AUGUSTA, Ga. — The golf turn caromed by a tip reaches of a tree with such force it sent hunger cones raining to a belligerent like accost stones, and a congregation along Augusta’s 17th fairway into full duck-and-cover mode. Tiger Woods’s erring expostulate spun to a belligerent and rolled behind in a instruction of a tee box, forcing those same onlookers into a behind scrambling retreat.
“Folks, don’t hold that ball,” a march organise warned once it had staid in a damp Georgia grass, directing a crowds around it to behind adult adequate to make room for Woods’s second shot. “We’re not touching it,” one of them answered, as he jockeyed for position for an up-close perspective of what would come next.
Woods walked adult moments later, his caddie, Joe LaCava, beside him, and sized adult a conditions as we would expect. Chomping on some gum, Woods took a few haunt swings nearby a ball. He stood behind a shot, gazing into a distance, eyeing a trail he’d like his turn to take. He asked for a few people still in his steer line to be changed (saying “thank you” as they did) and took a eloquent travel forward. Returning to a ball, he corroborated divided again, took a few some-more use swings, and finally set his feet to do it for real. With one absolute downswing and one musical thwack, a turn soared off toward a green, carrying a hopes of a golfer, and a crowd, who wanted zero some-more than to trust that it was headed true for a pin.
Just a approach Tiger used to do it in a aged days.
. . .
Only 4 holes earlier, Tiger already had channeled his best aged days, a tap-in birdie dropping him to 2 underneath par, pulling him adult a first-day Masters leaderboard in ways suggestive of his 4 prior victories here during Augusta. And usually 3 holes earlier, he’d finished himself one improved than that, sketch a Tiger bark of aged when he emptied a 25-foot birdie putt. Though it was a rescue shot out of a woods on his prior pitch that would truly do a tough work in environment adult a second true birdie, it was a putt itself that woke adult a echoes.
Tiger had taken a lead.
At a Masters.
The. Lead. At. The. Masters.
Fourteen years after he’d final warranted a immature jacket, he was in a lead.
One year after he called it a “miracle” he was golfing during all, he was in a lead.
Two years after he’d missed his second true Masters due to injury, he was in a lead.
A lifetime given he’d been near-daily provender for tabloids, he was in a lead.
Thanks to a putt he didn’t even design to go in.
“Down a hill? No. No,” he pronounced afterward, a afternoon object high beyond as he stood outward a Augusta clubhouse. “I was only perplexing to loiter it down there. It’s ascending and afterwards unequivocally discerning downhill, we had a small shallow right in my putt, luckily we saw [playing partner Li] Haotong strike his putt, he strike it substantially about 10 feet by, and so that was a good small teach.”
. . .
The lessons Tiger has schooled given final winning a Masters (and final winning a major, a US Open in 2008) have fueled a golfing conversations for years now, a tournament-by-tournament referendum on either he can win a vital again, whether, during 43, he has any genuine possibility to get a 4 majors he needs to tie Jack Nicklaus’s record. What once seemed unavoidable hardly seems possible, though if he could somehow moment that vital formula only once more? What a fun float that would be.
The Masters has always been his best hope. It’s a initial vital of a year, when bodies are uninformed and rejuvenated. It comes during a start of spring, when conditions are accessible and manageable. It comes with a informed march setup, when knowledge is both clergyman and guide. Could this be a year it happens?
So here he stands, golf bar high over his shoulders, eyes tracking a turn is it soars toward a 17th hole. It lands between dual bunkers, only off a green. A standard save would be something here, wouldn’t it? He chips it about 6 feet from a cup.
Only this putt doesn’t drop. Woods rolls it only right, afterwards taps in for a spook that puts him behind during 2 under. A standard on 18 sends him to a scorer’s list with a first-round 70, good adequate for one off a lead during a time. Soon, he would shaft directly to a use putting immature to try and retreat a few shorts ones that got away. But overall? He is happy.
“I felt in position to make birdies currently and we missed a integrate on a front nine, a integrate brief ones, though altogether we felt my speed was unequivocally good all day,” he said. “I felt like we played good and we did all a things we indispensable to do currently to post a good number.”
. . .
That a series wouldn’t stay as tighten to a lead as it had been wasn’t surprising, not as a winds died down opposite a late afternoon and some complicated hitters took turns slicing by it.
There were immature guns Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka relocating into a lead, tied during 6 under, there was aged crony Phil Mickelson dropping birdies like his possess accost stones, 5 in a final 7 holes to pierce into solo second place during 5 under.
But Tiger sits absolutely in a organisation of 10 players tied for 11th. And remember this: He’s never finished outward a tip 10 when he shoots next standard in a initial round.
And in 3 of a 4 Masters he’s won, he non-stop with a 2-under 70.
The wish is real.Tara Sullivan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached during firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.