The walk to the Riviera Country Club clubhouse from the 18th green is a steep one. But any pain the smiling Tiger Woods might have felt in his right ankle seemed soothed by the crowd chanting his name near the hole’s surrounding grass auditorium.
Despite an injury that still bothers the 15-time major winner as he walks, Woods punctuated his first round of competitive golf in seven months with three birdies on the last three holes to shoot a 2-under 69 at the Genesis Invitational and make his return to the PGA Tour an electric one.
There were just as many positive and negative takeaways from Tiger Woods’ return to non-major PGA Tour action on Thursday.
Until he reached the final three holes.
The 82-time winner ho-hummed his way around Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles to the tune of a 2-under 69 in the opening round of the 2023 Genesis Invitational and walked off the course T-27.
His accuracy off the tee left something to be desired, hitting just six of 14 fairways. That said, when he caught his driver cleanly, the ball went far. Very far. Five drives were 320 yards or longer, with his longest of the day reaching 338 yards.
As Woods explained, the way the course is set up, it allows him to gain more distance off the tee because of the roll the ball gets, though he still had to adjust to the distance he was getting based on adrenaline alone.
“There’s nothing like come game time, just the feeling of the butterflies and trying to calm all that stuff down,” Woods said. “Even though it’s cold out here, [the ball] was going even further than we expected. I had to dial all that back in.”
Given his physical state, there was an expectation that the back nine would be tough for Woods to endure. And while that might have been the case, his game improved as the round progressed. Drives went farther, approach shots were tighter and putts were finally dropping. After making bogeys on the 10th and 12th holes, Woods made three straight pars before stepping up to the 16th tee and hitting the shot of the day.
GENESIS INVITATIONAL ROUND 2:
Still recovering from a single-car accident that nearly cost him his leg, Woods walked with ease for most of the round but began to labor a bit down the stretch. The true test of his fitness and form will come Friday morning, where Woods will be back on the course alongside Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas at 10:24 a.m. ET.
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