Tiger Woods fires up fans in L.A. before cold temps, delays take toll

PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 17: Tiger Woods hits a tee shot on the 9th hole during the continuation of the third round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on February 17, 2019 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images) Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

Tiger Woods fires up fans in L.A. before cold temps, delays take toll

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Tiger Woods fires up fans in L.A. before cold temps, delays take toll

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PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods remain tied for zero wins at storied Riviera. At the fabled course where nearly the rest of the game’s greats have hoisted a trophy, the game’s two greatest remain shut out after Woods was unable to make a Genesis Open final-round charge. But at least this time around Woods put on a show fans here won’t soon forget.

With weekend rounds of 65-72, Woods may have redefined his Riviera narrative that sagged after a 12-year absence followed by his 2018 return and a missed cut. Southern California’s native son has not conjured up much magic at the historic links where he played his first PGA Tour event in 1992, other than one second-place finish last century.

Woods’ “futility” here has been a bit overstated, given multiple rounds of 65 or better. Yet this year’s Saturday afternoon charge included a 5-under start through four holes, sending Tiger roars through Santa Monica Canyon. Not since Phil Mickelson’s last-hole birdie here in 2012 or Nicklaus’ final-round Riviera runs in the 1983 PGA and 1998 U.S. Senior Open, have L.A. fans been treated to an all-time great putting on such a show.

With cold temperatures and a break between Saturday’s delayed second and third rounds, a surprising number stayed late for the restart, including Josh Duhamel and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Woods rewarded the crowd with a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie run recorded mostly by cell phones. Woods’ playing partners, Peter Malnati and Cody Gribble, looked understandably overwhelmed by the size and volume of the crowd, but Woods appeared to finally find confidence on the greens, which was lacking in his first two rounds.

His first HD-era Riviera highlight came Saturday afternoon at the par-5 11th which, combined with the three birdies, vaulted him into some semblance of contention. When Mickelson followed with an eagle back at the 10th, the roars through the canyon gave resilient fans a long-overdue Tiger memory inside Los Angeles city limits.

He continued the steady play early Sunday, but 2 a.m. wake-up calls got the best of the 43-year-old.

“I got tired,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I definitely felt it today.”

Until flaming out late Sunday as winds picked up, Woods appeared to improve in comfort level, energy and focus as the week progressed, with his ballstriking strong throughout the week. Hit hit 36 of 56 fairways and 51 of 72 greens. But the gradual improvement that peaked Saturday also suggests the tournament host’s early-week schedule might need to be curtailed if he wants to win at Riviera.

“This is a busy week,” he said when asked if the obligations were a distraction. “Anytime I’ve hosted events over the last, what, 20 years now, they’re busy weeks.  There’s a lot to do as part of hosting duties and playing. So I’ve done it before, I’ve been successful at it, and hopefully we can get it going here.”

With his window to win at Riviera gradually closing, the 14-time major champion and 80-time PGA Tour winner will have had a complete career regardless of what happens in Pacific Palisades. But wouldn’t it be incredible if he sets the new bar for Tour wins at the place where it all started? Gwk

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