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Woods was the overwhelming favorite coming into the tournament, and that didn’t change after he opened with a 70.

“I felt like I putted well today,” said Woods, whose only lower opening-round score at Augusta was a 68 in 2010. “We’ve got a long way to go. I’ve just got to out there and play shot for shot. The golf course is going to change dramatically. You’ve just got to make adjustments.”

Woods has already won three times this year and reclaimed his No. 1 spot in the world rankings. But he hasn’t captured a major since 2008, and it’s been eight long years since he claimed his fourth green jacket at Augusta. He is still four majors shy of tying Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 championships _ a mark that becomes a little more daunting each time the 37-year-old Woods fails to win one of golf’s biggest events.

Maybe this will be the week he breaks the longest major-less drought of his career.

“I feel comfortable with every aspect of my game,” Woods said beforehand. “I feel that I’ve improved and I’ve gotten more consistent, and I think the wins show that.”

Lynn is feeling good about the way things are going, too. In just the second major appearance of his largely overlooked career, he finished second behind Rory McIlroy at Kiawah Island.

He moved from the European to the American tour this year, a change that seems to have rejuvenated his passion for the game.

“It’s given me a second wind,” Lynn said. “Everything is new. I’m going to different places every week, different courses. It’s like I’ve started my career again almost.”

Guan Tianlang of China is just getting started. At age 14, he was the youngest player to ever qualify for the Masters.

Guan got off to a shaky start, making bogey on the first hole, but he showed remarkable poise. When the ball dropped into the cup for a birdie at the third, he pumped his right fist. Another birdie at the 13th _ his third of the day _ left him with a respectable 1-over score.

The kid was followed by his parents and several family friends, but inside the ropes Guan relied heavily on his playing partner, two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, chatting frequently and soaking up every bit of advice that he could.

About three hours before Woods teed off, the tournament began with ceremonial shots from three of golf’s greatest players _ 83-year-old Arnold Palmer, 77-year-old Gary Player and the 73-year-old Nicklaus.

Palmer was clearly pleased with his effort, which settled right in the middle of the fairway. He pumped his right fist as the crowd roared.

“The only nerves are to make sure you make contact,” Nicklaus quipped. “It doesn’t make a diddly-darn where it goes.”

Rickie Fowler matched Lynn’s 68, Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson opened with 69s, while Woods was joined at 70 by a large group that included Lee Westwood, Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose, K.J. Choi and Jason Day.

Story Continues →