But Woods saved bogey rolling in a 20-footer from the edge of the green to stay at only 3-over.

Despite making a hash of both the 13th and 15th holes to give him little chance of making birdies, he drained birdie putts of 7 and 22 feet on 14 and 16 to claw his way back  from a number that would have started Friday outside the cut line.

“Seventy-three is fine,” Woods said. “By the end of the week this will be a pretty packed leaderboard the way the golf course is set up. They have it right where they want it. It’s really hard to run away from it, but it’s also really easy to lose it out there.”

Feeling pretty comfortable in his first major start since the 2015 PGA, Woods got off to a decent start that had him 1-under after a birdie on No. 3. He wasted perfect drives on the par-5 second and eighth holes leading to disappointing pars and kept finding himself scrambling from bunkers or behind mounds with a slew of downhill putts that refused to fall.

“I told that to Joey (LaCava), ‘Can I please have an uphill putt here?’ ” Woods said. “He said, 'You did on 1' – yeah, from about 150 feet. I kept leaving myself above the hole and giving myself defensive putts. But that’s the nature of this golf course. A 6-footer downhill is so much more difficult than a 15- or 20-footer uphill. We know that, but it’s sometimes difficult to put the ball in the correct spot.”

PHOTOS: Pictures from the First Round at Augusta National

All in all, however, Woods walked off the course smiling with few complaints considering. As he walked to sign his scorecard, he even warmly greeted a patron who was profusely thanking Woods for coming back and injecting a buzz back into the Masters.

“The crowds have been incredible,” Woods said. “It’s been awesome this entire comeback. I got a standing ovation on the range. Coming up to the first tee, the people came out of the clubhouse and the putting green, they’re really into it."

Hole By Hole Scores

Round 1
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Out 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 In Tot
Par 4 5 4 3 4 3 4 5 4 36 4 4 3 5 4 5 3 4 4 36 72
Rnd 4 5 3 4 5 3 4 5 4 37 4 5 4 5 3 5 2 4 4 36 73
Tot 0 0 -1 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 3 2 2 1 1 1 1 +1