Thursday, May 23, 2024

Tiger shot sends crowd wild as Masters record beckons

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Tiger Woods can still draw a crowd.

And the way he started The Masters on Friday, there seems a good chance the patrons will get to cheer him on through the weekend.

With a massive gallery hanging on his every swing at windy Augusta National, Woods recorded a pair of birdies on the front side and was 1-under when darkness cut short the opening round.

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Woods’ performance was especially impressive in swirling gusts that were forecasted to climb to 72km/h, the towering Georgia pines swaying like those inflated stick figures advertising a mattress store sale.

“The wind was all over the place,” Woods said. “It was one of the most tricky days that I’ve ever been a part of. It was hard to get a beat not only on what direction it was going, but the intensity, and it kept switching all over the place.

“It was a very difficult day,” he added.

Woods will return Friday night (AEST) to finish the last five holes before he sets his sights on another bit of Masters history in the second round.

If the five-time winner of the green jacket can make the cut, it would mark a record 24th consecutive time he’s advanced past the midway point at the first major championship of the year.

He’s currently tied with three-time champion Gary Player, who made 23 straight cuts beginning in 1959, and 1992 winner Fred Couples, whose own streak lasted until 2007.

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Of course, Woods has his sights on bigger goals than just playing four rounds, even with a battered body that has endured multiple injuries, countless surgeries and a devastating car wreck.

Even though he has played just one tournament this year — and a mere 24 holes in that one before he withdrew with an illness — the 48-year-old certainly looked far fitter than he did in his last two appearances at Augusta National.

“It’s there,” Woods said in the briefest of medical updates. “The body is OK. We’ve got some work to do yet tonight.”

In 2021, a little over a year after a car wreck nearly claimed his right leg, Woods hobbled around the hilly course with a noticeable limp, his clubs doubling as canes as he negotiated the undulations.

A year ago, he didn’t even make it to the end, his feet aching and his game in shambles when he withdrew before completing a water-logged third round that extended into the final day.

“He sure looks good,” one fan remarked, a sentiment that was expressed numerous times as Woods strolled around the challenging layout with barely a hitch in his step.

A buzz began to sweep through the gallery in front of the clubhouse before Woods — surrounded by a cauldron of security officers — popped out for a tee time that was delayed two and a half hours by morning storms.

As he walked toward the putting green, a steely determination in his eyes, he seemed oblivious to the ubiquitous chants of “Go get ’em, Tiger!”.

Woods walked around with Aussie star Jason Day and America’s Max Homa.

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