Woods launches Masters title defence after early weather delay
By Andrew Both
AUGUSTA - Tiger Woods got his Masters title defence off to a steady start with a par on his opening hole on Thursday after first-round action of golf's most eagerly anticipated annual gathering resumed following a nearly three-hour weather delay.
The delay due to lightning and heavy rain forced players off the course 25 minutes after the first groups teed off at Augusta National Golf Club and ensured opening-round action will spill into Friday given the decreased November daylight.
Woods, whose defence of his fifth Green Jacket was already put on hold for seven months because of the Covid-19 outbreak, began his day at the par-four 10th three hours later than scheduled but under sunny skies.
The 15-times major champion, who has struggled for form in 2020, found the fairway with his first tee shot but sent his approach left of the green where he managed to get up and down for par after a brilliant pitch to four-feet.
Tournament favourite Bryson DeChambeau, who overpowered Winged Foot with his driver in September's US Open to win his first major, missed a six-foot birdie putt at the 10th and saved par at the 11th after an errant tee shot.
Larry Mize, who won the 1987 Masters, was the early on-course leader at two-under through four holes.
The Masters, typically played in early April, is employing threesomes and sending golfers off both the first and 10th holes over the first two rounds for the first time.
Among the notables who will not complete their first round on Thursday are world number one Dustin Johnson, three-times champion Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, who needs a win this week to complete the career Grand Slam of golf's four majors.
While the Masters got off to a soggy start, rain is not prominent in the forecast at Augusta National as the chance of showers from Friday through to Sunday does not exceed 20%.
Despite this being a Masters like no other, without paying spectators due to coronavirus concerns, several hundred members and their guests crowded the first tee as Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit the ceremonial first tee shots in near darkness.
Nicklaus and Player emerged from the clubhouse at 6:57 a.m. ET (11:57 GMT), the exact minute of sunrise, and strode to the tee before daylight had even punctuated the gloom in a light drizzle, as a drone buzzed nearby to film the occasion.