Masters 2022: Sungjae Im Leads Dustin Johnson, Cam Smith After Opening Round

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVApril 7, 2022

Sungjae Im, of South Korea, holds up his ball on the 13th green during the first round at the Masters golf tournament on Thursday, April 7, 2022, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The day belonged to Tiger Woods, but Augusta National belonged to Sungjae Im.

The 2020 runner-up carded a five-under 67 to take a one-stroke lead in the first round of the 2022 Masters Tournament. 

Im carded five birdies against two bogeys and added a brilliant eagle on the par-five 13th to give himself an advantage over Cameron Smith, who is alone in second at four under.

The Masters @TheMasters

Eagle on No. 13 and the co-lead for Sungjae Im. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/themasters?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#themasters</a> <a href="https://t.co/v2aj0TihFz">pic.twitter.com/v2aj0TihFz</a>

"This is a tournament that brings so many great players and legends together, and my primary goal is to make the cut," Im told reporters Tuesday. "Once I get there, then I will try to bear down over the final two rounds."

Smith went to the 18th tee box lapping the field at six under but double-bogeyed to go into the clubhouse with a 68. The Australian opened and capped his round with doubles, sprinkling in eight birdies over the remaining 16 holes.

Danny Willett, Joaquin Niemann, Scottie Scheffler and Dustin Johnson are all tied for third place at three under. 

That said, none of the aforementioned players had even a quarter of Woods' gallery size. 

Even as he sits four strokes off the lead, Woods remained the overwhelming focus of the Masters crowd. The 15-time major champion was playing in his first PGA Tour tournament since the 2020 Masters and his first since nearly having his leg amputated as a result of a February 2021 car crash.

While there were some clear signs Woods is not the same player he once was—particularly his approach off the tee—it's hard to imagine a better possible round. He carded three birdies against two bogeys while making several key par saves to finish at one-under 71.

The highlight of his round came at the par-three sixth, when Woods nearly hit a hole-in-one before tapping in for an easy birdie. 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Tiger is heating up 🐅<br><br>His first birdie of the tournament and moves to -1<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/TheMasters?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheMasters</a>)<a href="https://t.co/3A4gKyPtVV">pic.twitter.com/3A4gKyPtVV</a>

“I felt good,” Woods told reporters after the round. “Once the adrenaline kicks in and I get into my own little world, I knew I should be able to handle business.”

There were times when Woods' physical limitations came into play. He audibly said "come on, leg" after an errant tee shot at No. 14. 

"I can hit it just fine," Woods said. "Walking is the hard part."

As far as being a man who still isn't comfortable walking goes, sitting in a tie for 11th place in the year's biggest major is already a massive victory. Suffice it to say Woods, arguably the greatest golfer in history, isn't one for moral victories.

Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama sits one stroke behind Woods after carding an even-par 72. No one has won the Masters in consecutive years since Woods pulled off the feat in 2001 and 2002; only three people (Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo) have repeated at Augusta.

Other notables, including Rory McIlroy (+1), Jon Rahm (+2) and Bryson DeChambeau (+4), had much rougher outings and could be flirting with the cut line Friday evening.