Tiger Woods Cards 68 At The Masters, Fred Couples Leads

April 8th, 2010-  By Bryan Cross

“Fore, please. Now on the tee, Tiger Woods,” remarked the Masters Starter.

And with that, an eruption of boisterous cheers and applause flooded the Augusta National Golf Club grounds as one of the most anticipated rounds in history got under way.

Woods lined up his shot, and struck the ball that landed in the fairway.

“One of the best drives I’ve ever seen him hit,” remarked Woods’ swing coach Hank Haney.

“It felt normal,” Woods said. “Try to hit a little fade off the first tee, try to take something off of it and make sure I got it in play. That was about it. From there, I just went about my business.”

Woods had not hit a shot in a competitive round in 144 days, but navigated his way to the lowest opening day round at the Masters in his career, carding a 4-under 68, sitting only two shots behind leader Fred Couples.

At 50 years of age, Couples has won three of his first four starts on the Champions Tour and came to Augusta confident in his abilities to play good golf.  The 1992 Masters champions played flawless golf actually, tabbing a 6-under round of 66.

“I never really thought about what I was shooting,” said Couples in a post-round interview. “It was a fun day for me. I still think I can play, and if I putt well I’ve got to be some kind of factor in my mind.”

While Couples is the oldest player to lead after the first round at Augusta, 60-year-old Tom Watson proved that last year at the British Open at Turnberry was not a fluke, as he sits only one-shot behind Couples, after a 5-under round of 67.

“My goals were to play better than I’ve played in the last five or six years, and I achieved that — for the first round,” Watson said in a post-round conference. “I’m playing pretty well. I’ve said I have to play better than 90 percent to be successful on this golf course.”

Installed with odds at 250/1 on to win the 2010 Masters, Watson is tied with Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, Y.E Yang and J.J Choi, in a log-jammed leader board where over 30 players broke par.

“I don’t know if you can put an age on how anybody is playing, but he’s playing like one of the best players in the world right now,” said Steve Marino, who was paired with Watson on Thursday.

The spotlight was on Woods Thursday however, as he made his return to golf following a self-imposed absence from the game following a sex scandal that unveiled multiple acts of infidelity spanning years.

In addition to breaking 70 for the first time on a Thursday at the Masters, Woods carded two eagles in one round for the first time, with one on No.8 and another on No 15 that spearheaded his campaign for a fifth green jacket.

If it were not for several close calls on putts that just missed, Woods might have been atop the leader board after round one.

This week was a large step forward for Woods however, as the questions turned more to golf.

After his round, when asked if this round had any special meaning to him, it was a vintage Tiger Woods response.

“It meant that I’m two shots off the lead,” he said. “That’s what it means.”

“Nothing beyond that?” The reporter asked.

“I’m here to play a golf tournament,” he replied.

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