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Thursday August 11th, 2022 5:31AM

The Latest: Niemann's eagle sends him to 3 under at Masters

By The Associated Press
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The Latest on The Masters (all times local):

1:35 p.m.

Joaquin Niemann is the first player to reach 3 under at this year’s Masters.

Niemann played his third shot into the par-5 9th hole well above the cup, then watched the ball spin back for an eagle and what was then a one-shot lead over four other players.

Niemann was playing Thursday with the biggest group of onlooking patrons at Augusta National, since he just happens to be in the same group with Tiger Woods.

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1:20 p.m.

A year after a Japanese player won the Masters, another is off to a fast start at the Masters.

Takumi Kanaya made birdie on each of his first two holes on Thursday and found himself alone atop the leaderboard at Augusta National.

Kanaya is one of three Japanese players in the field, along with Keita Nakajima and defending champion Hideki Matsuyama.

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12:35 p.m.

Tiger Woods has his first birdie of the 2022 Masters.

After five consecutive pars to start his round, the five-time Masters champion stuck his tee shot at the 180-yard par-3 6th hole to tap in range of about 2 feet. Patrons around the green gave Woods a predictable round of applause and cheers after seeing the shot. He acknowledged them with a couple of waves and a few pulls at the bill of his cap.

The birdie put him at 1 under for the day and tied for second. Harry Higgs had the early lead at 2 under through nine holes.

Woods had just played a brilliant second shot into the par-4 5th hole, getting a bit unlucky when a ball that looked to be coming to a stop a few feet from the cup just barely caught the edge of a slope and rolled about 15 feet away.

He nearly made birdie there anyway, his putt lipping out.

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11:25 a.m.

Paul Casey has withdrawn from the Masters.

Casey had been dealing with back spasms this week and told Augusta National on Thursday morning that he would be unable to play.

He was to have played in the 10:53 a.m. tee time with Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Smith.

Casey has played the Masters 15 times. His best finish was a tie for fourth in 2016.

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11:10 a.m.

Tiger Woods has teed off at the Masters.

His round began at 11:04 a.m., the official marking of his return to competitive golf after about 18 months away, first because of back surgery and then — and primarily — because of a car crash so severe that it nearly cost him one of his legs.

He shook hands with his playing partners, Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann. He then took the driver from his bag, removed the head cover — a plush tiger, of course — and went through the final stages of limbering up.

Patrons lined both sides of the first fairway and surrounded the tee box, trying desperately to just capture a glimpse of the moment. Woods was first to play in the group, tugged at the bill of his cap when he was introduced to acknowledge the fans, then stepped to the ball.

He didn’t appear to like the outcome, grimacing a bit as he watched the ball fly toward a bunker along the right side of the fairway.

But he was back. His Masters was underway.

___

10:25 a.m.

Tiger Woods is warming up for his first round of the Masters.

Dressed in a pink shirt and black pants, the five-time Masters champion is going through his routine of putting, chipping and swinging to get ready for his first competitive round of pro golf since Nov. 15, 2020 — also at Augusta National. That was the final round of the Masters, delayed that year because of the pandemic.

Woods got some handshakes and even a hug as he was making his way from one practice area to another.

He tees off at 11:04 a.m.

In the very early going at the Masters, there was a three-way tie for the lead. Padraig Harrington, Guido Migliozzi and Min Woo Lee were all 1 under, all still playing the front side of Augusta National.

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8:50 a.m.

As Tiger Woods' tee time at the Masters looms, Jose Maria Olazabal has made the first birdie of this year's tournament.

Olazabal is a two-time Masters champion and is playing the tournament for the 33rd time. His approach on the par-4 opening hole settled along the right side of the green and he rolled in the putt.

Olazabal was playing in the first group of the day, going off at 8:30 a.m.

Woods begins his round at 11:04 a.m.

___

8:20 a.m.

Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and newcomer Tom Watson have played their ceremonial tee shots and opened this year's Masters.

And they brought a bit of humor to the proceedings.

Player, the three-time Masters champion who has long been an advocate of physical fitness, was first to play. And Watson, part of the ceremony for the first time, couldn't resist having a little fun with Player as he headed to the tee.

“Is he going to do a push-up?" Watson asked.

Player responded: “I did while you were asleep this morning."

Nicklaus, the six-time champion, was next to play, quipping that he would be surprised if he could put the tee in the ground without falling over. “Yes! It was successful," he said, drawing more laughter.

And then the stage was set for Watson, who won the first of his two green jackets 45 years ago. He tipped his cap when his introduction from Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley was complete, then asked if he could say a few words.

“I would like to say how honored I am to be with Gary and Jack," Watson said. “I've watched this ceremony many times in the past ... and to be a part of this thing, I'm truly humbled."

Watson is now the 11th person to have served as an honorary starter at the Masters. After he swung away, he joined Nicklaus and Player for an embrace.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the 86th Masters Tournament is officially underway," Ridley said. “Enjoy the tournament."

___

7:30 a.m.

The start of the Masters has been delayed a bit because of overnight rain.

Everything was pushed back 30 minutes because of the storms, which followed daytime deluges on Tuesday and Wednesday as well.

Tiger Woods is scheduled to tee off at 11:04 a.m. Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama will be on the first tee at 11:15 a.m.

Forecasters say there isn't a great chance of more rain on Thursday at Augusta National, though strong wind is expected to greet the afternoon wave of players. Cooling is expected over the rest of the week, with low temperatures Saturday night falling into the upper 30s — unseasonably chilly for Augusta this time of year.

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More AP Masters coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/the-masters

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