Tiger Woods labelled his Masters return after an absence of two years as “awesome”, but his performance fell well short of that lofty description.
A number of wild drives meant Woods did well to be three over par after 12 holes and the 14-time major winner birdied the 14th and 16th to card a one-over par 73.
“It was interesting, an up and down day for me today,” Woods said. “I had some opportunities to makes and didn’t do it. I played the par fives very sloppily and that was the difference in the round.”
Woods is contesting the year’s opening major for the first time in three years after undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April last year and has finished 12th, second and fifth in his last three starts on the PGA Tour.
“It felt great to be back out there again,” the 42-year-old added. “I only came up here the last couple of years just to have food [at the Champions Dinner]. It’s nice that I came out to play and know that I had the golf course in front of me.
“The crowds have been incredible. It’s been awesome this entire comeback. I got a standing ovation on the range. Coming up to the first tee, the people come out of the clubhouse and the putting green, they’re really into it.”
Woods was in danger of playing himself out of the tournament when he bogeyed the 11th and found the water with his tee shot on the 12th, but crucially salvaged a bogey after a mediocre pitch.
“It was very important,” he added. “I just didn’t want to drop it to four (over). I figured I had two par fives ahead of me. We were anticipating getting it back to even par, just fighting our way back to even par.
“I could have easily let the round slip away from me, but I got it back. And I’m right back in this tournament. There’s a lot of holes to be played. The weather is going to change. It will be fun the next 54 holes.”
Asked by ESPN to sum up his feelings at being back in the Masters, Woods said: “Awesome.”