Less than 14 months after a near-fatal car crash, Tiger Woods makes his return to the hallowed grounds of Augusta National for the 86th Masters tournament.
With spring in the air and the azaleas in full bloom, play begins Thursday morning in the first of golf’s four major championships with one dominant story line. Can Woods make it up and down Augusta’s famed hills on an injured leg he wasn’t sure he’d be ever be able to walk on not long ago?
If he is able to make it through 18 holes on Day 1, will he be able to do it again on Day 2? Even if he does all that, will he be able to play at the elite level needed to make the cut and continue to the weekend?
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And even then, is there the slightest chance he might contend? Or possibly … win a sixth green jacket? The world awaits the answers. Woods will tee off alongside Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann at 11:04 am ET.
Like he’d never been away.
Welcome back, Padraig Harrington!
The three-time major champion, playing the Masters for the first time since 2015, was atop the leaderboard early Thursday after making birdies on Nos. 3 and 4.
Harrington’s best finish at Augusta National is a tie for fifth, which he did in both 2002 and 2008. He qualified for this year’s field after tying for fourth at last year’s PGA Championship.
JJ Spaun, last player invited, off to rough start
JJ Spaun was the last player invited to play in the Masters thanks to his victory at the Valero Texas Open in his 147th PGA Tour start.
Through four holes in the first round of the Masters, his first appearance in the tournament, the 31-year-old Spaun is at 3-over par. After parring the first two holes, Spaun had a double bogey on the third hole and bogey on the fourth.
How far did you hit it, Gary?
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The start of the 86th Masters had a new look.
Tom Watson made his debut as an honorary starter Thursday, joining Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus to hit the first shots of the tournament. Watson, a two-time Masters champion, was the last of the three to tee off.
“I want to say how honored I am to be with Gary and Jack,” Watson said. “I’ve watched this ceremony many times in the past with Arnie, Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson. To be a part of this thing, I’m truly humbled.”
Watson then readied to hit his first shot, asking Player how far he’d hit his ball.
“I could hear it land,” Player replied. “Not very far.”
The ceremonial tee shot began in 1963 and has become one of the most cherished traditions at the Masters. Fans get to Augusta National early so they can get a place around the 1st tee as soon as the course opens, hoping for a glimpse of golf’s greats.
Nicklaus, an 18-time major champion who holds the record with six Masters wins, joined Arnold Palmer as an honorary starter in 2010. Player, a three-time Masters champion, joined the two in 2012 and the trio shared the honors for five years before Palmer’s death.
Lee Elder joined Nicklaus and Watson last year, but poor health kept him from hitting a shot.
— Nancy Armor
Brennan: Just playing in this Masters is Tiger Woods’ crowning achievement
AUGUSTA, Ga. — One of the most enticing days in sports in a very long time dawns Thursday on the lush emerald fairways of Augusta National Golf Club. That is where a man who thought he might lose his leg or never walk again will begin one of the most improbable quests in sports history.
Ranked 973rd in the world, Tiger Woods, 46, is playing in the Masters, barring an overnight setback of some sort. It will have been 408 days since he wrecked his SUV and shattered his right leg on Feb. 23, 2021. A year ago right now, he was in the midst of three consecutive months of lying in a hospital bed.
What an incredible story this is, one for the ages, no matter how it plays out.
“It’s just truly amazing,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said Wednesday. “He is one of the most determined, dedicated athletes that I have ever seen in my life.”
— Christine Brennan
Hole locations for the first round
Today’s pin placements for each hole.
Weather delay at The Masters
The 2022 Masters won’t begin on time because of thunderstorms in the area, Augusta National Golf Club said in a news release. Gate openings and tee times will be delayed by 30 minutes. That means the first tee time will be at 8:30 am ET, and the Honorary Starters Ceremony will be at 8:15 am
Phil Mickelson declined invitation to this year’s Masters
AUGUSTA, Georgia — Phil Mickelson was not disinvited from the Masters, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley told the media Wednesday in his annual pre-tournament press conference. Ridley said the three-time Masters champion informed him via text message that he would not be competing in this year’s tournament.
Mickelson announced in February that he was taking a leave of absence from golf. He last competed in January at the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Open.
Mickelson finds himself in the midst of a heated controversy for derogatory comments he made about the PGA Tour and its commissioner, Jay Monahan, as well as the Saudi Arabian regime that’s backing a breakaway league led by Greg Norman.
“I know I have not been my best,” Mickelson wrote in February, “and desperately need some time away to prioritize the ones I love most and work on being the man I want to be.”
— Beth Ann Nichols, Golfweek
No problems for Tiger in Wednesday’s practice round
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Under a bruised sky with mist in the air, Tiger Woods completed his Masters Boot Camp on Wednesday morning with another nine holes at Augusta National Golf Club.
“Everything’s good, brother,” Woods said as he walked into the clubhouse following his round on the back nine and 20 minutes’ worth of work on the practice putting green.
Everything’s looked fine since the five-time Masters champion started his march to the 86th Masters. There haven’t been any missteps or mishaps since he arrived at Augusta National on Sunday and played the back nine by himself.
Counting last Tuesday’s 27 holes, he’s put in 54 holes at Augusta National. And this comes on the heels of simulating a 72-hole tournament by walking and playing 18 holes four consecutive days at The Medalist near his home in Jupiter Island, Florida.
So, come Thursday, 508 days after playing in his last official tournament – a tie for 38th in the November 2020 Masters – Woods will head to the first tee Thursday for his 10:34 tee time with Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann.
— Steve DiMeglio, Golfweek
Tiger Woods a betting favorite at Masters, but still a longshot to win
Tiger Woods’ decision to return to competitive golf — a Masters appearance 14 months after his harrowing car crash — stirred bettors to support a longshot sixth title for the golfing great.
Tipico Sportsbook established Woods, 46, as a 50/1 selection to win the tournament — a position behind more than 20 others.
Other shops posted far less hopeful figures.
While FanDuel Sportsbook also set Woods’ odds of winning the Masters at 50/1, the Las Vegas SuperBook listed him at 60/1.
The Masters favorite at Tipico is Jon Rahm (+1000), followed by the formidable field of Justin Thomas (+1300), Cameron Smith and Scottie Scheffler (+1500).
The group gets crowded with Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy all listed at 20/1.
— Lance Pugmire