AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods moved through the crowd and you knew who it was because you couldn't see him. Only Woods can be the most recognizable person at Augusta National even when he's invisible.
You could see only the top of his cap and his convoy of handlers as he moved toward the practice putting green, and if you were one of the many people 10 deep around the first tee, you may have seen only an elbow or a swath of his azalea-red shirt as he struck his first major-championship shot in 17 months.
If you wanted to walk with Fargo's Tom Hoge or former Gopher Erik van Rooyen, you could stand within a foot of them on the 10th tee box, look at a yardage book as their caddie offered advice and even, as one fan did, ask Hoge and his caddie random questions.
The Masters contains multitudes, and multitudes still have a chance to win after Sungjae Im took the first-round lead with a 5-under-par 67 on Thursday.
Woods finished at 1 under, 25 years after his first and historic Masters victory. Hoge and van Rooyen, the two former Minnesota State Amateur champs, both finished 1 over.
Woods reintroduced himself to competitive golf, and for a large group of potential contenders to jockey for position. Just 14 months after suffering major damage to his right leg in a car accident, Woods limped around the course but swung with authority. Asked what the next 16 hours would look like for him, he said, "Lots of ice.''
"I'm very lucky to have this opportunity to be able to play,'' he said. "And not only that, but to play in the Masters and have this type of reception. I mean, this place was electric.''
The crowd around Woods was immense throughout his round, leaving others playing in relative quiet.
"I thought it played tough, but I thought I played well,'' said van Rooyen, the former Gopher. "I'm disappointed with the bogey on 18. It's still a little sour taste in my mouth, but I thought I played really well. It was really windy, obviously.''
After rain on Tuesday, Wednesday and then Thursday morning, Augusta National's SubAir system, which sucks excess water from the playing surface, could be heard working overtime, except when it was drowned out by the grinding of golfers' teeth.
While plenty of players posted good scores, the 18th hole took a toll. Cameron Smith made double bogey on the first hole, played the next 16 holes in 8 under par, then double-bogeyed 18 to finish at 4 under. Daniel Berger also double-bogeyed 18 to finish 1 under.
It was a classic Masters day — a blend of elements, shifting winds, and conditions that could be inviting or foreboding, depending on your last swing and your current mood.
"It was a pretty good day,'' Hoge said after his first Masters round. "I didn't hit the ball very close to the hole, I didn't feel like, so I didn't have many chances for birdies. But it was tough out there with the wind. All in all, 1 over par, probably would have taken it for how I played.
"Nobody is going too crazy low with this wind right now.''
Woods looked like he might. He struck the ball beautifully for the first seven holes, making birdie on the difficult par-4 fifth. He hit the middle of the fairway on the par-5 eighth, hit his second shot 50 yards to the right of the green, then missed the green with his pitch, hit a poor chip and settled for bogey on one of the easiest holes on the course.
He would play the back nine in 1 under to stay within four shots of the lead.
Woods has insisted he will play majors only if he feels he can win.
Wasn't merely making it around the course on Thursday something of a victory?
"Yes,'' Woods said. "If you would have seen how my leg looked, to where it's at now. … The pictures — some of the guys know. To get from there to here, it was no easy task.''