Tiger perfectly placed to pounce at US Masters after round of 70

‘I was very satisfied. I played very solidly and got a good round out of it’

Tiger Woods is applauded as he walks to the first tee during the first round of the  Masters  at the Augusta National Golf Club. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Tiger Woods is applauded as he walks to the first tee during the first round of the Masters at the Augusta National Golf Club. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 00:05

Two of the most important women in his life put on the straw sunhats and traipsed outside the ropes: his mother Kultida, and his new girlfriend Lindsey Vonn, the Olympic skier. Inside the ropes, the occasional swear word following the odd errant shot, Tiger Woods crafted his way to an opening round 70, two-under-par, that left him perfectly placed to pounce.

Normalcy, as much as it can, has return to Woods’s life. And if Vonn, recovering from torn knee ligaments and wearing a brace, gingerly negotiated a number of holes in following her man, Woods – for the most part – was sure-footed in his handling of a course where he has won four Masters titles.

Intriguingly, on three of those occasions, Woods also opened with rounds of 70. “I was very satisfied. I played very solidly and got a good round out of it,” he said, after a round in which he had three birdies – on the sixth, eighth and 13th– to go with a lone bogey, which came on the 14th where he missed an eight-footer to save par.

If not vintage Woods, there was sufficient evidence to suggest the world number one will be hanging around for the more important work ahead. He ain’t going anywhere! Having arrived here with back-to-back wins in his armoury – in the WGC-Cadillac and the Bay Hill Invitational on his last two outings – as a momentum builder, Woods produced a solid round to lay the foundations. The task of building on it over the next three days is an old chore that he knows only so well.

Big decision
Indeed, Woods had to show his mettle early-on in his round with a couple of testing up-and-downs. On the par-five second, after a poor second which clipped some trees, he was left with a decision on where to position his approach. “I left myself just in the absolute wrong angle there. I had to make a big decision there, whether I go short right of the green or do I go long left. Because going at the flag I was going to put it to the back right part of the green and that’s a 100 some odd foot putt there.

“The problem is if I went short right, if I don’t hit it far enough, I don’t have an angle at the flag, I can’t pitch over that bunker. And then if I hit it too far I’m in the bunker and that’s one of the harder bunker shots to get close.

“So we had to go long left over the green because chipping back, there’s a backstop coming off that lip of the bunker. And the worst chip we can hit there is probably about six feet. Chip it past the hole and let it roll off the lip of the bunker. And that's basically what we did.” Job done!

Although confessing to some bewilderment at greens that lacked their traditional sheen and slickness, which led to him leading a couple of putts short, Woods – nevertheless – was satisfied with his lot. “It’s a good start. Some years some guys shot 65 starting out here. But right now I’m only four back and I’m right there,” he said.

“It was a good solid day. I hit the ball very solid, lag putted pretty good and I made a few here and there,” said Woods, who opened with rounds of 70 in 1997, 2000 and 2001 before going on to win.

A solid start: what more could he cask for? The pouncing comes over the next three days.