An all-American trio of three-time major victor Brooks Koepka, world number two Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele shared second on 276.
He ended last season by winning the Tour Championship and showed signs of a breakthrough at the majors by being a title contender at last year's British Open, where he led in the final round, and PGA Championship, where he finished runner-up.
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Nike has sponsored Woods since 1996 and has stuck with the golfer after his career ran aground amid a sex scandal, DUI arrest and multiple injuries.
"I've played enough with him and know that he was playing well enough and I thought [Sunday] was going to be big in how he handled it, " Thomas said.
"I don't know if he's anxious or not".
That's the highest overnight rating for a morning golf telecast since metered ratings were introduced 34 years ago, the network said.
"I was just trying to plod my way along the golf course all day", said Woods. He had a fourth back surgery with hopes of simply playing with his two children, not chasing Jack Nicklaus in history.
"The win at East Lake was a big confidence booster for me because I had come close past year a couple times, still had to get it across the finish line and didn't quite do it. I always felt like I could do pretty much anything physically, but for a while there, I just couldn't even walk".
While it looked like the old Woods on the golf course this week, it was a different Tiger Woods Sunday afternoon in the Masters interview room - the poshest interview room in all of sports, by the way - where each reporter has his own desk and microphone. It was a win that didn't just tell the golfing world that Woods was healthy and able to compete, it was a victory that sent out a warning to every one of his fellow professionals that he's back in the business of winning major championships again.
President Donald Trump praised the win, tweeting: "Love people who are great under pressure". I couldn't sit. Couldn't lay down.
"Congratulations to Tiger Woods, a truly Great Champion!"
"This will be up there with one of the hardest I've had to win because of what transpired over the last couple of years", he added. "There was a lot of times when I really couldn't move and so that in itself is hard". Woods sprayed his shot well right of the fairway - but was extremely fortunate to have a sightline to the green. "And with six or seven guys with a chance to win the championship it got a little complicated but fortunately I was able to hit some of my best golf shots all week".