Woods four back as Im sets Masters pace
Im carded a five-under 67 to hold one-shot advantage over Smith; Dustin Johnson two behind and Woods four back in first official event since November 2020 – Watch The Masters throughout the week exclusively live on Sky Sports Golf, with bonus feeds via the red button
By Ali Stafford at Augusta National
Last Updated: 08/04/22 1:06am
Sungjae Im holds a narrow lead over Cameron Smith after the opening round of The Masters, as Tiger Woods impressed on his return to competitive action.
Im birdied his opening three holes and added another at the par-four seventh, before bouncing back from starting his back nine with successive bogeys to eagle the par-five 13th and pick up another shot at the par-five 15th to set the pace at Augusta National.
The Korean’s five-under 67 moved him one ahead of Smith, making his first start since winning The Players, who held the initial clubhouse target despite starting and finishing his opening-round 68 with double-bogeys.
Smith carded four birdies in a five-hole stretch from the fifth and produced a similar run from the 12th, briefly taking him two clear, before the late error dropped the Australian – one of six players who can end the week as world No 1 – into second spot.
“Just stayed patient,” Smith said. “I love this place. I know it presents plenty of birdies. I just really had to get in a groove. I hit a great drive down the second and went into the bunker, which again was quite frustrating. After probably the fourth or fifth hole there, started getting on a bit of a trot and started seeing those good iron shots go pretty close.”
World No 1 Scottie Scheffler held a share of the lead alongside Smith until cancelling out his penultimate-hole birdie with a final-hole bogey, with 2016 champion Danny Willett also on three under after carding the lowest opening round of his Masters career.
Joaquin Niemann posted a hole-out eagle from the ninth fairway to also get within two of the lead, while 2020 champion Dustin Johnson completes the quartet on three under after mixing four birdies with a lone bogey during his opening round.
Tiger takes centre stage
Two birdies in his last four holes saw Patrick Cantlay sign for an opening-round 70, as Woods marked his first official appearance since November 2020 by holing a 30-foot birdie at the 16th on his way to a one-under 71.
Woods admitted he had been “saving” his body during his limited pre-tournament practice following the severe injuries suffered in his car accident last year, adding: “I came up here as a test run and was able to play 27 holes and I felt good.
“The whole idea was to keep pushing but keep recovering. That’s the hard part every night. I’ve been doing that, my team has been incredible. I figured once the adrenalin kicks in and I get fired up I should be able to handle my business.”
Mixed fortunes for star names
Reigning champion Hideki Matsuyama began his title defence with a level-par 72 and Rory McIlroy stuttered to a one-over 73 after bogeying two of his final five holes, with Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth are six and seven strokes behind respectively.
World No 2 Jon Rahm is also in the group on two over that contains Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele, with former major winners Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas both struggling to opening-round 76s.
Watch The Masters this week exclusively live on Sky Sports Golf, with additional feeds and bonus action during all four rounds available via the red button. Live coverage continues on Friday from 2pm.