Indifferent front nine for Woods as Leishman, Singh set early pace

Posted April 06, 2018

"I still want to compete, and I want to beat these guys", the 42-year-old superstar said as he looked forward to his first Masters in three years, and his first major start since missing the cut at the 2015 PGA Championship.

Woods's rivals in a talent-laden Masters field aren't immune.

"Tiger's earned the attention".

"Thankfully for favourite-backers, nearly all of the big guns look to have been handed favourable tee off times at The Masters this year", said Henrik Lykkesteen, VP of commercial for Better Collective.

The bonus coverage includes a Featured Group, now featuring Woods and his playing partners Marc Leishman and Tommy Fleetwood.

"The first real Masters I watched was 1997, when he won his first", Fleetwood, 27, recalled. "I don't think anybody expected me to win, including me".

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Nicklaus, who finished two shots behind victor Tom Watson in the par-three contest on Wednesday, had hit the longest drive a year ago after receiving some advice from Rory McIlroy.

On the 30th anniversary of his victory in 1988, Sandy Lyle was just two shots off the pace after four holes, but defending champion Sergio Garcia had followed an early birdie by dropping four shots in the space of four holes.

Spain's Sergio Garcia, who ended almost two decades of major futility with his victory here past year, played in the group behind Woods and opened with a par in his bid to join Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Woods as the only players to successfully defend the Masters crown.

Johnson, who has reigned at number one for more than a year, has catching up to do at the Masters after a pre-tournament slip on the stairs forced him out of last year's tournament at the 11th hour.

On an Augusta National course where experience is always at a premium, two-time champion Bubba Watson has thrust himself into the mix with two victories already this year.

The last group out could also shake up the leaderboard with world number one Dustin Johnson and Englishman Justin Rose, who has been runner-up two of the last three years, bringing the curtain down on Day One.

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Earlier in the day, Gary Player had been able to reclaim bragging rights after joining Jack Nicklaus in getting the 82nd Masters started.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Faldo marvelled at the journey Woods has been on.

But not for the first time in his career, Woods pulled his opening tee-shot into the trees which separate the first and ninth fairways, despite hitting three wood rather than a driver.

"I know that he had a big challenge, but the game for him looks easy", Mickelson said.

With an expectant gallery looking on, Woods hit his tee shot at the par-four first left into the pine straw but emerged with an opening par.

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