PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Tiger’s bizarre relationship with Riviera continued Friday at the Genesis Open. There were moments of brilliance, plenty of ordinary shots and just enough ill-timed mistakes to maintain an odd inability to conquer a design he enjoys.
As playing partner Justin Thomas vaulted to the Genesis Open lead along with Adam Scott at -10 before second round play was halted, Woods’ morning 70 was hindered by balky putting. He rolled the ball better in the afternoon as wind and rain led to understandably loose shots and his trademark iron play became a liability.
During the afternoon’s 12 holes played in mostly miserable rain and wind, Woods’ average approach distance jumped from 177 yards to 196. A corresponding dip in accuracy ensued, hitting only 6 of 12 greens and dropping from 11th to 54th in Strokes Gained Approach.
At the day’s most miserable point weather-wise, Woods bogeyed the par-4 18th after almost pulling off a clever three-wood approach around the eucalyptus. But he rebounded with an eagle at the par-5 first by draining a 43-footer, then followed with consecutive bogeys. That left him at even on the second round and nine back of the lead.
“It was a tough day,” Woods said. “I’m stiff right now. It got pretty chilly towards the end, the ball wasn’t going very far.”
Players will reconvene at 7 a.m. local time (10 a.m. Eastern) and while Woods has just six holes to jumpstart his current T55 position, he can at least savor a stellar ballstriking round earlier in the day.
TIGER TRACKER: Shot-by-shot recap of his rounds at Genesis Open
On a crisp low-50s morning with moments of sunshine, Woods appeared a bit sluggish early into his 8:32 a.m. local tee time with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. He did not watch tee shots for long and reeled off a few ho-hum pars to start. A stout iron shot at the difficult par-3 4th was placed perfectly below the hole to set up his first legitimate birdie opportunity that was missed.
Compared to the golfer who returned here a year ago after back surgery and struggled with his iron play, the driving distance and iron play continued to shine as did the swing rhythm that so defined the second half of 2018.
His opening 70 included 9 of 14 fairways and a Strokes Gained tee-to-green rank of 6th.
Although his proximity to the hole with approach shots was a modest 33 feet in the opening round, he hit 17 of 18 greens and appeared to have full control over distance.
On the greens? That was another story.
Woods three-putted four times for his only bogeys of the first round. A whopping 34 putts included missed birdie putts inside 15 feet at the 4th and 13th holes. Woods three-putted the 7th, 12th and 17th holes, the final an especially painful mistake in that it was a par-5 and he ran his first putt six feet by.
“I hit it well and putted awful,” Woods said. “Four three-putts is ridiculous.”
Woods has battled with putting confidence through the years on Riviera’s poa annua greens, yet blamed his 34-putt effort on technique.
“It was more me,” he said before heading to the putting green for a quick session. “I just couldn’t get comfortable with my posture.”
From a clubhead speed perspective, Woods had no trouble keeping up with Thomas and McIlroy throughout the day, though he did seem to throttle back a few times in an effort to hit fairways. He ended up landing in 16 of 24 fairways played.
“Controlled the ball enough, just a terrible day on the greens,” Woods said. “It was amazing how well JT putted today. He made everything today. He made tough conditions look pretty easy.”
Woods and friends will resume at 7 a.m. local time Saturday to complete their second round as the other half of the field tees off from 7:40 a.m. to 9:35 a.m. in hopes of completing play soon enough to make the cut, then regroup to get in more afternoon play.
For Woods, a warm night and a warmer putter will be needed to reverse his Riviera blues.