Tiger fades after special start at Riviera
Tiger Woods opened a tournament with an eagle for just the second time since 2003
February 13, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods' interview after Round 1 of Genesis
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – After a sublime 3-wood found the fairway on the iconic par-5 first hole at Riviera Country Club Tiger Woods sized up a downwind approach with his 8-iron from about 173 yards.
The tournament host had just kickstarted his campaign at The Genesis Invitational and swung freely from the short grass, watching his shot intently as it settled on the green some 24 feet, eight inches from the hole.
Yes. 24 feet, eight inches.
On his first competitive hole on the PGA TOUR in Los Angeles after the passing of Lakers legend and good friend Kobe Bryant, the 82-time TOUR winner faced a putt for eagle from the two numbers synonymous with Bryant’s career. The Lakers honored Bryant’s incredible contribution to their organization by retiring both No. 24 and No. 8 when his playing days were over.
The result of the putt therefore was never in doubt. It dropped into the cup and Woods had started an event with eagle for just the second time since ShotLink records were kept in 2003. Fitting indeed.
With a birdie at the par-4 5th and another on the par-4 8th – which sports a Bryant inspired purple and gold pin flag – Woods shot 31 on the front nine. It was the first time he had done so on the opening nine at Riviera since doing so in the final round of 2004.
In fact Woods was a cumulative 6 over for the last seven times he had played that stretch of holes at Riviera so the turnaround was most welcome. And he could’ve gone lower having missed an eight-footer on the second. With six of seven fairways hit and seven of nine greens it appeared Woods might threaten Matt Kuchar’s early posted 7-under 64 that led the morning wave.
“It’s ironic, isn't it? It was a nice way to start. I didn't know about the putt being that long. As I said, ironic having those two numbers,” Woods said. “And then No. 8, happened to hit one in there close and had a nice little kick-in there for birdie.”
“You know, no matter what we do, I think for a while we're going to always remember Kobe and what he meant, and especially here in SoCal and the entire sports world.”
Tiger Woods' Round 1 highlights from Genesis
Despite the special start, as has often been the case at the venue where his PGA TOUR began as a 16-year-old in 1992, Woods was unable to continue the momentum. No other TOUR venue has meant so much but delivered so little to Woods who grew up about 40 miles away.
This is his 13th attempt in a TOUR tournament at Riviera, with a runner-up in 1999 his best finish. Across his career, Woods has averaged top-10 finishes at over 50 percent. At Riviera he is doing so at 25 percent.
On Thursday afternoon Woods saw his accuracy desert him at the turn and he hit just one of seven fairways and four of nine greens on the back nine. Bogeys on 12 and 18 meant he would settle for a 69 to be tied 17th after the opening round. The 44-year-old is certainly not out of the mix, but now needs to return in the colder morning hours on Friday and make a push up the leaderboards.
“I got off to a nice start on the front nine and just didn't hit many good shots on the back nine. Made a couple loose swings and made a couple good saves on the back nine for par, but just wasn't able to get any birdies,” Woods lamented post round.
Woods admitted he felt like things weren’t that crisp on the range in his warmup but had defied those feelings early in his round. He remained confident of being able to hit the ground running Friday despite facing sub 50 degree temperatures prior to his 7:16 a.m. start. With four back surgeries in his past getting things warmed up is an imperative part of his preparations.
“I haven't had a whole lot of time to practice this week, I've been a little bit busy,” Woods said referencing his role as host. “First time I saw the range was yesterday and that was for about 10 minutes warming up for the pro-am.”
“I really haven't hit a lot of balls this week. Just trying to get a nice movement pattern, trying to shape some shots. I was able to start feeling that, start shaping shots on the range and said, hey, just keep this thing going for all 18 holes but I only did it for the front nine.
“Hopefully we'll have a little bit smoother greens out there on the golf course (Friday morning). Hopefully I can hit it as good as I did on that front nine to give myself a number of looks for the entire 18 holes, not just nine holes.”