In Tiger’s Five Masters Wins, He’s Never Had an Opening Round Over 70

By T.J. Auclair
Published on

Tiger Woods has four Masters titles, tied for second-most all time, two behind the most decorated Masters champ in history, Jack Nicklaus. Woods won his green jackets in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005. This week, playing in his first Masters since 2015, Woods is considered to be very much of a factor. It's often said that you can't win a tournament on Thursday, but you can lose it...
So, it got us thinking: What were Tiger's first rounds like at Augusta National Golf Club the four times he won the season's first major?
Here's a breakdown:
Woods won the 1997 Masters — his first major as a professional — by a whopping 12 strokes. It sure didn't look as though Woods would even be a factor early on in Round 1 that year.
With loads of anticipation, Woods struggled mightily on the front nine and went out in 4-over 40. The resilience he displayed on the back nine, however, was just a glimpse of what was to come in one of the greatest careers in history.
Woods rallied on that back nine to the tune of a fantastic, 6-under 30. That back side included birdies on Nos. 10, 12, 13 and 17 and an eagle on No. 15. 
With a 2-under 70 that day, Woods was alone in fourth place, trailing leader John Huston by three strokes. Tiger would take hold of a three-stroke lead the next day and never looked back.
When Tiger won the Masters for the second time in 2001 to complete the "Tiger Slam" — four consecutive major wins, but not in the same calendar year — he again opened with a 2-under 70. But that first round wasn't nearly as volatile as his start in 1997.
He began that Thursday with a bogey on the difficult, par-4 first hole, but quickly bounced back with a birdie on No. 3 and then didn't see the wrong side of par the rest of the tournament. 
Woods went out in 2-under 34 and came back in at even-par 36. That 70 had Woods in a six-way tie for 15th after 18 holes, five strokes behind leader Chris DiMarco. Woods would ultimately win the tournament at 16 under, two shots clear of runner-up David Duval.
In 2002, Woods joined Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo as the only players in Masters history to win the tournament in back-to-back years. Just like in his first two Masters wins, Woods opened the 2002 tournament with a score of 2-under 70. 
Woods was at 2-under 34 through nine holes. But after bogeys on Nos. 10 and 14, he dropped back to even par. Birdies and 15 and 17 allowed Woods to play the back nine in even-par 36 to post the 70. Woods ended the tournament at 12 under, three strokes ahead of runner-up Retief Goosen.
Finally, in 2005, Woods got off to the worst start in any of his winning Masters campaigns with a 2-over 74 in the first round. That left Woods seven strokes behind first-round leader Chris DiMarco.
No worries for Woods, however. He would make an amazing 16 birdies over the next 36 holes to rally back and establish a three-stroke lead through 54 holes. Some bumpy play by Woods in the final round (a 71), combined with stellar play from DiMarco (a 68) sent the pair to a playoff. Woods prevailed with a birdie on the first playoff hole to win his fourth Masters title.