Tiger Woods back at Masters, playing with early leader Leishman

Tiger Woods of the United States plays a shot during a practice round prior to the start of the Masters Tournament

But on five straight shots, Garcia's ball landed in the water.

"It's been a fun ride", the 1998 Masters champion told reporters.

Tiger Woods was in the spotlight in his first Masters appearance in three years on Thursday, but it was playing partner Marc Leishman who topped the leaderboard through nine holes at Augusta National.

Woods, who said it was only after playing an exhibition last December that he felt he would be able to compete in the year's first major, has since shown flashes of the form that helped him earn a staggering 79 PGA Tour wins.

Masters legends Nicklaus and Player got the 82nd Masters off to a rousing start by hitting the ceremonial tee shot before turning the first tee over to American Austin Cook, who was the first of the field of 87 golfers to tee off.

Woods failed to take advantage of a 350-yard drive on the second after pushing his approach into a greenside bunker, but made no mistake from eight feet on the third after driving to within 20 yards of the green on the short par four.

The 28-year-old then appeared to pop the dislocated ankle back into place, before later undergoing X-rays and an MRI scan, which thankfully revealed a high ankle sprain but no significant damage. Among those are Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, who is bidding to complete the career grand slam and join Woods, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen and Gary Player in that elite club.

But, after undergoing spinal fusion a year ago, Woods is now back doing what he does best - playing golf.

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Stenson was one shot off the pace having made birdies at the fourth and seventh.

World number two Justin Thomas, the reigning US PGA Tour Player of the Year, can overtake Dustin Johnson atop the world rankings with a victory.

Former champion Vijay Singh was the surprise early pacesetter as Tiger Woods got his first competitive round at the Masters since 2015 under way.

He had a one-shot lead over 2000 Masters victor Vijay Singh of Fiji - who birdied three of his first four holes but was two-under through 12 - and Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who was two-under through seven.

However, the former world number one hit a low punch shot from the pine straw which found the front edge of the green, from where he produced a superbly well-judged putt from long range to leave a tap-in for par.

Mickelson could become the oldest player to win the Masters, supplanting Jack Nicklaus who was 46 when he won in 1986.

On the eve of The Masters, the opening three-ball of Austin Cook, Ted Potter Jr. and Wesley Bryan may be concerned to see that teeing off between 8am-9am USA time (1pm-2pm United Kingdom time) on the opening day has led to the lowest portion of cuts made in recent years.

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