Tiger Woods roars to 68 in Masters return
Tiger Woods broke a personal record Thursday, hitting two eagles in a single Masters round, as he began his comeback at Augusta National Golf Club.
Woods ended the day at four under par with 68, two strokes behind the leader, Fred Couples.
Woods hadn't competed since November's Australian Masters, which he won, after a car crash in late November led to the unraveling of his personal life with the disclosure of numerous extra-marital affairs.
Woods was greeted to polite applause as he teed off in the second to last group on Thursday afternoon.
One fan yelled, "Make us proud!"
He made par on the first hole.
TSN in Canada and ESPN in the U.S. went live to cover Woods' first shot – and ESPN even had a count-down timer for the event.
The 14-time major champion will be seeking a fifth Masters title as he pursues the all-time record of 18 major crowns won by Jack Nicklaus.
Though there's been little attention paid to anything else this week in Augusta, Masters chairman Billy Payne said Wednesday he isn't overly concerned Tiger's return will overshadow the tournament.
But he had some harsh words for the golfer in his remarks, saying Woods won't be judged in the future solely on his performance as a golfer, but by the sincerity of his efforts to change as a person.
"As he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility," Payne said during his annual state of the Masters news conference.
"It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here. It is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids."
He added: "Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes. But certainly his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par, but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change."
CTV's Paul Workman, reporting from Augusta, Ga., says Payne's statement was much harsher than anyone expected and was essentially a dressing-down for Woods.
"It's being described here in the papers as Billy Payne taking Tiger Woods to the woodshed. It was essentially a fatherly rebuke, really to say ‘Come on Tiger, your behaviour has to be better than this'," Workman commented.
On the eve of Tiger's return, Nike aired a new TV ad Wednesday featuring the voice of the golfer's late father.
In the stark, black-and-white ad, a solemn Woods looks directly into the camera while a recording of his late father is heard, speaking about taking responsibility.
"I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are. And did you learn anything?" Earl Woods asks.
Some are calling the ad "powerful" and "gutsy", while Associated Press writer Tim Dahlberg calls it a "nauseating" and "laughable" attempt by Nike to manipulate public opinion in Woods' favour.