Tiger paired with Leishman, Fleetwood to start Masters

Tiger Woods of the United States has been paired with Britain's Tommy Fleetwood and Australian Marc Leishman for the Masters

Augusta (United States) (AFP) – Tiger Woods makes his much-anticipated return to the Masters alongside Britain’s Tommy Fleetwood and Australian Marc Leishman on Thursday in the opening round of the 82nd Masters, according to tee times released Tuesday.

Augusta National Golf Club will send off the 14-time major winner, a four-time Masters champion who has missed the past two years battling back injuries, and his playing partners off the first tee at 10:42 a.m. (1442 GMT).

Excitement has swirled around Woods this week after strong Masters tuneup efforts, including shares of second at the Valspar Championship and fifth at Bay Hill last month.

England’s Fleetwood defended his crown at Abu Dhabi this year while Leishman last won at the 2017 BMW Championship. Each seeks his first major title.

The Woods trio is scheduled to tee off at 1:27 p.m. (1727 GMT) in Friday’s second round.

Defending champion Sergio Garcia of Spain is in the trio just behind the Woods group along with world number two Justin Thomas, who won his first major title in last year’s PGA Championship, and US Amateur champion Doc Redman.

A trio of major winners follows the traditional Masters-amateur champions pairing with two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson joined by Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and Aussie Jason Day.

Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose highlight the four final groups of the opening round.

Three-time Masters winner and five-time major champion Mickelson tees off fourth-from-last at 1:27 p.m. Thursday alongside fellow Americans Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar.

McIlroy, trying to complete a career Grand Slam by winning his first green jacket, follows at 1:38 alongside Spain’s third-ranked Jon Rahm and Aussie Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters winner.

Spieth, the 2015 Masters winner, goes off at 1:49 alongside South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner, and Sweden’s Alex Noren.

And the final Thursday trio includes world number one Dustin Johnson — who missed last year’s Masters after falling down a staircase on the eve of the first round — plus England’s Rose and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama tees off Thursday at 10:09 a.m. with American Patton Kizzire and England’s Paul Casey.

England’s Ian Poulter, the last Masters qualifier after winning the PGA Houston Open on Sunday, tees off at 11:48 a.m. Thursday alongside American Patrick Cantlay and South Africa’s Trevor Immelman.

The first group off after honorary starters Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player tee off at 8:15 a.m. will be an all-American 8:30 lineup of Austin Cook, Ted Potter Jr. and Wesley Bryan.