Past winners, fresh faces and a legend making a comeback — the first round of the 2022 Masters Tournament had all of those factors in play.
The 2018-19 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Im Sung-jae came out of a briefly delayed first round as the leader with a day of 5-under 67, one stroke above red-hot Australian Cameron Smith.
But all eyes were on Tiger Woods, who is making his first official PGA Tour appearance since a car accident just over a year ago that left him with compound fractures in both of his legs.
Attempting to make another career comeback on the course he has won at on five occasions, Woods looked every bit of a top-level golfer that could compete at Augusta National.
His first round involved three birdies and two bogeys to finish with a round of 1-under 71.
While the majority of his opening round involved pars, there was no shortage of drama when Woods was on the course.
His first birdie of the day came on the par-3 sixth hole, where he nearly holed his tee shot and left it within two feet of the hole.
The one recurring issue in his first round came on par-5 holes, including his first bogey of the day at the eighth. Of the four par-5 holes he faced, he had two pars, one bogey and one birdie.
That lone par-5 birdie would come at the thirteenth hole, which would put him back under par for the day after four consecutive pars to follow that first bogey.
At the thirteenth, Woods hooked his tee shot around the dogleg left and put himself in good position to reach the green in two shots.
His second shot landed just inside of the left edge of the green and allowed a chance for an eagle putt. After narrowly missing the bending putt, Woods tapped in for birdie.
At the next hole, Woods hit a wayward tee shot that landed far left of the fairway and deep into the gallery.
He then hit his second shot from the pine straw, barreling the ball above the trees and past the hole outside the green. Attempting to chip the ball closer to the pin, Woods overhit the third shot and then missed the ensuing par putt.
After that second bogey, Woods would make one last birdie at the par-3 sixteenth. His tee shot carried well, ending up hole-high but around 30 feet to the right.
Despite the length, Woods sank the putt and gave a confident fist-pump as he moved to the final two holes to wrap up his round. He would shoot even on the final two holes to finish his day in the red.
A host of players placed in between Im and Woods, including current world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, who came into this year’s Masters with three PGA Tour wins in 2022 already.
Scheffler is also coming off a successful 2021 season where he finished with three top-8 finishes in the major championships. He finished the first round of the Masters at 3-under par.
Smith has a recent victory to his name as well, winning the Players Championship last month.
Former Masters champions in the hunt include 2016 winner Danny Willett and 2020 winner Dustin Johnson, with both finishing the first round at 3-under par.
Also finishing 3-under par was Joaquín Niemann, winner of the 2022 Genesis Invitational.
Three players finished at 2-under par — 2021 FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay, Corey Conners, who finished T-8 at the Masters last year and Jason Kokrak, who won twice on the PGA Tour last year.
Eight other players finished at 1-under par along with Woods to round out the top 10.
As of 3 p.m on Friday, the second round has commenced with some notable changes to the leaderboard.
Four players are now tied at the top at 3-under par. Im finished his day with a round of 2-over 74 to drop to that score, while Niemann and Willett have remained steady at 3-under as they continue their rounds.
Meanwhile, 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel finished his day with a 3-under 69 round to place himself among the current leaders.
Just behind those leaders are six players at 2-under par, including the defending Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama.
So far, Woods has shot 3-over par through his first four holes to put him at 2-over par overall.
Dawson County News will continue coverage of the Masters, including a full recap in next week’s print edition.