Tiger Woods is back at Riviera, a course he’s never tamed
February 13, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods comments before Genesis Open
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Ten times he has teed it up at Riviera, including his very first start in a PGA TOUR event as a 16-year-old amateur in 1992.
Ten times he has gone home empty.
For Tiger Woods, that’s the most starts he has made on a single course on the PGA TOUR without a win. It’s an odd footnote in a career that includes 79 TOUR wins – and made even more perplexing given his Southern California roots and affinity for this historic layout.
“I love the golf course, I love the layout, it fits my eye – and I play awful. It’s very simple,” Woods said Tuesday while prepping for this week’s Genesis Open. “It’s just one of those weird things.”
To be fair, Tiger’s definition of “awful” is different than how the rest of us might perceive it. His track record certainly is not bad – a tie for second in 1999 and six other top-20 finishes in those 10 starts at The Riv. (Incidentally, his best finish in this event came in 1998 when he lost in a playoff to Billy Mayfair at Valencia Country Club.)
The only times he’s missed the cut at Riviera was his two amateur starts in 1992-93. He also had to withdraw after 36 holes in his last appearance in 2006 because of the flu.
Prior to that 2006 start, he told the media that he would “be seriously upset if I went my whole career and never won this tournament. It’s one of the oldest events on our TOUR, it’s played every year on one of our best courses. It always attracts a strong field. These are exactly the tournaments you want to win.”
And yet it took him 12 years to return to The Riv. It’s a tight course that generally favors shot-makers – it is, after all, one of Hogan’s Alleys, along with Colonial in Fort Worth, a course that Woods has not played since 1997. But Woods insisted Tuesday that his prolonged absence had nothing to do with the layout.
“It’s a fader’s golf course for a righty,” he said. “A lot of the holes, you hit nice soft cuts, and I used to love to hit nice soft cuts – and for some reason I just didn’t play well.”
Given that it has been a dozen years between starts, Woods must re-learn how to play Riviera, which has been lengthened over the years. In fact, when Woods played it in 1992, it was 6,946 yards. When he last played it in 2006, it was 7,279 yards. This week, it’ll play at 7,322 yards.
Consequently, the way he manages the course this week will be completely different. Take the par-4 12th. In 1997, it was 413 yards; it’s now 479 yards. Tiger once used a 1-iron and pitching wedge to get there. This week, he’ll go with driver and either a 6- or 7-iron.
“Some of the holes have really changed, so the yardage books are out the window,” Woods said.
On Tuesday, Woods played the back nine to formulate his game plan. On Wednesday, he’s in the pro-am and will concentrate on finalizing his strategy for the front nine while double-checking his notes on the back.
“This is a whole new game – everything’s bigger now,” he said. “The bunkers are deeper, they seem to be bigger. The greens have gotten more pin locations than I remember. They’ve added a few sections around here.
“So I’ve got to do a little bit more homework tomorrow in the pro-am.”
He’ll also need to get re-acquainted with the greens.
“I forgot how much tug there is down towards the ocean,” Woods said. “A couple putts I hit just in a practice round here, I misread probably about three or four of them. I forgot how much it tugs. So those are some of the things I’ve got to remember about this event and this golf course.”
Something else will be different for Tiger this week, too – the expectation level. It’s just his third start – and second TOUR start – since his return after a year-long absence to recover from back surgery. He certainly displayed some encouraging signs in a T-23 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.
But that’s a course he has owned. This one … well, 0-for-10 speaks for itself.
And even Tiger admits his measure of success is not solely based on winning, at least not right now. He must manage his surgically repaired back -- not so much for any pain but how it is impacting his swing.
“I’d eventually like to win tournaments,” he said. “I’m trying to get through that process, go through that process, get to that point. … The more tournaments I play in, the more I’ll be able to get a better understanding of that. But also, I don’t want to play too much. This is still all new to me and I just want to be real smart about it.”