Tiger Woods is teeing up for the second time this season at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club near LA. Paired with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, the 7:22 tee time struggled to get their momentum going, with each of them struggling in different ways.
For the Big Cat, it was with the driver. He drove it horrendously at Torrey Pines a few weeks ago and was wild again today (at least on the front nine). At Torrey, some of his tee shots were so bad they ended up right of the trouble, or far enough down the hole that the punishment was less severe. At Riviera, poor tee shots are punished much more severely, and Tiger paid the price. Let’s dive in.
Coming off a lay-up birdie at No. 10 (his first), he predictably went to the driver on the par-5 11th. Hard to fault the decision here, as a wayward drive here would typically mean you’re just laying up with your second. Woods went so far right that his ball either hung up in a tree, or got lost in the barranca. He had to Uber back to the tee to fire another one, and it quickly led to a double.
Pre 8 a.m., the 475-yard 12th is even tougher. Again, hard to fault him for going to the driver here, but it again missed comically right, and led to another bogey.
Another long par-4, the 15th, required a driver in Tiger’s eyes. Again missing way right and out of position (the left side of this hole is far more favorable), he made yet another bogey. To this point in his round, his only over-par holes had come with driver in hand. It’s most definitely worth noting that these lengthy fours that semi-require the driver (especially in the heavy early morning air) are some of the toughest holes on the golf course, but Woods wasn’t even close to finding Position A.
Things started to turn for the Big Cat on 17, where he hit the fairway with the driver. Following a solid lay up, he flipped a wedge in tight and rolled in his third birdie of the nine. Similar to the 11th, this hole wasn’t very reachable, so taking driver here didn’t give him much of an advantage. He had to lay up despite poking one out there even with JT.
Finding a groove now, he splits the fairway on the demanding 18th.
Through nine, he sat at -1.863 strokes gained off the tee, which put him at 71st out of the 72 players on the course.
He took 3-wood off the downhill par-5 1st, and calmly stroked one 301 yards down the center. But on the 475-yard par-4 2nd, he went back to the driver and again went wayward, this time for his only left miss.
An absolute stripe with the driver on the third.
After missing the fairway with less than driver on No. 5, he next pulled the driver on 8 and split the fairway. He flipped a wedge in from there to four feet and made his fifth birdie of the day.
To wrap up his morning, Woods took a lash at one on the 464-yard uphill ninth, and played the first hole for the second time on the day.
As of this point in his day, there were 84 players on the course, and Woods ranked 77th in strokes gained off the tee. Of course this stat includes all of his tee shots and not just the ones with the big stick.
Ironically, on two of the holes where driver was the more questionable decision (3 and 8), he piped it. It was the holes that were more demanding with the driver that caused Tiger the most trouble.
Overall, he hit the fairway four out of nine times with the driver, and played those holes in 2-under. On the five fairways he missed with the driver, he was 4 over.
With the way Cat sprayed it today, we’re all pretty thrilled that he got around in 72. The big takeaways (if you can have them after just one round) is that – like Torrey – he had moments of rust and moments of brilliance. His putting continues to impress and is far beyond what I expected in the early going.
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ROUND 1 STATS (at the time of his finish):
Strokes gained: Off the tee: -1.473 (98th/105)
Strokes gained: Tee to green: -1.863 (93rd/105)
Driving Distance (all): 286.8 (51st/105)
Strokes gained: Approach: -0.502 (75th/105)
Strokes gained: Putting: 1.789 (12th/105)