To borrow a phrase, the first round at Augusta National was unlike any other, with interest and excitement surrounding Tiger Woods reaching levels that many veteran Masters observers had never seen before. Because Woods is still in contention after a first-round 71, the atmosphere will be electrifying on Friday. This is what we’re keeping an eye on right now.

Tiger Woods 1st Tee shot in 2022 Masters
Tiger Woods 1st Tee shot in 2022 Masters

Friday afternoons see a significant drop in workplace productivity as employees everywhere look forward to the weekend. So you can imagine how many projects will be left for Tiger Woods to complete when he takes the tee at 1:41 p.m. ET on Monday. It might be a good idea to reschedule your Zoom calls and tell your boss you’ve got a bad case of Tiger fever if he asks.

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As Woods prepared to hit his first tee shot on Thursday, a patron deep in the gallery along the 1st tee murmured, “This should be interesting.” The galleries at Augusta erupted with every birdie and gave a standing salute on every stop Woods made around Amen Corner, making that the understatement of the year. In the midst of the excitement surrounding his first competitive round in over 500 days, Woods calmly navigated Augusta National in 1-under par, finishing the day just four shots off the lead.

Woods said “plenty of ice” was on the agenda between his final putt on Thursday afternoon and his Friday tee time. Woods’ endurance test begins right now, and every good score means a later tee time and more recovery time.

This leaderboard is looking awfully similar to that of the 2020 Masters which was held November. For most it’s difficult to point to any crowning moments in the COVID year but Dustin Johnson is an exception to that rule as he slipped on his first green jacket. DJ is contending once again after an opening-round 69 and the leaderboard as a whole looks eerily similar to that November edition.

Current leader Sungjae Im finished in a tie for second that year with Cameron Smith who sits just one shot off the pace and one shot clear of… you guessed, it Dustin Johnson. The conditions this week have mimicked that November affair to an extent with plenty of wind and moisture, which has left Augusta to play long and soft. That seems to be just how this trio likes it as they look to contend again, this time with the azaleas in full bloom.

Rory McIlroy’s Next Move

It’s well documented that Rory McIlroy is one green jacket away from the career grand slam. This year marks his eighth shot at completing the elusive slam and becoming just the sixth player to accomplish that feat. Despite a slew of Masters top-10’s over the years, McIlroy has played his way into contention on just one Sunday since he took the lead into the final round in 2011. Often he’s been plagued by slow starts, and he’ll be playing from behind this year after an opening 1-over 73 that leaves him tied for 31st. He’s certainly not out of it, but on Friday it will be time to get into it. 

So get ready to enjoy Friday at The Masters. This should be one to remember.

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