Tiger Woods labours in Masters first round as Jon Rahm stages stunning fightback

Five-time winner Tiger Woods laboured to an opening 74 in his 25th Masters as Jon Rahm staged a remarkable fightback at Augusta National.

Playing just his fifth competitive round of the year, Woods looked understandably rusty as he found himself comprehensively outscored by playing partners Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele.

Hovland had the course record of 63 – shared by Nick Price and Greg Norman – in his sights before settling for an error-free 65, while Schauffele returned a 68 matched by former Open champion Shane Lowry and 2013 winner Adam Scott.

However, it was world number three Rahm who recorded the most impressive score of the day, the fiery Spaniard responding to four-putting the first with an eagle and seven birdies in his 65, equalling his lowest round at Augusta.

Rahm eagled the eighth from just three feet and also birdied four of his last six holes, while Hovland holed from long range on the second for his eagle and made three birdies in a flawless front nine of 31.

There had been encouraging signs for Woods when the 15-time major winner split the fairway on the first hole and made a regulation par, but he was unable to birdie the par-five second after finding a bunker off the tee.

Woods then came up short of the third green with his approach and dropped his first shot of the day, while another shot went on the difficult fifth as he three-putted from long range.

The 47-year-old, who continues to be noticeably hampered by the severe leg injuries he suffered in a car accident in February 2021, also three-putted the seventh but almost holed his pitch shot to the par-five eighth to set up a welcome birdie.

After dropping a shot on the 11th, Woods also birdied the 15th and 16th before finishing his day with another bogey on the 18th after finding sand off the tee and with his second shot.

“I didn’t have very good speed early,” Woods said of his struggles on the greens. “I had two three-putts and consequently I’m a couple over par. I didn’t hit my irons close enough.

“Most of the guys are going low today. This was the day to do it. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be a little bit better, a little bit sharper, and kind of inch my way through it.

“This is going to be an interesting finish to the tournament with the weather coming in. If I can just kind of hang in there, maybe kind of inch my way back, hopefully it will be positive towards the end.”

Viktor Hovland
Viktor Hovland at the seventh hole (Charlie Riedel/AP)

American Kevin Na had struggled to a front nine of 40 before promptly withdrawing due to illness, leaving playing partner Mike Weir, the 2003 champion, to complete the round alone.

Will Zalatoris also withdrew before the start of his round with a back injury.

Honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson had officially got the tournament under way in traditional fashion on Thursday morning, the illustrious trio hitting tee shots on the opening hole before retiring to the clubhouse.

Watson, who was taking part in the ceremony for the second time, unusually teed his ball up with his right hand.

In reference to an accident in November which resulted in the 73-year-old undergoing shoulder surgery, he joked: “You don’t drive go-karts at my age!”