On a rainy and dull day at Augusta National, there was a sense of calm amongst the gallery, as Tiger Woods' eagerly awaited return grew closer and closer. Finally, the once loved and praised man stepped up to the tee, and after following legendary Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, it was clear by the crowd's reaction that not much had changed in the world of golf.
The wind was howling, and for a few moments it did seem we were headed toward a boring rain delay that would surely make Tiger's return a little boring. Fortunately though, the skies opened, the sun came out, and Tiger's brilliant golfing skills began to shine.
The opening tee-off was one to behold. The announcer made the statement that Woods was stepping up to the tee, and a warm ovation was greeted with the classic Tiger Woods nod of appreciation.
A blasting tee shot straight down the fairway made it clear that Tiger was ready to go.
The First Hole
On the first hole, Woods managed to shoot an even par, and although his confidence was high, there was still that shred of doubt that Woods could of course collapse midway through the 18.
The Second Hole
Following Woods' par, Tiger didn't change things up all that much. Another demolishing tee shot, followed by a solid five on the hole. Tiger's putting was beginning to be the talking point.
The Third Hole
Finally, Tiger began to heat up. His opening birdie was made with a three on the par-four hole, and yet again it was an impressive putt that had camera bulbs littering the stands.
The Fourth Hole
Another solid par was made on the fourth. A tough hole for the average golfer, Tiger was showing his experience at Augusta, and with a layoff spanning over nearly five months, it was clear that his distracted mind was still on the game of golf.
The Fifth Hole
Par yet again, and a solid statement made. Woods' new driver was starting to play the part in a promising story.
The Sixth Hole
Yep, you guessed it: par again with a three made on the sixth hole. The more important tale was beginning to unfold here in Tiger's pairings, as KJ Choi shaped and patched his way toward the red.
The Seventh Hole
In nearly every round of golf that Tiger plays, he has that mistake that we all remember. This was one of those moments as Tiger went on to shoot a bogey on the seventh. Not a huge deal at this point in time, but Tiger still wasn't as close to leader Fred Couples as he would have hoped.
The Eighth Hole
For most people, this is where ESPN's lack of coverage started. As I awoke at 5:30 in the morning, I immediately saw a Tiger Woods tee shot, followed by a drive to the cup that left him within a range of six feet.
Funnily enough, Woods seemed to shorten the putt immensely, and instead of the causal follow through and almost pendulum-like head that follows, Woods jolted the putt, but it still remained a solid eagle on the eighth.
The Ninth Hole
As I mentioned earlier, weather was beginning to play a fair factor in the opening day's play. Short light showers were falling, and although the "tough golfer" rule did apply, there was no telling just how much longer the grounds crew would let this continue.
As for Woods, his tee shot left him in a predicament that would take some well-earned skill to get out of. Positioned behind a tree and on a corner, Woods' brilliance was on display as he positioned a 30-yard hooked ball around the corner, and nicely onto the green. Birdie was made, and we yet again saw the Woods famous nod.
The 10th Hole
The 10th hole saw an avid display of love for Tiger, but unfortunately Woods didn't give the crowd what they wanted. A tee shot into the trees proved difficult for Woods, but fortunately he recovered.
Fred Couple was stealing the show, currently at four-under-par, and a bogey for Woods on the 10th was the result of, perhaps, poor concentration.
The 11th Hole
Another shot around a thick patch of trees was the sight on the 11th, and a deja vu-like scenario was being painted. Like the ninth hole, Woods secured his place on the green, and my personal favorite hole on the course left Woods with yet another par.
The 12th Hole
Standing ovation, and another cap tip. What else can I say? This was classic Woods at his finest.
Luckily, the storm had moved on from Augusta, and the sun was now shining rays of light onto the beautifully manicured course. A par was made for Woods, and he was soon on his way to a birdie on 13.
The 13th Hole
By this point in time, it seemed that Woods was all too familiar with how to position shots around Augusta's tricky corners. A tee shot around a sharp bend, and an eagle attempt on the green that missed was soon to follow. Birdie was made, and Woods found himself three-under-par.
The 14th Hole
Here we saw another Woods mistake, but this time it was a classic example of rage and anger. The typical iron shot followed by the down-the-back drop of the club, and you could see that Woods wasn't happy.
A bogey followed, and Woods' impressive three-under-par was reduced yet again.
The 15th Hole
This hole left ESPN announcers with one simple statement: "The quality of the shots he hits!" A great tee shot, a great iron shot, and the ever so true statement of, "He loves the game of golf, and it loves him right back," was the introduction to an impressive and classic Woods eagle.
The 16th Hole
Aside from Woods, KJ Choi was making a name for himself. Tied for sixth with Tiger, KJ was smiling but rallying with Woods every step of the way. A close, missed, left-to-right putt left Woods four-under-par.
The 17th Hole
Great tee shot yet again, and 144 yards to the cup. A leaf-littered iron shot left Woods with a disappointing result on the green, and his following putt was also a little right. Still, Tiger made par and remained four-under-par.
The 18th Hole
Applauded and deservedly so, Tiger stepped up to the infamous 18th tee stretching and delivered like he has so often. His iron shot onto the green followed much of what KJ Choi delivered, and, surprisingly enough, he missed his birdie putt. Par was made, and the final score for round one was 68 and four-under-par.
For the most part, I am impressed with what Tiger had to offer. His best opening round at The Masters following a 144-day layoff is something to behold for any average fan of the game.
However, when Woods still managed to find his name in red at the end of the day, it is easy to say that I can't wait for the weekend's play to begin. It is a little to early to say that Woods will triumph yet again and be wearing the jacket come Monday, but if he continues playing like has, well, his whole career, there is no telling what he might do in the next few days.
One thing is certain though: Tiger Woods is still loved. He is the Muhammad Ali of this era, and although he's done wrong, he's done right on the golf course. Great tee shots, great iron shots, and, above all else, impressive putting leaves Fred Couples a nervous man awaiting the next day's play.