Tiger Woods said he feels like he played better than he scored at the Masters on Thursday.
Woods shot a 1-over 73 in the opening round, failing to make up any ground on the four par 5s. Woods has feasted on Augusta National’s longest holes over the years, but pared each of them in his return to golf’s first major.
“That was the difference in the round,” said Woods, who tees off at 10:27 a.m. PDT on Friday.
The 42-year-old Woods has been away from golf for much of the last few years because of his four back surgeries. The Masters is his first major since playing the PGA Championship in August 2015.
He was back in the Masters field for the first time in 1,089 days.
Woods said he “definitely didn’t score as well as I played,” noting that he has to be better on the par 5s.
The four-time Masters champion is far from concerned. He’s typically been a slow starter at Augusta, having shot under par just once (a 68 in 2010) in the opening round.
“This is a very bunched leaderboard, and by the end of the week, it’s going to be really crowded,” he said.
Woods could have used a few prayers before taking on Amen Corner.
He hit three balls into the gallery and another into the water at Augusta National’s famed, three-hole signature section. He finished with two bogeys and a par, and it could have been much worse.
The slippage started when Woods pushed his drive at the par-4 11th way right. He cleared hundreds of fans before attempting to play through a spectator walking area. His second shot squirted right and into the gallery he just repositioned.
His third shot landed past the hole and left him with a downhill, 20-foot par putt that he missed left.
His tee shot at the par-3 12th came up short and rolled into renowned Rae’s Creek. His third shot stayed on the front fringe, but he saved bogey by making a 15-footer from there.
He seemed to be disgusted with himself as he walked to the 13th tee. He pushed his tee shot right into the pine straw and then pushed his next shot into another gallery. He flew the back of the green from there and had a 12-footer to salvage a birdie on what has been the easiest hole on the course. He just missed the putt.
Woods bounced back with birdies on the 14th and 16th holes.
He gave galleries at Augusta National some things to cheer through the first nine holes in his first round at the Masters in three years.
Woods nearly drove the green at the par-four No. 3, pitched to about 10 feet and made the putt to set off a huge “Tiger roar.” It was Woods’ first competitive birdie at the famed course since April 12, 2015, when he carded a four at No. 15 in the final round. He finished tied for 17th that year.
Woods gave strokes back on the next two holes and was one over at the turn. He had 17 putts through nine holes, not the start he was looking for at a course where putting is at premium.
Woods found a greenside bunker at the par-three fourth. He chipped out and missed a 20-footer. He drove into a bunker at the par-four fifth and left the sand shot well short of the flag. He putted past the hole and left the comebacker on the left edge.
Woods turned 42 at the end of last year. He has been away from golf for much of the last few years because of his four back surgeries. The Masters is the first major he has played since the PGA Championship in August 2015.
Only last year, Woods said he had trouble just sitting through the dinner at the Masters Club of past champions because of pain from his lower back shooting down his legs. That hurt about as much as being at Augusta National without his clubs for the second straight year, not knowing when or even if he would return.
He returned this season and has played in six events. He was in contention at the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla., and again the following week at Bay Hill in Orlando.
1:35 p.m.: This article has been updated with Woods completing his round.
11:55 a.m.: This article has been updated with recent results.
11:05 a.m.: This article has been updated with recent results.
This article was originally published at 9:10 a.m.