David J. Phillip/Associated Press
Tiger Woods may have saved his best for last this year.
Woods carded a four-under 68 in a stellar first round at the 2020 Masters Tournament, putting him in a tie for fourth place going into the clubhouse after his best opening round ever at Augusta:
He’s three strokes behind leader Paul Casey, who turned in a seven-under round.
Starting his day on the back nine, Woods began with a trio of pars before turning on the jets for a run of three birdies in four holes from Nos. 13-16. He took advantage of the soft conditions on the par-fives at Nos. 13 and 15 before nearly holing out on an excellent approach at No. 16.
After nailing another birdie at No. 1 to get to four under, Woods likely feels he left a few strokes on the course with a run of two-putt pars. Had a couple of those close calls gone in, Woods would be in contention for the lead alongside Casey.
There was clearly a sense of growing frustration with his putter near the end of the round, as he let a deep breath of exasperation go as he missed a final makeable birdie putt on No. 18. Woods finished with 30 strokes on the short surface overall.
More telling is the fact that Woods hit the 30-putt mark despite not having a single three-putt.
The 15-time major winner has struggled mightily since returning to play in July. He has finished no better than a tie for 37th in any event, recently missing the cut at the U.S. Open and finishing 72nd in his defense of the Zozo Championship.
This is Woods’ best score relative to par in an opening round since his victory at the 2019 Zozo.
While the round did not quite finish in the way he hoped, Woods has to be nothing short of thrilled with his drives and iron play. His 10 fairways hit is a solid number around the field’s average, and he hit 15 of his 18 greens in regulation.
Winning a sixth green jacket will be an uphill climb given the status of his game heading into this week, but he’s well within contention.