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Golf is still what Woods does best

Woods knocked his second shot off the pinestraw and around a tree, running out to see his ball come up just short of a greenside bunker on the left. From there, he chipped up to 2 feet and made a par-saving putt to stay at 4 under.

other Updated: Apr 10, 2010 00:33 IST

After a brilliant opening round that marked his return to golf, Tiger Woods teed off Friday with a shot into the trees at the Masters.

Woods knocked his second shot off the pinestraw and around a tree, running out to see his ball come up just short of a greenside bunker on the left. From there, he chipped up to 2 feet and made a par-saving putt to stay at 4 under.

At the second hole, Woods matched an earlier birdie by first-round leader Fred Couples to stay two strokes off the pace. Both players went at the par-5 layout much the same way, knocking their second shots just over the green on the back right, then chipping up for short birdie putts.

They were also making fashion statements. Couples went with the white tennis shoes _ no socks, of course _ while Woods sported sunglasses between shots on a bright, warm day that was expected to last through the weekend after heavy overnight showers. At 50, Couples is the oldest golfer to lead outright after the opening round at Augusta National, starting out with 6-under 66. Woods returned from a five-month layoff caused by a stunning sex scandal by shooting a 68, his best opening round ever in the Masters.

Couples started Friday with a one-stroke lead over five golfers, including 60-year-old Tom Watson, two-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson and PGA champion Y.A. Yang.

Couples teed off with a stiff breeze in his face and hit a booming drive down the left side of the fairway. He had a shot at birdie, but his putt drifted off short and left of the hole. On Thursday, Woods picked up where he left off before his image was shattered by reports of serial infidelity. He hit a booming shot down the right side of the fairway _ “One of the best drives I've ever seen him hit,” swing coach Hank Haney said _ and it seemed as if he'd never been away.

By the third hole of the Masters, Woods had a birdie on his card. Five holes later, he calmly rolled in an eagle and broke out that patented fist pump for the first time.

Then at No. 9 came one of those signature Tiger shots, a wicked 5-iron hooked around the pine trees, a line drive that skidded to a stop just above the hole to set up an improbable birdie. He sidestepped out into the fairway to see where it landed, then strolled up to the green and knocked in a 15-foot putt. “I was just pretty calm all day,” Woods said. “I felt this is what I can do.”