Brandel Chamblee labelled the performance of Tiger Woods on day one of the 86th Masters as "nothing short of a miracle", as the 15-time Major champion made his competitive comeback with a one-under 71 at Augusta National.
Apart from two appearances at the parent-child PNC Championship, coming into the first men's Major of 2022, the last time Woods had teed it up with his peers was the final round of the coronavirus-delayed 2020 Masters. Since then, he has undergone a fifth back operation and was involved in a horrendous car crash that nearly cost him his right leg.
It's little wonder then that Chamblee, a renowned analyst for the Golf Channel, was blown away by what he saw from Tiger on Thursday at Augusta.
"We saw some amazing golf," Chamblee told host Rich Lerner. "But to your point about Tiger Woods, he’s tied for tenth as we sit here. The nine fellas who are in front of him, over the last 14 months when they weren’t with their families, they would have hardly had a minute when they weren’t thinking about their bodies, their minds and their golf swings.
"When you talk about Tiger, he would have been thinking about whether or not he was going to lose his leg, how he was going to walk if he could walk, probably some back issues, and having to go through some therapy to try and put all this back together.
"What we saw today was nothing short of a miracle. What Tiger Woods did blew my mind. He absolutely blew my mind with the way he played golf."
A clutch par save at the 1st seemed to settle the early nerves for Woods after a poor opening drive, before the five-time Masters champion produced an array of trademark laser-like iron shots. He was denied a birdie on the 5th only by way of a vicious lip-out before he opened his account at the next, converting the short putt after nearly holing his tee shot on the par-3 6th.
Tiger reaches red numbers in the 86th Masters. #themasters pic.twitter.com/yhaEU4i32TApril 7, 2022
But it was Tiger's powers of recovery that most impressed Chamblee, and convinced him that any fears over his physical ability can be put to bed.
"Can we roll the shot on 14?" he asked Lerner "This is the physicality. This is him pushing off the right foot [with] no problem with his back, up and over the trees. That’s a 46-year-old man that, a year ago didn’t know whether he could walk or play golf again.
"Everybody here would have thought they’d never see that swing from Tiger Woods ever again. I thought he would come out and swing gingerly pretty much all day protecting."
Alongside Chamblee, Paul McGinley was keen to add a note of caution, however. While the Irishman admitted he would "love nothing more than to see Tiger win", he isn't sure whether Tiger's ailing body will be able to cope with the demands of four rounds in the highly charged cauldron of elite level golf on Augusta National's famous undulations.
He said: "I don’t want to burst anyone’s balloon here. I thought it was a really professional round of golf [but] he hit nine greens in regulation. It’s not like he ripped the golf course apart.
"I thought his course management was excellent, his putting was excellent, his pitching was excellent, he kept himself in the game in tenth place [but] I’m not jumping up and down thinking, ‘Oh my god this is vintage Tiger Woods’. Far from it.
"There were shots in there that were fabulous but there were also shots that were weak and there were a couple of good breaks when he bounced off trees and got into play and saved par, like on 18 after a big pull off the tee.
"The physicality is the biggest question mark coming in here. We know technically he’s good and we know his short game is razor sharp. The big question is the physicality. If there’s going to be an easy day it’s obviously going to be the first day. It’s the wearing down over the next few days that’s going to be the challenge for him. We won’t get to the bottom of it until Sunday.
"I don’t think it’s unreasonable [for him to win] but I think it’s a long ask. I’ll be amazed if he wins this tournament. I’d love him to win it but I will be amazed. But you can never discount the great champions like Tiger Woods."
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A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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