Tiger Woods the center of attention at the Masters
April 05, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Tiger Woods carded a 1-over 73 in the first round of the Masters. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tommy Fleetwood’s wife Clare battled for a peek of her husband all day.
Marc Leishman’s wife Audrey used her short stature to her advantage when politely asking to push through the ropes at Amen Corner a few times before giving up.
Even Tiger Woods’ own mother – who knows every shortcut and special viewing secret at Augusta National – was unable to get more than a few glimpses of her boy.
Welcome back to the Masters, Tiger.
As expected, the patrons moved in a wave, engulfing the 10:42 a.m. trio of Woods, Leishman and Fleetwood at every turn.
Those walking along would routinely merge into those who had chosen to stake their claim on a viewing spot ahead of time.
As each grandstand was passed, the unmistakable rumble of footsteps evacuating the structures would begin.
Everyone wanted to see Tiger, and plenty wanted to show their affection.
At Augusta National, only players, caddies and the bare minimum television cameraman get inside the ropes.
There is no special treatment.
And so standing back behind crowds -- 30 and 40 deep at places -- were family members and friends and media. There were even a few members in Green Jackets walking a hole or two.
“I don’t really expect to see any shots,” Clare said early in the round.
“But it is a good day for a walk.”
Fleetwood’s wife recounted how they had been talking prior to the tee times being announced and she had voiced getting Woods would be the worst-case scenario – and then sure enough the times flashed on the screen.
“Worse case for me!” she quickly reminded her man.
Fleetwood himself enjoyed the marquee group and fought hard to a nice even-par round.
Leishman immediately decided to treat the scenario as a positive.
“If I can't handle it now, I mean I never will,” Leishman said of the masses.
“But the way I looked at it, if you're going to win here, you got to play in front of crowds like that, with energy like that.
“So I looked at it as a positive and preparation for later in the week.”
The admiration started early for Woods, who claimed “the nerves really were just normal. I wasn't flying high. I wasn't jittery, I wasn't any of that stuff.”
They stood and cheered for him at the range when he arrived just under an hour before his tee time.
When he signed a glove for a man in the disabled viewing section he got his first raucous cheer.
The seas parted from the clubhouse door to the practice putting green and the crowd encouraged voraciously as his tee time neared.
They stood and hollered a little more as he was introduced on the first tee for the first time since 2015.
And it continued as he marched down the opening fairway in a seemingly endless chorus until one clever patron broke up the Woods love-fest with a very audible “Marc you’re the man!” -- making all three break into a giggle.
Woods returned the love by hitting his opening shot – and a few others – outside the ropes.
It meant he would ply his trade right amongst a select few lucky patrons.
At one stage, they were a little too eager. With Woods looking to punch a shot from well right of the 11th fairway he moved everyone well back.
But once he made contact with the ball they surged forward and into the path of the shot, stopping it from chasing toward the putting surface.
“It was a great shot there. Unfortunately people ran out and it clipped them. Otherwise it's just short right of the green, an easy up-and-down from there, where I was trying to leave it,” Woods said after the round.
On the course, Woods was a little more animated and agitated but otherwise he was certainly loving being back in major championship golf.
In the end, Woods’ 1-over 73 wasn’t overly special, but it was better than it could have been as he fought back hard from some mistakes.
It was no secret everyone out there wanted a charge. They wanted a low number.
You could feel the collective will of the crowd trying to push short putts forward or errant shots back on line.
They wanted to roar.
There was an early one thanks to a birdie putt on the third hole, but back-to-back bogeys sucked the life back out of the throng.
They lifted again at the par-3 sixth hole when Woods hit it tight off the tee. But he failed to convert, and the sighs reverberated around the pines.
A run of pars came before the hordes of people were bummed with a bogey on 11 and a water ball into Rae’s Creek on 12. Failure to birdie the par-5 13th also hurt.
But those who stuck around were rewarded on the 14th hole when Woods made his second birdie of the round. They let him know even if it was more a roar of relief.
A more pronounced reverberation came on the par-3 16th – the sight of his infamous chip-in in 2005 – when he coaxed in another birdie.
And while a red number start didn’t materialize - they still stood on the 18th green and warmly welcomed the four-time champion back.
“The crowds have been incredible. It’s been awesome this entire comeback,” Woods admitted after finishing the day in a tie for 29th.
“I could have easily let it slip away. And I fought hard to get it back in there, and I'm back in this championship. There's a lot of holes to be played.”
You can bet those with weekend tickets certainly hope he is right.