LOS ANGELES – It was all going so well for Tiger Woods Thursday at the Genesis Invitational. And then he hit the back nine. Here are some thoughts and observations after walking a full loop at Riviera and watching Woods set the place ablaze early only to falter down the stretch en route to a 2-under 69:
You can’t ask for a better start to a tournament than the one Tiger drew up in the opening round. An eagle on the par-5 first hole gave him an immediate boost – and amid a flurry of tributes to Kobe Bryant, it was fitting that his first putt of the day was a make from exactly 24 feet, 8 inches. “It’s ironic, isn’t it?” Woods said.
Woods was firing on all cylinders across the front nine, striping drives and stuffing wedges. He made it look easy on a course that has often had his number, turning in 4-under 31 to briefly move into second place.
But a pulled drive off the 10th tee was emblematic of the struggles that lay ahead. For as dialed in as he was in the early stages, Woods seemingly had no idea where the ball was going on the back nine – especially off the tee. He found just one fairway and was scrambling most of the way, shooting a back-nine 38 that easily could have gotten into the 40s. “Didn’t hit many good shots on the back nine and made a couple loose swings,” he said. “Made a couple good saves on the back for par, but just wasn’t able to get any birdies on the back nine.”
Still, it wasn’t all sour given Woods’ traditional struggles at Riv. Thursday marked just his second round in the 60s here since returning to the event in 2018, and it still left him inside the top 20, five shots behind early leader Matt Kuchar.
The final stats on a wildly inconsistent day: 7 of 14 fairways, 11 of 18 greens in regulation and 28 putts.
Woods was downright wild off the tee coming down the stretch, missing with the driver in both directions and twice left with no play but a pitch back toward the fairway from behind a tree. All told, he lost more than three strokes to the field just off the tee in the nine-hole stretch.
Woods was understandably a little salty in his post-round interview, having let a potentially great day turn into a merely good one. But it would’ve been far worse were it not for some impressive, scrambling par saves on the back: up-and-downs on Nos. 13 and 15, not to mention a 6-foot save on No. 17 after running his birdie putt well past.
Woods won’t have much time to dwell on his uneven scorecard, with an early second-round tee time at 10:16 a.m. ET alongside Justin Thomas and Steve Stricker. “It’ll be a quick turnaround to get back at it,” he said. “Hopefully I can hit it as good as I did on that front nine and give myself a number of looks for the entire 18 holes, not just nine holes.”