AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - Tiger Woods “laid up” with a chip shot during the first round at the Masters, where he missed a couple of short putts early before briefly reminding everyone of his former glory as he posted a two-under-par 70 on Thursday.
Fourteen years since his last Masters triumph, 14 times major winner Woods birdied the 13th and 14th holes to tie for the lead at Augusta National.
Yet a couple of poor drives down the stretch, along with a judgment error, left the four-times Masters champion four strokes behind leaders Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau on a day of fluctuating winds and devilish pin positions.
“It’s not a bad start,” Woods said.
“I missed a few (putts) for sure, misread a couple and hit a bad one at six. Other than that it was a good solid day.”
After a two-putt birdie at the par-five 13th, Woods picked up another shot at the 14th when he threaded his 150-yard approach shot through the pines and then sank a sharply-breaking 25-foot putt, giving an understated little fist pump as the patrons roared their approval.
When he drove down the middle at the par-five 15th, leaving 230 yards to the pin, it seemed likely Woods would take the outright lead.
Yet one poorly-judged four-iron shot, aided by a strong tailwind, pricked his balloon.
“Get down, down, down,” he barked at his ball while it was in the air, before adding “oh my god” when he saw it overshoot the green.
The ball landed on a downslope and bounded 40 yards beyond the hole, leaving a devilishly difficult pitch shot.
With the pond on the other side of the green waiting to gobble up anything struck even a tad too firmly, he decided to be cautious.
The 43-year-old struck a heavy wedge shot which never had a chance of making it up the slope, but at least he avoided the water.
“Probably the hardest shot I had all day,” he said. “It was up on a root and I had to play short.
“I laid up on my chip to make sure I didn’t catch the root and blade it in the water.
“I had an easy up-and-down (with the next chip) and was able to move on with par.”
Later, Woods carved his drive into the trees at the par-four 17th, and though he found a nice gap for his second shot, he came up short of the green and bogeyed the hole.
Earlier, Woods missed a five-foot putt at the fifth and an even shorter one at the next. He also missed a great birdie chance at the par-five eighth before a birdie at the ninth provided a positive launching pad to the back nine.
Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Toby Davis