By TOM LaMARRE
We haven’t seen him for a while, but this week seems to be all about Tiger Woods.
Tournament host Woods announced last week that his first official appearance of the 2022-23 season will be on Thursday in the opening round of the Genesis Invitational, the Los Angeles-area event at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.
More than golf fans are excited to see Woods play for the first time since he missed the cut in the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews in Scotland last July.
“That’s great,” Jason Day of Australia said after hearing that Woods is playing this week at Riviera. “That’s awesome. That’s actually really good news. I’m actually really happy about that. It’s good that he’s out, he can walk and it’s nice to be able to see that. So, yeah, I’m excited to see him this week. That’s going to be fun.
“He’s playing Riv? Nice. I didn’t know. Great to hear. After all, he’s gone through. It’s incredible that he keeps trying. Spoke to him at Bahamas. Everything he had on his leg and then you add the plantar fasciitis. I really feel for him in that sense.”
Woods sustained a right leg injury two years ago that nearly cost him an amputation in an SUV rollover accident not long after he finished 68th by closing with 73-76-77 in the Genesis at Riviera.
In four tournaments last season, Woods’ best result was a tie for 47th in the Masters and he also missed the cut in The Open and withdrew from the PGA Championship after three rounds because of his leg injury.
“I’m stoked to see him back out there,” Max Homa said. “Yeah, he’s always remarkable. You never know what he’s going to do. It will be fun to watch him play some golf.”
Added 20-year-old Tom Kim of South Korea, a huge fan of Woods: “I think it’s great for the game that he is playing again. … Hopefully, I can kind of work myself up and kind of hopefully play with him if I get the chance.”
Even though Woods, who is from Cypress in Southern California, has won 82 times on the PGA Tour, he has never lifted the trophy in the Genesis, which started out as the Los Angeles Open. Tiger played in the event for the first time in 1997 when he was 15 and missed the cut.
Woods’ best finishes in 12 starts in the tournament came when he lost in a playoff Billy Mayfair when the event was moved to Valencia Country Club for one year in 1998 because the U.S. Senior Open was being played at Riviera that year, and a tie for second the following year among four results in the top 10.
“I know the golf course even though I haven’t had much success,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I knew what to practice for and what shots to hit.”
Even before Woods made the announcement that he would be playing, this week figured to be pretty interesting since nine of the top 10 players in the World Golf Rankings and 23 of the top 25 are in the field, led by new No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, No. 2 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and No. 3 Jon Rahm of Spain.
That won’t affect Woods’ usual determination to win.
“I know some players are ambassadors of the game, but I can’t wrap my mind around that as a competitor,” Woods told the media in a pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday. “If I’m playing in the event I’m going to try and beat you. I’m there to get a W, OK? So I don’t understand that making the cut’s a great thing. If I entered the event, it’s always to get a W.
“As far as the recovery, it’s more of my ankle, whether I can recover day to day. My leg is better. … It’s been an interesting balance, a little dance. It’s gotten so much better the last couple months. I wouldn’t put myself out here if I didn’t think I could beat these guys.”
It’s great for golf to have him back, and no matter how he plays, Tiger always makes it interesting.
1. Jon Rahm, Spain – The third-ranked Rahm finished third last week in Phoenix, his eighth straight top-10 finish including four victories, and again will have a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking. He is making his fifth start at Riviera and a tie for 21st last season was his worst result, as he tied for sixth two years ago and tied for ninth in 2019, when he first played the course.
2. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – After losing his No. 1 ranking last week with a tie for 32nd in Phoenix after three victories in recent starts, McIlroy slid only to No. 2 and can climb back on top if he can win again this week. This will be Rory’s seventh start at Riviera and he tied for fourth in 2019, tied for fifth in 2020 and tied for 10th last year among five finishes in the top 20.
3. Scottie Scheffler, United States – The new world No. 1 after repeating his 2022 victory at Phoenix last week, Scheffler hopes to get on a run like last season, when he won four times including the Masters. He has four top-10 finishes already this season and posted his best result in fourth starts at Riviera last year with a tie for fourth, and also tied for 20th the season before.
4. Xander Schauffele, United States – The sixth-ranked Schauffele has rebounded from a back injury that forced him to withdraw at Kapalua with a tie for third in The American Express, a tie for 13th in the Farmers and a tie for 10th last week in Phoenix. He has posted five consecutive top-25 finishes at Riviera, the best being a tie for ninth in 2018, and he tied for 13th last season.
5. Justin Thomas, United States – Climbed two spots in the World Golf Rankings to No. 7 last week by closing with 67-65 to finish fourth in Phoenix after posting ties for 25th in the Sentry TOC and the Farmers. Thomas is playing in the Genesis Invitational for the ninth time and his best result was solo second in 2019, and he also was sixth last year and tied for ninth in 2018.
6. Max Homa, United States – Knocking on the door of the top 10 in the world at No. 12, Homa won the Fortinet and the Farmers this season to give him six career victories, and also tied for third in the Sentry TOC. He is making his seventh start at Riviera, where he won two years ago in a playoff over Tony Finau, and he also tied for fifth in 2020 and tied for 10th last season.
7. Justin Rose, England – Returning from a week off after claiming his 11th PGA Tour victory and 30th as a pro at Pebble Beach, Rose seems to have regained his old form at the age of 42. He also tied for ninth in Houston and tied for 18th in the Farmers this season. This is his 13th start in the Genesis, with his best result a tie for fourth in 2017, and he also tied for ninth in 2011.
8. Viktor Hovland, Norway – Another player trying to climb back into the top 10 of the rankings at No. 11, Hovland won the unofficial Hero World Challenge in December and his best results this season are a tie for fifth in the Zozo and a tie for 10th at Mayakoba among five finishes in the top 25. Tied for fifth in 2021 and tied for fourth last year in his only Riviera starts.
9. Patrick Cantlay, United States – The fifth-ranked Cantlay is in need of a big week as his best results this season are a tie for second in the Shriners and a tie for 16th in the Sentry TOC, as he missed the cut last week in Phoenix. He played his college golf at nearby UCLA and his best result at Riviera Country Club was a tie for fourth in 2018 among four finishes in the top 20.
10. Collin Morikawa, United States – Coming off a missed cut last week in Phoenix, Morikawa had finished in the top 10 in three straight events before that, including second in the Sentry TOC and third in the Farmers. He grew up not far from Riviera in La Canada Flintridge and last year he tied for second in his third appearance in the Genesis by posing four rounds of 68 or better.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Tiger Woods, United States; Tony Finau, United States; Jason Day, Australia; Sam Burns, United States; Tom Kim, South Korea; Cameron Young, United States; Jordan Spieth, United States; Matt Fitzpatrick, England; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Tyrrell Hatton, England; Rickie Fowler, United States; Adam Scott, Australia; Sungjae Im, South Korea; Keegan Bradley, United States.
1. Taylor Montgomery, United States – Finished third in the Fortinet and fifth in the American Express among four T-10 results and eight in the T-20 this season. Making his debut at Riviera.
2. K.H. Lee, South Korea – Wound up third in the CJ Cup and tied for seventh in the Sentry TOC this season with four scores in the 60s each time. Lee was T-26 in Riviera debut last year.
3. Kurt Kitayama, United States – Three-time winner as a pro around the world, Kitayama was second in CJ Cup, T-23 in Phoenix. Californian surprisingly is making his debut at Riviera.
4. Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Korea – Another three-time pro winner, Bezuidenhout was T-11 in The American Express, T-20 in the Shriners. Missed the cut in Riviera debut last season.
5. Andrew Putnam, United States – Winner of 2018 Barracuda has T-2 in Zozo and T-4 in Sony Open in Hawaii this season among four T-25s. T-32 in 2021 was best result in five Riviera starts.
For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard