Tiger Woods overshadowed by playing partner Marc Leishman on Masters return
The Australian and Vijay Singh top the leaderboard in the early stages of the first major of the year.
Tiger Woods did not have far to look to assess his progress as playing partner Marc Leishman set the early pace in the first round of the 82nd Masters.
Competing at Augusta National for the first time since 2015, Woods went to the turn in 37 to find himself four shots adrift of Australia’s Leishman and former champion Vijay Singh.
Leishman had birdied the second, third and seventh to go out in 33, while the 55-year-old Singh had carded five birdies and two bogeys in the first 13 holes of his 25th Masters appearance.
Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson were a shot behind, with 60-year-old Sandy Lyle just a stroke further back after five holes on the 30th anniversary of his 1988 triumph.
Woods is contesting the year’s opening major for the first time in three years after undergoing spinal fusion surgery in April last year and has finished 12th, second and fifth in his last three starts on the PGA Tour.
But not for the first time in his career, the 42-year-old pulled his opening tee-shot into the trees which separate the first and ninth fairways, despite hitting three wood rather than a driver.
The former world number one hit a low punch shot from the pine straw which found the front edge of the green, from where he produced a superbly well-judged putt from long range to leave a tap-in for par.
Woods failed to take advantage of a 350-yard drive on the second after pushing his approach into a greenside bunker, but made no mistake from eight feet on the third after driving to within 20 yards of the green on the short par four.
However, Woods bogeyed the fourth and fifth after finding sand off the tee on both occasions and missed good birdie chances on the sixth and eighth to remain one over par.
American Tony Finau was no doubt happy to simply be making his Masters debut after suffering a sickening injury during the pre-tournament par-three contest.
Finau was running backwards in an enthusiastic celebration of a hole-in-one on the seventh when his left ankle buckled underneath him.
The 28-year-old then appeared to pop the dislocated ankle back into place, before later undergoing X-rays and an MRI scan, which thankfully revealed a high ankle sprain but no significant damage.
Finau began his round with a bogey on the first, but birdied the par-five second to get back to level par.
Earlier in the day, Gary Player had been able to reclaim bragging rights after joining Jack Nicklaus in getting the eagerly-anticipated action started.
Player and Nicklaus continued their role as honorary starters by each hitting a tee shot on the opening hole, with 82-year-old Player producing the longest – and most accurate – drive by around five yards from 78-year-old Nicklaus.
Nicklaus, who finished two shots behind winner Tom Watson in the par-three contest on Wednesday, had hit the longest drive last year after receiving some advice from Rory McIlroy.
Woods’ round was in danger of unravelling when a wild drive on the 11th was followed by an attempted recovery which clattered into the gallery.
The resulting dropped shot was followed by a tee shot into the water on the 12th, but after a mediocre pitch Woods holed from 15 feet to salvage a bogey and drop back to three over.
Leishman missed good birdie chances on 11 and 12 but remained at the top of the leaderboard on three under, while Rory McIlroy was one under after a first birdie on the opening hole at the 35th attempt.