AUGUSTA — His driver was better suited for the left turns of a NASCAR track. He dealt with three mud balls, the South Georgia humidity, and a lemming-like following that dwarfed all other competitors.
Augusta National threw plenty of punches, and Tiger Woods wobbled, but the four-time tournament champion is still upright after shooting an even par 72 in Thursday’s opening round of the 76th Masters.
"I warmed up bad, and it continued on the golf course," Woods said after Thursday’s round. "I squeezed a lot out of that round. I didn’t hit it good at all."
His "new swing," built with his current swing coach Sean Foley after he parted ways with former coach Hank Haney after the 2011 Masters, was far from the swing that helped him win at Bay Hill two weeks ago. Woods missed four fairways to the left, at holes 1,2,15 and 18, Thursday.
"(It was) the Hank backswing, and the new downswing," Woods said following his round, in reference to his former coach. "(It was) the same old motor patterns. I’m struggling with it with all the clubs."
Haney, who recently released a book about his time coaching Woods, responded via Twitter, saying "Tiger used to rarely miss left - 83% right - but now he misses 50/50 left and right, so does that statement make sense?"
Still, Woods fought back throughout his round. On the par-4 first hole from a lie in the trampled pine straw, Woods whipped his second shot around a head-on tree, a shot that came to a rest just short of the green. Woods went up-and-in for par.
"His ball sounded like a high-powered sprinkler system as it went passed us," quipped a patron. "We’ll see that one on the highlights."
At the second and 18th holes, Woods’ errant drives resulted in one-stroke hazard relief penalties. He went on to save par on the par-5 second, while bogeying the final hole.
Woods’ round of 72 leaves him in a tie for 29th place and five-shots behind tournament leader Lee Westwood entering Friday’s play. It’s his highest opening round score at The Masters since he matched the 72 in 2008. In 2005, he shot 74 on Thursday before going on to win the tournament.
"This golf course is playing too difficult to go super low," said Woods. "Some of these pins were really tough. No one was tearing it up."
Woods hit the practice facility at Augusta National shortly after his round Thursday. He’s slated to tee off today at 1:42 p.m. in the second-to-last grouping off the day.