Tiger opens strong at Bay Hill in key Masters tuneup

Tiger Woods is back and will now be looking forward to the Masters in less than a month

The 14-time major victor, who is returning to golf this year following a fourth back surgery, sits one shot off the lead following the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill course in Florida.

It was his birdie at number seven that fully convinced fans that the old Tiger was back after the 42-year-old holed a staggering putt from 71 feet before brandishing that customary grin that can strike fear into the heart of any opponent.

"I've still got to do the work".

"It was coming over that hill a little too quick", Woods admitted on Sky Sports.

Woods, a victor eight times in 17 starts at Bay Hill, last won on the Orlando layout in 2013.

While Woods isn't in the lead at the moment, his current form makes him the golfer to beat in Bay Hill.

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Tiger Woods really is back.

"From the time I was there as an amateur to my first win and to my other wins there as well, I just love playing Augusta National".

Picking up where he left he left off on Sunday with a second place finish at the Valspar Championship, Woods's play in Thursday opening round continued to indicate his comeback is trending upwards.

Westgate Las Vegas Superbook golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman dropped Woods's odds for the Masters from 16/1 to 12/1 after his opening nine holes, tying him for third favourite behind world number one Dustin Johnson and number two Justin Thomas.

Woods did not lead at the time he finished, but he was one back of Jimmy Walker, who shot a 5-under 67. The electricity that courses through the crowds when Woods is playing well, he added, "just seems to kind of elevate, and for some reason it just kind of gets me going". "I can wear red and black again", he said, alluding to his longstanding sartorial choice to copy Woods's final-round colors, "and then we'll just kind of have a battle to see who plays best".

Regardless of whether Tiger's first-round showing results in a win, he is looking more and more like a true threat to be a contender at next month's Masters.

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