Against unthinkable odds, Tiger Woods revived his pro golf career Thursday at the Masters, the most revered tournament in the country.
Thousands of fans lined the fairway, from the tee box to the green. Woods’ tee shot looked smooth, but he grimaced as he watched it drift to the right. Officially, Woods drove the ball 264 yards. It thumped just outside a sand trap and left Woods 175 yards from the hole. And that was all perfectly normal. In 23 previous Masters appearances, Woods missed the fairway 21 times. Check that, make it 22.
Looking a little wobbly, Woods still managed a par on the first hole.
Here’s a look at the Masters tee shot that most fans assumed Tiger Woods could never do again.
Woods’ threesome teed off at 11:04 a.m. Eastern. Dressed in a black pullover and gray pants, Woods arrived at Augusta National for some warmup swings about an hour before his round started. That tee time already had been pushed back 30 minutes because of bad weather. He’s paired with Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann. The three also will play together Friday, with a later tee time of 1:41 p.m. The cut comes Friday night to see who sticks around for the weekend action.
Woods, who suffered a horrific leg injury in a car wreck in early 2021, hasn’t played a PGA event since the 2020 Masters. That was back when organizers pushed the lux golf event to November to contend with COVID restrictions.
In interviews this week, Woods said he’s not worried about his swing, He says his game is fine. He worries about getting around the course.
“Walking is the hard part,” Woods told reporters. “Seventy two holes is a long road. It’s going to be a tough challenge and one I’m up for.”
Fans were crowding the course long before Woods took his first swing. How will Tiger Woods perform as he chases his sixth Masters title? It’s probably the best sports question of the spring. It was only three years ago when Woods pulled off the improbable, winning the green jacket thanks to a one-stroke victory over a trio of players.
Let’s drift back to 2019, the first time Woods won a major tournament without taking a lead into the final round. Still, there was a feeling that he could pull it off that day. His mother brought Woods’ two children with her from South Florida to Augusta for the final round. Woods started the Sunday two shots behind Francesco Molinari. And he finished the round, which was played earlier because of looming storms, ahead of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele.
When Tiger was making his Sunday charge, TV viewers tuned by the masses. It was the biggest spike in viewership at the Masters since 2013. Expect something similar for Thursday’s TV numbers.
The win in 2019 was Woods’ first Major since he was victorious at the U.S. Open in 2008. It also proved to be his first green jacket since 2005.
So, can he win this year’s Masters? Oddsmakers have established his odds at 50:1. Golfers must walk the course when they compete. And Augusta sports undulating greens and fairways. Woods has to knock the rust from his game and hope he still has the conditioning to get through 18 holes of walking. He’d already had back surgery before his car accident. At age 46, those issues are more pronounced.
Weather shouldn’t be an issue. Temps at Augusta National are in the low 70s this morning. Greens are soft, meaning they’re in good condition for low scoring. Historically, Woods is a slow starter at Augusta. He’s dropped lower than 70 only twice.
Bettors also are keeping a close eye on Tigers Woods and his Masters bid. Front Office Sports tweeted: “People are obsessed with betting on Tiger Woods.” Then the site pointed out that Woods has three times the interest than any other golfer at PointsBet. And Woods has twice the handle of other golfers with wagers placed with BetMGM.
But it’s not a bunch of golf fans betting that Tiger Woods will win the Masters. Rather, more than half the bets for missing the cut are targeting Tiger.