AUGUSTA, Georgia (REUTERS) - Former Masters champion Adam Scott used a sparkling finish to grab a share of the clubhouse lead in Thursday's (April 11) first round with Tiger Woods a shot off the pace at sunny Augusta National.
Australian Scott mixed two bogeys with five birdies, including three in the final four holes, for a three-under-par 69 to join Spaniard Jon Rahm and debutant Justin Harding atop a crowded leaderboard that lacked star power early in the day.
"I know where and when my game is coming into really good shape and I can see it coming back and I think I got some good confirmation today with some solid ball striking," said Scott.
"When I strike it really well I think I strike it with the best of them and I hit a lot of greens and that showed up today. So I feel that kind of validates everything I've been working on the last few weeks," he added.
Four-time champion Woods, who missed a number of short putts in the early going, whipped the galleries into a familiar frenzy as he too was in a share of the lead until a bogey at the 17th where he missed a nine-footer for par.
The 43-year-old Woods was in a good groove early but started to look a bit unsettled after an errant tee shot at the par-four fifth hole where he made his first bogey of the day and then went on to miss several short putts.
But Woods gathered himself and made birdie at the ninth and added another pair on the back nine, including at the par-four 14th where he lofted his approach over the trees to within 25 feet and then drained his putt to grab a share of the lead.
"I played well today," said former world number one Woods, who was among a pack of eight golfers one shot off the pace. "If I missed, I missed in the correct spots, which is always key. It was a good solid day."
Canadian Corey Conners, who earned his Masters invite four days ago after securing his first PGA Tour win in an event where he had to win a Monday qualifier just to make the field, was also one shot back of the leaders.
Rory McIlroy, who needs a win this week to become only the sixth player to complete golf's career grand slam, was four shots off the pace after a roller-coaster one-over-par 73.
The Northern Irishman was chugging along at two over for the day and then made a late charge with three birdies over a four-hole stretch starting at the 13th but closed with consecutive birdies to take any shine off his round.
Among the late starters, world number two Dustin Johnson was two under through 11 holes and three-times champion Phil Mickelson was one under after 10.
Britain's world number one Justin Rose (through 10 holes) and Jordan Spieth (9) were both at four over while defending champion Patrick Reed was in the clubhouse with a one-over 73.
Australian Jason Day, one-under through 11, received medical treatment on the course after tweaking his back while hitting his drive at the par-five second hole.
Day, who withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month with back issues, reportedly re-injured his back while picking up his daughter before the round.