Tiger Woods has sent fans into a frenzy with a scintillating display in the opening round of the Masters.
The 15-time major winner produced his equal-lowest opening round at Augusta National as she shot a 4-under 68 on Thursday.
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Incredibly, it marked the first time Woods had ever recorded a bogey-free opening round at the Masters, and his first in 106 rounds at majors.
Woods’ last bogey-free round at a major came at the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.
Woods has always been a notoriously slow starter at Augusta National, even while winning five green jackets. But not this year.
The defending champion’s 4-under 68 leaves him three shots off the lead and very much in contention for a record-tying sixth title.
It was a big surprise, considering the lacklustre form Woods had shown coming into this pandemic-delayed tournament.
Then again, Woods usually plays well at Augusta no matter the circumstances. Nineteen months ago, he rallied on the final day to win his 15th major title.
“It’s just experience. It’s just understanding how to play this golf course,” Woods said.
“I have a sense of ease when I come here.”
It’s just the second time Woods has started the tournament by breaking 70. He matched a 68 in the opening round of the 2010 Masters.
“I drove it well, I hit my irons well and I putted well,” Woods said. “I did everything well today.”
Paul Casey seizes early clubhouse lead
Paul Casey seized the first-round clubhouse lead at a rain-softened Augusta National.
Casey, a 43-year-old Englishman chasing his first major title, fired a bogey-free 7-under par 65 - matching his career-low from 218 major rounds.
“I've put a lot of work in to play this golf course and it has paid off,” Casey said.
“You can stick the ball on the green and make the putt. I did a good job of leaving the ball on the right side of the hole and making the putt.”
Casey, whose best start in 13 prior Masters appearances was a 69, was a runner-up at the PGA Championship in August for his best major finish.
“I've not played particularly great golf since this pandemic hit,” Casey said.
“I've been so excited to get here.”
Meanwhile, Aussies Marc Leishman and Jason Day overcame rough starts to shoot 2-under-par 70s.
Played in November for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the opening round was delayed by thunderstorms for almost three hours not long after it began on Thursday.
Amateur Lukas Michel settled for a 4-over 76 in his Masters debut, the highlight coming with a chip in birdie on the iconic par-3 12th from a putrid lie off the green.
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