Day one of the Masters never disappoints but Thursday at Augusta seemed to have it all.
He was in the large group at 69, the solid start McIlroy needed, especially with how Spieth was going.
Garcia's troubles were a headline-grabber, the Spaniard who won the green jacket in 2017 self-destructing with an astonishing 13 shots at the par-five 15 hole, where he hit his six-iron second shot into the pond in front of the green, then consecutively pumped five more wedges into the water, a lot of them spinning back from the putting surface. He drove into the trees at the last but a sublime chip ensured only one dropped shot. The 6ft 4in former basketball centre teed off less than 24 hours after dislocating his left ankle (and popping it back in) while celebrating a hole-in-one in the par-3 contest.
"I didn't sleep very much on Wednesday night but from that point to where I stand today is nothing short of a miracle", he said.
But the biggest story of the round was Garcia.
After birdieing the second and third holes, Spieth gave both shots back over the next four before an eagle at the par-5 eighth saw him reach the turn in 34.
The 38-year-old Spaniard, whose chances of reclaiming his title are all-but over, eventually one-putted for 13.
"I don't know what to tell you", said a shaken Garcia, after carding nine-over 81.
"I felt like I hit a lot of good shots and unfortunately the ball just didn't want to stop". "I know as well as anybody that anything happens here at Augusta National. So it's just unfortunate, but that's what it is".
The meltdown left Garcia at 10 over in the opening round and 14 shots behind the leaders.
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He has had an encouraging season to date, finishing joint second and tied fifth in his most recent PGA Tour events last month.
Two birdies over the final five holes helped his mood, too.
"I just got to keep pushing, just try and claw myself back into the tournament", lamented the Australian. After a bogey at No. 8, he played his next 10 holes in 7-under, including a five-birdie stretch from Nos. Most notably Matt Kuchar, the Augusta specialist whose heart Spieth broke at the Open, is tied second and Rory McIlroy battled his way to a 69 - his best opening round at Augusta since 2011.
"Jordan had a pretty strong finish there", McIlroy said.
He was two clear when he birdied 16 and three ahead when he made it five straight birdies at the 17th.
However, rather than playing his next shot safe to the back of the green, Garcia spun it back into the water again playing six and proceeded to hit it in the juice a further two times before eventually keeping the ball on the green and holing his nine footer for a 13. A 13! Hao-Tong Li kept the unbelievable run of Dubai Desert Classic winners at Augusta going with a brilliant 69, but made plenty of mistakes too.
Only two players have come back from seven shots behind after the opening round to capture the green jacket. A 36-foot putt for eagle at 15 was the highlight of his 74, before bogeys at 17 and 18.
That bullish assessment came before Spieth caught fire, stringing together five birdies on the back nine as he seized a two-stroke lead over fellow Americans Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau.
Woods was in danger of playing himself out of the tournament when he bogeyed the 11th and found the water with his tee shot on the 12th, but crucially salvaged a bogey after a mediocre pitch.