AUGUSTA – Tiger Woods was in the spotlight in his first Masters appearance in three years on Thursday, but it was playing partner Marc Leishman who topped the leaderboard through nine holes at Augusta National.
Woods, who counts four Green Jackets among his 14 major titles, was one-over after a birdie and two bogeys through nine holes in his first major championship round since missing the cut at the 2015 PGA Championship.
Australia's Leishman, meanwhile, was three-under thanks to birdies at the second, third and seventh – where he landed his approach shot five feet from the pin and rolled in the birdie putt.
Leishman’s previous best finish in five prior Masters appearances was a tie for fourth in 2013. He finished with a share of 43rd last year and missed the cut in his other starts.
He had a one-shot lead over 2000 Masters winner Vijay Singh of Fiji – who birdied three of his first four holes but was two-under through 12 – and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who was two-under through seven.
In a talent-laden field, 47-year-old five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, world number one Dustin Johnson and former Masters winner Jordan Spieth were to tee off later on Thursday.
So was Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who can complete a career Grand Slam with a victory this week.