Tiger Woods score: Solid opening round sets up green jacket chase at Masters 2019
Woods got off to a hot start and cooled down just a tad in Round 1 at Augusta National
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- On a hot, tough scoring day at Augusta National to open the 2019 Masters, Tiger Woods produced the lone early reverberation down the second nine when he buried a slippery 25-foot putt on No. 14 to get to 3 under and soar to the top of the leaderboard. It sent a mini tremor of conversation up and down the hills of the old fruit nursery as Woods, who has not finished in the top 10 at the Masters since 2013, temporarily tied for the lead with his third birdie in six holes.
"This was quick coming off there," Woods told ESPN. "[Playing partner] Haotong [Li] gave me a nice little teach on the putt. I hit that a little too hard anyway but got away with it -- and it went in."
Woods also birdied No. 9 -- with an insane second shot to 5 feet -- No. 13, which he essentially played as a par 4. He made a sloppy five on No. 17 at the very end of the round to shoot a 2-under 70 and fall one stroke shy of what would have been just his second ever opening round in the 60s at the Masters and his first opening round in the 60s at any major since the 2014 U.S. Open.
Still, Tiger's right in the mix after the first 18 holes.
"I thought I played well today," Woods told ESPN. "I thought I hit a lot of good shots. If I missed it, I missed in the correct spots, which is always key. I had some simpler up and downs because of that."
Big Cat didn't hit the ball maybe quite as well as would have been expected coming in based on his 2019 statistical profile -- he only hit 11 of 18 greens in regulation -- but like he noted, several up and down saves kept his score together.
One such instance -- maybe a strange one -- happened on the 15th hole. Tiger went long with his second into the par 5 and then left his third short of the green. He didn't look all that dismayed by the position, though, and maybe that's because of how easy it is to fly one from the back of that green into the water guarding the front. Woods knows that keeping the hole in front of you is imperative, especially on a Thursday.
"It was up on a root and I had to play short," said Woods. "I laid up on my chip to make sure I didn't catch the root and blade it in the water. So I laid up with a chip, had an easy little up‑and‑down from there and was able to move on with par."
It's easy to let your mind wander with Woods at Augusta. He's done it so many times and produced so many memories that the second he even thinks about flirting with a lead, our brains go both into the future and into the past. These are long, arduous days though and there is so much golf left it's almost not even worth considering what could be come Sunday.
But Woods accomplished what he needed to in Round 1, and that is not something that can be said for his efforts in opening rounds over the last several years at majors. He meandered his way to just outside the top 10 with just four birdies. He's squarely into contention. A 70 on Thursday is sufficient, but he'll have to throw it into another gear over the next 54 holes, which he has done after a great setup like he got in Round 1.
"Good solid start," said Woods. "I've shot 70 the last four times I've won the green jacket."
He got the stat wrong -- he shot 70 in 1997, 2001 and 2002, but he posted a 74 in 2005, the last time he won it. Still, the point remains: Woods rocks when he opens with 70 or better at Augusta National. He's done it six times and has never finished outside the top six in those tournaments. That includes five top fives, three wins and all the memories.
Historically speaking, this kind of opener for Woods means success at Augusta National. The next two days will be telling, but for now, Woods -- after a multi-year break from contending here -- looks like he's again ready to roll toward green jacket No. 5.
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