Woods was followed by enormous, fervent galleries as he carded an opening 71 to sit at one under after playing his first truly competitive round since his title defence here in November 2020.
He suffered severe leg injuries in a car accident 14 months ago and while he finished second alongside son Charlie at the PNC Championship in December, this is his first individual event for 509 days.
Asked if being able to compete was the equivalent to a victory, Woods said: “Yes.”
Pressed as to why, the 46-year-old added: “If you would have seen how my leg looked to where it’s at now, the pictures… some of the guys (fellow players) know.
“They’ve seen the pictures and they’ve come over to the house and they’ve seen it. To see where I’ve been, to get from there to here, it was no easy task.
“I’m very lucky to have this opportunity to be able to play, and not only that, to play in the Masters and to have this type of reception.
“I mean, the place was electric. I hadn’t played like this since 2019 when I won because in 2020 we had Covid and we had no one here, and I didn’t play last year. So to have the patrons fully out and to have that type of energy out there was awesome to feel.”
Woods spent three months in a hospital bed following the single-vehicle accident on February 23 last year where his car he hit a tree.
I’m very lucky to have this opportunity to be able to play, and not only that, to play in the Masters and to have this type of reception
“People have no idea how hard it’s been,” he added.
“My team does. They’ve worked with me every single day. We haven’t taken a day off since I got out of the bed after those three months.
“Granted, some days are easier than others. Some days we push it pretty hard, and other days we don’t, but always doing something.”
Asked how he would recover for Friday’s second round, Woods added: “Lots of treatments. Lots of ice baths. Just basically freezing myself to death.”