The Masters: Tiger Woods Four of Early Pace as Sungzai I Lead Cameron Smith

Sungjai Im holds a one-shot lead at The Masters (Associated Press)

Sungzai Im holds a narrow lead over Cameron Smith after the opening round of The Masters, as Tiger Woods was fascinated by the return to competitive action.

I birdied his opening three holes and added another to the par-four seventh, the Eagle par-five 13th with a bogey in succession after his back nine started and another shot to the par-five 15 before setting the pace for Augusta National.

The Koreans’ five under-67 put him one ahead of Smith, making his first start since winning The Players, who achieved his initial clubhouse goal even after starting his first round 68 and finishing with a double-bogie.

Smith made four birdie cards from the fifth to the five-hole stretch and made similar runs from the 12th, briefly clearing two of them, before the late error dropped the Australian – one of six players who could finish the week as the world number one – in second place.

“Just be patient,” Smith said. “I love this place. I know it presents a lot of birdie. I just really got a notch. I hit a great drive down the second and went to the bunker, which was pretty disappointing again. Started and those good iron shots started to get pretty close. “

Cameron Smith admits that Augusta will

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Cameron Smith admits that Augusta will “bite you” if you are not careful after booking her opening round with Players Champion Double Boogie

Cameron Smith admits that Augusta will “bite you” if you are not careful after booking her opening round with Players Champion Double Boogie

Smith was part of the world number one Scott Scheffler’s lead until 2016 champion Danny Willett canceled out his penalty-hole birdie with a final-hole bogey with a three-under after carding in the lowest opening round of his Masters career.

Joaquin Niemann posted a hole-out eagle from the ninth fairway to go between the two leads, where 2020 champion Dustin Johnson completed the quartet in the three-under after mixing four birdies with a single bogey in his first round.

Joaquin Niemann hole out in ninth place to take the lead in The Masters

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Joaquin Niemann hole out in ninth place to take the lead in The Masters

Joaquin Niemann hole out in ninth place to take the lead in The Masters

Tiger takes center stage

In his last four holes, two birdies saw Patrick Cantley sign for the opening round of the 70’s, as Woods marked his first official appearance since November 2020, holding a 30-foot birdie on the way to the one-under 71 at 16.

Tiger Woods says there is still a long way to go after making the opening round card of the one-under-par in his first competitive start in 500 days.

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Tiger Woods says there is still a long way to go after making the opening round card of the one-under-par in his first competitive start in 500 days.

Tiger Woods says there is still a long way to go after making the opening round card of the one-under-par in his first competitive start in 500 days.

Woods admitted that he “saved” his body after a serious car accident during his limited pre-tournament practice during his limited pre-tournament practice, adding: “I came here as a test run and was able to play 27 holes and I felt better.

“The whole idea was to push but to recover. That hard part every night. I’m doing it, my team has been incredible. I thought that once adrenaline came in and I was fired, I should be able to run my business. “

Tiger Woods delighted Augusta Patrons with a one-on-one round of 71, returning year after year.

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Tiger Woods delighted Augusta Patrons with a one-on-one round of 71, returning year after year.

Tiger Woods delighted Augusta Patrons with a one-on-one round of 71, returning year after year.

Mixed luck for star names

Reigning champion Hideki Matsuyama started his title defense with a level-par 72, and Rory McIlroy bogged two of his final five holes before stuttering in one-over 73, Colin Morikawa and Jordan Spith trailing six and seven strokes, respectively.

Olympic gold medalist Gender Schaffelle is also the world number two in two overs, with former main champion Bryson Dichambeu and Justin Thomas both battling in the first round of 76.

Watch The Masters live exclusively on Sky Sports Golf this week, with additional feeds and bonus action during the four rounds available via the red button. Live coverage continues from 2pm on Friday.

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