Tiger Woods described his first competitive round of golf in 508 days as painful and positive after pushing himself to an opening round one-under 71 at the Masters on Thursday and into the battle for a record-equalling sixth Green Jacket.
Fourteen months after a career-threatening car crash there is still a long painful road ahead for the 46-year-old if he is to match Jack Nicklaus’s Masters’ victories.
To do that he will need to negotiate three more punishing rounds on Augusta National’s undulating layout as well as hours of ice baths and physiotherapy.
But that is the price he must pay to play on a mangled right leg that doctors had considered amputating.
“If you would have seen how my leg looked to where it’s at now, the pictures — some of the guys know,” said Woods, after a round that while painful left a smile on his face and put him just four back of leader Im Sung-jae.
“They’ve seen the pictures and they’ve come over to the house and they’ve seen it.
“To see where I’ve been, to get from there to here, it was no easy task.
“People have no idea how hard it’s been.”
During a spectacular career that includes 15 major titles, Woods has made it look all too easy on the golf course.
For much of Thursday, it often appeared hard work with the former world number one occasionally limping and grimacing his way through the round, but there were also moments when Woods turned back the clock.
On the par three-16th he rolled in a monster 29-foot (8.8 metre) birdie putt and celebrated with a trademark fist pump that brought a mighty roar from the adoring crowd and echoed through the Georgia pines.
“Some days are easier than others,” conceded Woods. “Some days we push it pretty hard, and other days we don’t but always doing something.
“It’s commitment to getting back to a level that I feel that I can still do it.
“I did something positive today.
“I was able to finish up in the red. I’m right where I need to be.”
The day’s work did not end for Woods when he handed in his scorecard.
In fact, it was only just getting started as Woods team prepared rebuild him for Friday’s round two.
“Lots of treatments,” said Woods. “Lots of ice baths. Just basically freezing myself to death.
“That’s just part of the deal.
“And getting all the swelling out as best as we possibly can and getting it mobile and warmed up, activated and explosive for the next day.
“I’m going to be sore, that’s just the way it is.”
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