Tiger Woods checks the wind during the first round for the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Prowling Tiger: Woods in the hunt after opening Masters with a 70

Koepka, DeChambeau lead at 66; Canadian Conners in at 2-under

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The name on top of the leaderboard on a steamy Thursday afternoon was as familiar as the shouts of encouragement that followed Tiger Woods everywhere he went in the opening round of the Masters.

For a little while, at least, it was beginning to look like old times again at Augusta National.

The booming drives seemed the same on a day when the ball was carrying far for everyone. The putting stroke was good enough, especially on the 14th hole when Woods drained a putt from across the hilly green for an improbable birdie.

And perhaps the most important thing? The confidence seemed back, even if Woods didn’t quite get his history right after a 2 under 70 left him one shot off the lead after the first round.

“It’s not a bad start,” Woods said. “I’ve only shot like under 70 one time (in the opening round), but I’ve shot 70 the four times that I have won here.”

It was three, actually, since Woods opened with a 74 in 2005 before roaring back to win in a playoff with Chris DiMarco. Hard to imagine then, but that’s the last time anyone was sizing Woods up for a green jacket.

Woods didn’t get much else wrong on a day where birdies were plentiful but swirling winds kept scores from trending too low. It was the kind of day that called for course management, and Woods knows more than most in the field how to take on Augusta National after playing 21 times previously in the Masters.

About the only thing Woods couldn’t manage was the traffic jam coming off the 18th green, where he crossed ahead of Phil Mickelson as he was heading toward the 10th tee amid a noisy mass of sweltering Masters patrons.

If the start was decent, it wasn’t great. Woods wasn’t even the best player this day in his threesome, as Jon Rahm finished off a 69 to edge him by a shot.

And, of course, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau loom large four shots ahead after opening 66s.

But decent in the opening round was good enough to win three of his green jackets. And Woods seemed to like the symmetry of this 70, even if it came because he bogeyed the 17th hole after hitting his tee shot into the trees.

“We still have a long way to go,” he said. “Tee off late tomorrow and the wind’s supposed to be up, so I have my work cut out for me the rest of the week and so does everyone else.”

Woods was actually tied for the lead for the better part of an hour, the first time since the final round in 2007 that his name has been atop the gleaming white Masters leaderboards. His bogey on 17 dropped him back, but at 2 under he’s in the middle of a large pack of players chasing the leaders.

Whether he can stay there depends as much on his mindset as his putting stroke. Woods proved he can win again after roaring to victory in the Tour Championship last year, but winning the majors is always more difficult. His track record since his win at the U.S. Open 11 years ago is not a good one.

He’s 43 now, an age where the 5-footers that were once automatic don’t always go in. Indeed, Woods missed makeable putts on Nos. 5 and 6 before steadying himself on the greens the rest of the way.

And if he needed any inspiration, he seemed to get it in Bernhard Langer shooting a 1-under 71 at the age of 61.

“There’s a 61-year-old up there on that board, he knows how to play this golf course,” Woods said. “So it’s a matter of missing the golf ball in the correct spots and picking your spots and when to be aggressive.”

READ MORE: Tiger Woods caps off amazing comeback with 80th PGA Tour win

Canadian Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., had a 70 and former Masters champ Mike Weir shot a 72.

Tiger fans can take hope in Woods’ declaration that his body feels good and so does his game. But he’s playing against guys little more than half his age who don’t have bad backs.

How far Woods has come in just a short time became apparent when Woods revealed on the eve of the tournament that he took a nerve block just to be able to get to the champion’s dinner here in 2017.

“I ended up going to England that night, saw a specialist there, (and) they recommended unfortunately for me the only way to get rid of the pain I was living in was to have the spinal fusion surgery,” Woods said at the Golf Writers of America annual dinner.

The surgery was successful and now he’s in the midst of a remarkable comeback that even has his detractors beginning to cheer for him. He’s also shown a more human side that makes him even more endearing to golf fans.

The scene at the Tour Championship showed that as he was enveloped by fans swarming onto the 18th hole to witness a slice of history.

Who knows, come Sunday things could really look familiar if Tigermania breaks out once again.

— TIM DAHLBERG, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Just Posted

BC Bus North service extended to September

Transportation ministers have extended the service, which was set to expire at the end of May

Nisga’a leader named UNBC chancellor

Dr. Joseph Arthur Gosnell is the first Indigenous leader to assume the role

Northwest local governments team up to fill in future employment gaps

Around 17,000 jobs will need to be filled in the region over the next eight years

Poetry month sees launch of “Oona River Poems” at Rupert library

Peter Christensen consciously and lovingly documents our physical and psychological landscapes

Lily Swanson celebrates her 90th birthday in Prince Rupert

The Acropolis Manor resident has 22 grandchildren and is a great grandmother to 25 children

Prince Rupert students share portraits of kindness with children in Peru

The Memory Project gives teens a chance to sharpen their art skills and global awareness

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

Canfor curtailing operations across B.C.

Low lumber prices and the high cost of fibre are the cause of curtailment

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Haida youth travels to New York for UN forum on Indigenous issues

Haana Edensaw presented her speech in Xaad Kil, Masset dialect of the Haida language

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Most Read