The Latest: Woods tees off at Masters for 1st time since ’15

The Latest: Woods tees off at Masters for 1st time since '15
The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The Latest on the first round of the Masters on Thursday (all times local):

10:50 a.m.

Tiger Woods has teed off at the Masters for the first time in three years.

The 42-year-old Woods was first off the first tee in his group, which includes Marc Leishman and Tommy Fleetwood. Woods pulled a 3-wood left into the pine straw, a common landing spot for him over the years at Augusta National.

Woods had the typically huge gallery following him to start the tournament. No surprise given it’s his first competitive round at Augusta since 2015. Woods has been away from golf for much of the last few years because of his four back surgeries. The Masters is his first major since the PGA Championship in August 2015.

Only last year, Woods had trouble just sitting through the dinner at the Masters Club of past champions because of pain from his lower back shooting down his legs. That hurt about as much as being at Augusta National without his clubs for the second straight year, not knowing when or even if he would return.

Woods has been competitive in several events since his return this season.

___

10:25 a.m.

Tony Finau says he is “optimistic” after a “crazy day” at the Masters.

Finau dislocated his left ankle celebrating a hole-in-one during the Par-3 Tournament on Wednesday and then popped it back into place.

X-rays were negative. Finau was scheduled for more tests Thursday before teeing off (12:43 p.m.) in the first round at Augusta National.

“Crazy day,” he posted on his Twitter account. “Thanks for thoughts of concern, messages and prayers from all. I’m optimistic.”

Finau flew the back of the seventh green on the Par-3 course and spun it back into the hole for an ace. He started running toward the hole to celebrate, then turned and backpedaled before landing awkwardly on his left ankle. He dropped to one knee and ended up pushing the joint back into place.

Finau, ranked No. 34 in the world, stuck around for the final two holes and then gingerly walked to a golf cart and was driven off the course.

___

8:15 a.m.

The 82nd Masters has begun.

Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player officially got the tournament started Thursday morning with the ceremonial tee shot.

Player, 82, took the first swing followed by the 78-year-old Nicklaus under a clear, sunny sky with the temperature in the 40s. It is expected to be in the high 60s by the afternoon.

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley told the crowd crammed around the first tee how privileged they were to have the duo with nine green jackets to start the tournament.

Wesley Bryan, Austin Cook, Ted Potter Jr. were the first group to tee off when play began.

___

4:45 a.m.

No matter where Ian Poulter turns, there’s someone with an outstretched hand and congratulatory words.

Certainly, no one took a more harrowing path to the Masters.

The 42-year-old Englishman was the last player to qualify for the first major of the year, winning last weekend’s Houston Open in a playoff after sinking a 20-foot birdie on the 72nd hole .

“Nice putt,” someone said as Poulter lingered under the mammoth oak tree in front of the clubhouse at Augusta National.

He responded with a sly wink and a smile that signaled more relief than joy.

“To do it the way I did it, after all the disappointments, all the highs and lows, it’s really nice,” Poulter said on the eve of the Masters.

When the tournament begins Thursday, there will be no shortage of compelling storyline’s.

Tiger Woods is playing for the first time since 2015, healthy again and looking very much ready to contend for a fifth green jacket. Phil Mickelson is coming off a World Golf Championship victory and trying to become the oldest Masters champion at age 47. Rory McIlroy is looking to complete the career Grand Slam. Sergio Garcia is the defending champion. Dustin Johnson is the world’s top-ranked player. Justin Thomas has seven wins since the beginning of 2017. Jordan Spieth already has three major titles, including the 2015 Masters.

___

For more AP golf coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Golf

.