Tiger Woods makes roller-coaster return to Genesis Open
February 15, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods interview after Round 1 of Genesis Open
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Tiger Woods is still looking for a solution off the tee after the 79-time PGA TOUR winner opened the Genesis Open with a grinding 1-over 72.
Having hit just 19 fairways over four rounds at Torrey Pines a few weeks ago, Woods was hoping for better accuracy in his first start at Riviera Country Club since 2006.
And while the stat line of eight of 14 fairways reads reasonably – only four of those hit were with his driver.
Unlike at Torrey – where he recovered to hit plenty of greens – Woods managed just seven of 18 on Thursday.
It meant way too many holes grinding for pars than trying to make birdies.
Making just his third tournament start since undergoing spinal fusion surgery last April, Woods chose to look at the glass half full.
“It was a lot better today. The shaft is a little more stout, and the times I lost it to the right, a lot of the times I was just trying to smooth it out there,” Woods explained.
“I can go ahead and hit this thing, I can be aggressive, and I can take out one side of the golf course, which is great.”
Tiger Woods sticks his approach shot on No. 8 at Genesis Open
The side he didn’t take out was the right.
After opening with a birdie on the 10th hole at Riviera, Woods sent his first attempt with the driver right into the trees.
A towering eucalyptus promptly swallowed his ball and had him hitting 3 from the tee.
He had a handful of other wild misses to the right including on the par-4 ninth – his final hole - where he ended up in a bunker – on the 10th.
“I guess he's gone to a driver that's a little longer, a little more loft, so that's good. I said to him, ‘Make it as easy as possible for yourself, don't try and complicate things,’” playing partner Rory McIlroy said of Woods’ driver.
“But it looks OK. He hit some great drives coming in, he drove it much better … saw some good signs, just a better rhythm, a little bit better tempo from the top.”
McIlroy pointed out the 7:22am tee time and crisp morning temperatures may have contributed.
“It was cold and if you don't quite release it that much, it can get away from you pretty easily. I had a couple get away from me and didn't feel like I hit that bad,” he said.
And the Northern Irishman is a firm believer that over time and more reps Woods will be a serious factor.
“It doesn't feel like five years ago that he won five tournaments and was the Player of the Year,” McIlroy said.
“He remembers how to do this and his body's allowing him to do this, and there's no doubt in my mind that he'll make a little bit of noise this year.”
Sitting five back of the early clubhouse lead, Woods certainly didn’t feel out of the event he’s failed to win in 10 previous tries including his PGA TOUR debut as a 16-year-old in 1992.
He did after all post five birdies, and a couple of his mistakes were basic errors – like hitting into long Kikuyu grass with an iron off the tee on the par-4 fifth hole and missing the par-4 seventh green with a wedge from just 137 yards.
Needing just 25 putts was promising so if he eliminates the mistakes he could certainly press toward the weekend.
“I'm not that far off to really putting some good numbers out there,” Woods said.
“I've got to clean up my card … I made too many bogeys. If I can just clean that up, I can start making my way up the board.”