Tiger Woods makes slow start in his 25th Masters and Jon Rahm launches fightback

Tiger Woods makes slow start in his 25th Masters and Jon Rahm launches fightback

Tiger Woods got off to a poor start in his 25th Masters as Jon Rahm fought back superbly from one of his own at Augusta National.

Playing just his fifth competitive round of the year, Woods looked understandably rusty as he covered the front nine in two over par.

There were encouraging signs as the 15-time major winner split the fairway on the first hole and made a regulation par, but he was unable to birdie the par-five second after finding a bunker off the tee.

Woods then came up short of the third green with his approach and dropped his first shot of the day, while another shot went on the difficult fifth as he three-putted from long range.

The 47-year-old, who continues to be noticeably hampered by the severe leg injuries he suffered in a car accident in February 2021, also three-putted the seventh but almost holed his pitch shot to the par-five eighth to set up a welcome birdie.

Rahm’s bid for a second major title had got off to a shocking start, the former US Open champion four-putting from 30 feet on the first to card a damaging double-bogey six.

However, the world number three bounced back well to birdie the next two holes, picked up another shot on the seventh and then holed from just three feet for eagle on the eighth to reach three under.

Playing alongside Woods, Norway’s Viktor Hovland was setting the early pace on five under thanks to an eagle on the second and birdies on the sixth, eighth and ninth to be out in 31.

Viktor Hovland
Viktor Hovland at the seventh hole (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Ireland’s Shane Lowry was two shots behind Hovland after ending the front nine with three straight birdies, while Northern Irish amateur Matthew McClean had earlier enjoyed a dream start to his tournament debut.

The 29-year-old optometrist, who secured his place in the field by winning the US Mid-Amateur, birdied the first and fourth holes to briefly enjoy a two-shot lead before dropping back through the pack.

Former champion Sandy Lyle’s last event before retiring got off to an eventful start when he accidentally snapped a club attempting an escape shot from underneath a tree on the first.

The 1988 winner had made good contact and was unfortunate to see his ball hit a television cameraman, but at least managed to salvage a bogey.

American Kevin Na had struggled to a front nine of 40 before promptly withdrawing due to illness, leaving playing partner Mike Weir, the 2003 champion, to complete the round alone.

Honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson had officially got the 87th Masters under way in traditional fashion on Thursday morning.

The illustrious trio, with 11 Masters titles between them, hit tee shots on the opening hole before retiring to the clubhouse.

Watson, who was taking part in the ceremony for the second time, unusually teed his ball up with his right hand.

In reference to an accident in November which resulted in the 73-year-old undergoing shoulder surgery, he joked: “You don’t drive go-karts at my age!”