Tiger Woods battles to 1-over 72 in opening round of Genesis Open

Tiger Woods, with the gallery looking on, twists as he watches his approach shot from the rough on the 12th hole during the first round of the Genesis Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang) Ryan Kang/Associated Press

Tiger Woods battles to 1-over 72 in opening round of Genesis Open

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods battles to 1-over 72 in opening round of Genesis Open

 

LOS ANGELES — Speed is not the problem. Nor is the short game. Little is actually wrong with Tiger Woods. 

At least that’s the prevailing view of Woods and the Sunday-sized crowds that gleefully turned up on a crisp Thursday morning to see the hometown hero post a 1-over-par 72 in the first round of the Genesis Open.

They saw some old-school recovery shots, ingenious up-and-downs and a few really tough iron shots by Woods standards. That he’s even teeing up here appeared to be enough for most to roll out of bed on a day usually reserved for retirees and kids ditching school. 

Playing his first Genesis Open since 2006, Woods scrambled around Riviera Country Club like a man who had never left the kikuyu fairways and poa annua greens of his youth.

Distance off the tee was not an issue, as Woods kept up with and even passed much younger playing partners Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. Driver accuracy, however remains a feast-or-famine proposition with Woods insisting he’s back to taking out one side of the course with his misses. 

There was a healthy dose of the back-nine luck he’s experienced at this historic George Thomas design.

His Bridgestone-stamped “Tiger” ball never dropped out of an 11th-hole Eucalyptus tree, forcing a return to the tee and a double-bogey 7 following an easy opening birdie at Riviera’s beguiling 10th.

From there Woods posted four more birdies and four bogeys in conditions made difficult by swirling breezes and Riviera’s firm, fast greens. While the magnitude of the driver misses seems easy to focus on (8-for-14 fairways hit) Woods’ iron play remains the greatest concern.

After crisp approach shots in practice and the Wednesday pro-am, he hit just 7 of 18 greens and repeatedly missed in all of the wrong spots. Riviera’s greens are among the tiniest in golf, making a slight improvement in proximity to the hole – a 32-foot, 7-inch average in Round One. Tough to get excited about. 

“I made really silly bogeys out there, in particular No. 7 there, it was not very good from the middle of the fairway,” Woods said. “But overall I thought I hung in there well and grinded.”

If the scrambling is wearing him down, Woods isn’t letting on. He looks fit, fresh and fully engaged in the “process.”

For a mojo-driven player, his ability to swing fast remains shocking given recent memories of a fragile back.

“He’s got speed,” said McIlroy, who liked what he saw.

McIlroy finished at even par. Thomas shot a 2-under 69.

The noticeable increase in crowd size has already given the Genesis and Woods’ foundation, charitable beneficiaries of this tournament, a massive boost. So will a 3:02 p.m. Eastern tee time Friday with McIlroy and Thomas, where Woods will battle bumpier greens and pressure to make the cut.

“I’m not that far off to really putting some good numbers out there,” Woods said.

Just a few more greens in regulation and a little less time scrambling will vault Woods closer to the player of old.

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