Tiger Woods was greeted with mild applause in a Monday morning practice round at the Masters, his first public golf appearance since the sex scandal that overtook him last November.
World No.1 Woods and Fred Couples went off the first tee at 8 a.m. just as the course was opened to paying spectators, who did not have far to go or long to wait to see the main attraction at Augusta National Golf Club.
“Welcome back Tiger. We missed you,” yelled supportive spectators at the second tee, prompting Woods to turn and smile, appearing relaxed and at ease as he walked along the famed course where he has won four of his 14 Major titles.
“No one is perfect. We thought he was, but no one is perfect,” said Woods' pal Mark O'Meara, who played a nine-hole practice round with Woods on Sunday.
“He's going to be fine. I think he will do well this week. If anybody can handle pressure, he has done a pretty good job.”
Woods was greeted with mild applause at the first tee after some sunrise work on the practice area. Augusta National's famous undulating greens figure to be the sternest test for a man who has not played competitively since winning the Australian Masters in mid-November.
Dozens of spectators took pictures of Woods, wearing gray pants with a white cap and white shirt with horizontal gray stripes, as he strode off the first tee to a mostly hushed crowd after smashing the ball into the fairway.
Woods swatted his second shot onto the green to another smattering of claps, polite but not especially welcoming.
A couple of fans whooped a cheer and shouted, “All right, way to go Tiger,” and he responded with a slight wave.
The casual atmosphere of the round lent itself to Woods responding to supporters.
He spent several minutes on the first green practising putts not only at the cup but at the expected positions where the pin will be placed at the weekend when the title will be decided.
While there were no early hecklers bold enough to shout anything disruptive, several people were quietly cracking jokes at Woods' expense. Woods conducted two television interviews with hand-picked reporters last month and gave a televised apology statement in February.