Another iconic memory was written into Riviera Country Club folklore during the first round of the 2023 Genesis Invitational, as Tiger Woods made his latest comeback to pro golf.
Not since the 150th Open at St Andrews in July of last year had the 15-time Major champion featured competitively before he teed off on Thursday at the revered LA venue.
Anticipation was understandably high to see how he would perform under the microscope at one of the most popular stops on the PGA Tour schedule, and I was lucky enough to have a close-up view to see the drama unfold. Here are the things I noticed…
He’s still got it
Nobody knows how much Woods is able to play or practice these days given the extent of his injuries. He admitted here things can change on a daily basis, so it seems like any sort of schedule that may exist has to be very flexible. However, such is his immense ability that he’s still able to mix it with the best of the best, as was evident on Thursday.
I watched him warm up and it didn’t fill me with confidence. He was walking pretty gingerly and hitting it pretty poorly, especially with the longer clubs, but he once again showed he still has all the shots and grit in abundance to limit the damage where necessary and take advantage where possible.
He admitted he was nervous to get going so the birdie at the first will have been somewhat of a settler, but the early stretch posed some problems. His next real birdie chance wouldn’t arrive until the seventh but in the intermittent holes, he limited the loss to a solitary bogey to remain competitive on a day of low scoring. The putt on seven slipped by but he made amends on the eighth and closed out a one-under front nine.
A tough stretch to start the inward half saw him drop two shots before a good par save on 13 set up a grandstand finish. The birdie on 16 was trademark Woods as he flighted a delicious iron shot to around six feet to a tucked pin on the par-3. Then, he showed he can still crank up the power when he needs to. On 17, he was comfortably 15 yards by playing partner Justin Thomas and on 18 he even pipped Rory McIlroy by a few paces.
364 yards. Right down the middle 💪 @TigerWoods still has speed @TheGenesisInv. pic.twitter.com/y68pjYufckFebruary 17, 2023
Both of those tee shots paved the way for birdies two and three in succession that saw him round in two-under 69 and sparked some incredible scenes more akin to that of a Major.
There was, understandably, some rust on display, but…
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