Tiger Woods did exactly what he needed to do Thursday at the Masters. Although there were a couple putts he would probably like back, he kept himself in contention with steady play. Now it's time for him to make a charge on Day 2.
The 14-time major champion started his journey toward what he hopes will become a fifth green jacket with five straight pars. Woods wasn't going to take an unnecessary risks early that would cost him the tournament. He knew full well there was plenty of time to make up ground.
He finished the opening round at Augusta with three birdies, one bogey and a boatload of pars. The two-under score left him just outside the top 10, in perfect range to make a serious run up the leaderboard on Friday afternoon.
Woods will tee off at 1:41 p.m. ET on Friday, the second-to-last tee time, alongside playing partners Luke Donald and Scott Piercy. It's the perfect opportunity for him to go low, which would make a huge statement heading into the weekend.
Part of Woods' apparent game plan on Day 1 was attacking the greens very conservatively. He hit 13 of them in regulation but needed 30 putts because most of his birdie looks were from middle or long range and he couldn't convert.
While the 37-year-old superstar left himself a lot of easy par putts, he wasn't making up any ground on the leaders. That's the main adjustment he needs to make in the second round: He must start going at the pins a little more aggressively.
He doesn't need to change his approach to a radical degree, as if he were down by six strokes on the back nine of a final round. Just enough so he can get more reasonable looks at birdie on the always tricky Augusta greens.
The good news for him is that the scoring conditions, at least early in the round, have been far more difficult than Thursday. Out of the players inside the top 50 on the leaderboard currently navigating their rounds, only a handful are under par for the day.
Should that continue into the early afternoon, it favors Woods. He can handle the tough conditions better than anybody else in the tournament and it should ensure that nobody is able to run away from the pack during Round 2.
The longer everybody stays bunched up, the better the chances Woods will fight his way to the top. And once he gets there, especially if it happens by the end of Saturday, he almost always converts.
Coming into the event, most of the talk was surrounding his tremendous putting this season. His ability to turn mid-range putts into birdies was the biggest reason he won three of the four PGA Tour stroke-play tournaments he entered before the Masters.
Woods ranks first in strokes-gained putting, further illustrating the point. Yet Augusta is a completely different animal. He can't leave himself 20-foot putts all week and expect to win the trophy. The greens are too tough.
So it comes down to his irons. His length off the tee means he can make up for some errant drives, but there's no substitute for good approach shots. If he gives himself a string of birdie chances from around 10 feet, he'll make his move.
If he continues to struggle finding the right flight, he'll be forced to grind out another middling score and hope nobody is able to build a big lead heading into the weekend. The scoring conditions should help with the second half of those factors.
The Masters is still there for the taking and Woods remains one of the top contenders. A Friday charge would put him right where he needs to be heading into the final two rounds.
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