AUGUSTA, Ga. — A wayward drive led to a punch out and bogey on the final hole, but that was all that prevented Gary Woodland from a share of the first-round clubhouse lead at the 83rd Masters.
Woodland made four birdies and two bogeys in an opening-round 70 on Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club. The major-less 34-year-old — a college basketball player-turned-golfer — is one of the many players in the hunt after a bunched Day 1 at Augusta.
And to think, his last four competitive rounds at Augusta — where he missed the cut by a mile — were 76, 78, 80, 75.
“I’m a lot more comfortable because I’m more comfortable with my game,” said Woodland, whose best finish in six Masters appearances was a T24 in 2011. “The golf course, I’ve had a lot of knowledge, I played practice rounds with [Tom] Watson and a lot of people that have came here before and gotten knowledge from local caddies.”
Woodland opened with a bogey but made birdies on 2, 5 and 7 to turn in two under. He added another birdie on 15 before he bogeyed the 18th — although he had to make a 14-footer to avoid double.
“I’ve been driving the golf ball beautifully for the last couple months,” Woodland said. “I drove the golf ball well, I felt very good over the putter and I made some nice saves for par. It was nice to make a putt on the last hole. I would have hated to have made double.”
Woodland, who has three career PGA Tour wins, was in the mix at the most recent major, too. At the PGA Championship at Bellerive Woodland grabbed the 36-hole lead before tying for 6th, his first top 10 in a major.
Woodland’s second round begins at 1:38 p.m. on Friday.