11 April 2019: Tiger Woods entered the week feeling comfortable about the state of his game. That showed on Thursday and then a little more. Operating from the shadows on the 14th after swiping his drive left off the tee, Woods lofted a brilliant rescue, the ball settling nicely on the green. He has an uncanny knack for capturing the moment and Tiger did just that, making a significant putt from 25 feet to jump into a share of the lead. That did not remain to the end as a bogey at 17 dropped him one back, but a 70 was as fine a start as you could on a day when the pins challenged the very best even if the weather was surprisingly benign.
The roars around Augusta got louder by the minute, with the chorus having started at the par-13th where Woods made a birdie, the third of the round. As a massive gallery of fans willing every ball of the four-time Masters champion toward the flag, Tiger marched ahead with a quiet confidence that resonated across the golfing world.
The desire for a Tiger victory is at a fever pitch. The experience of the TOUR Championship last year when his march to victory created a mad frenzy suggests that Augusta National could face a similar swamp of patrons this week if Woods continues to play at the level he found on Thursday.
Tiger’s first round score in the four Masters he’s won:
First score today: 70
— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) April 11, 2019
But after a good long day, a wayward drive off the 17th tee took a bit of sizzle from the card. Tiger made bogey there, two putting from nine feet after reaching the green in three.
Earlier in the day debutant Justin Harding played with icy calm to produce a solid 69 to take the lead into the clubhouse. But for a bogey at the 18th Harding could have carried some more cushion to his bed. As it is Adam Scott snuck up on the South African with three birdies on the final four holes to catch up at three under par. Gary Woodland also moved to three under with a birdie at the 15th hole.
Patton Kizzire refused to allow a bogey at the 12th to come in the way of his round, recovering with a birdie on the par-5 13th hole.
Tiger Woods is off to a good start after a 2-under 70 on Thursday.
He couldn't secure his first 18-hole lead at Augusta, but he's never finished outside the Top 10 when he shoots under par in the first round. pic.twitter.com/iyVOd50JLe
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 11, 2019
Jon Rahm was playing the first round twice over. With birdies at the third and fourth, he was quick to move up the order. But bogeys at the fifth and eighth reeled him back to even par. At the par-5 8th, Rahm found the sand to the right of the fairway, limiting the potential of his approach to the green, where he reached in three. Rahm took three putts from 48 feet to go back to even par for the day.
He set about repairing his card with a birdie at the ninth before adding two more birdies to it at the 11th and 13th to restore parity with the men at the head of the table.
Rickie Fowler was one over through the tenth and looking increasingly troubled. But then he caught a good wind and converted back to back birdies at 11 & 12 to move up the order.
Rory McIlroy endured a day of constant jousting with the course before conceding a 73 to open his quest for an elusive Green Jacket. Back to back birdies at 15 & 16 helped him move under par but he closed the day with bogeys on the last two holes, leaving him four back from the leaders.
“I just made too many mistakes and that was the problem. I’m making mistakes from pretty simple positions,” admitted Rory before heading out to the putting green to grind out some work.
69 Justin Harding, Adam Scott, Jon Rahm
70 Corey Conners, J.B. Holmes, Lucas Bjerregaard, Gary Woodland, Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, Cameron Smith