A strong first round by Tiger Woods at a key tuneup for the Masters has golf fans buzzing. Bookmakers have even put the former longtime No. 1 men's player among the favorites to win the first major of the season.
Tiger Woods sank six birdie putts to shoot a four-under-par 68 in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hills, Florida on Thursday. The former world No. 1 displayed the peak form that saw him finish second at the Valspar Championship last weekend, his best finish in five years, and showed no sign of the back pain that had sidelined him for most of the past two seasons
"It was just getting a feel for playing tournament golf again and I think I have it," said Woods, who was among the early starters at Bay Hills. "I'm not thinking as much around the golf course. I can just see it, feel it and go. That's because I've got my 'feels' back."
Woods has undergone four back operations, and at one stage, the now 42-year-old doubted whether he would ever return to competitive golf.
"I enjoy just playing again. After what I've been through, just playing feels good," he said following Thursday's first round.
However, he was also quick to play down expectations after he was told that based on last weekend's performance, Las Vegas odds makers were making him one of the favorites to win the Masters, the first major of the season, which is just three weeks off.
"There's a lot of gamble-holics out there," he said. "We have a long way to go. It's just the first day. I've got three days to go and hopefully I can cap it off with a nice win."
Sweden's Henrik Stenson made nine birdies to open on 64 to seize the clubhouse lead.
Woods, whose 79 PGA titles are three shy of the career record held by Sam Snead, has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and hasn't won any title since the 2013 World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.
pfd/ (AFP, Reuters)