The record from the 2023 Genesis Invitational will show that Tiger Woods finished in a tie for 45th place. He finished 72 holes in red numbers — one-under par.
But this past week at Riviera Country Club, over a five-day stretch, Tiger scored a huge win — he walked 72 holes in competition plus 16 more on a very chilly Wednesday in the pro-am.
And more-so — Tigermania was/is alive, well and thriving in Los Angeles and most likely everywhere else as he flashed some of his old form but also struggled at times, as was expected.
“It certainly was a little bit more difficult than I probably let on,” Woods said after he closed with a two-over par 73.
It was a mixed bag over the four days. His opening 69 on Thursday in the company of Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas was a battle. Tiger showed the grit that made him the best player in the world during his prime — the grit that won him 82 events and 15 majors. Tiger was over-par for the day until he finished birdie-birdie-birdie and whipped his massive crowd into a frenzy. They were 10-deep all day at Riviera, a place that has not been particularly kind to El Tigre.
That first day also became a social media bonfire for Woods — just call it Tampon-Gate. Woods, armed with a new, lower-spin distance golf ball, was out-driving both McIlroy and Thomas. As the group headed down the ninth fairway, Woods slipped a tampon into J.T.’s hand. Tiger was burned at the stake on social media by some but apologized.
“It was supposed to be all fun and games and obviously it hasn’t turned out that way,” he said. “If I offended anybody, it was not the case, it was just friends having fun. As I said, if I offended anybody in any way, shape or form, I’m sorry. It was not intended to be that way. It was just we play pranks on one another all the time and virally I think this did not come across that way, but between us it was – it’s different.”
Obviously no one in the massive gallery gave it a second thought. Huge crowds on day two, which turned out to be a bummer for Woods thanks to a balky putter. Tiger struggled mightily down the stretch, looking fatigued and bogeyed three of his final four holes. He shot 74 and was below the even par cutline at one-over par. But that line moved in the afternoon. Tiger was guaranteed four round — another win.
To no one’s surprise, Tiger was rusty from time away from competition. He struggled on the poa greens all week. Struggled with the speed and made silly mistakes. He missed short putts and chunked chip shots.
His driving, however, was impressive with his ball speeds going north of 180 miles per hour — elite speed.
There were old Tiger moments — like his eagle on the par five first hole on Saturday. He nearly holed his second shot there. It was an impressive third round for Tiger, who worked his way inside the top 20 until he made a late bogey. Still, he signed for a four-under par 67 — best round of the day.
Credit caddie Joe LaCava for a text message he sent his boss after the woeful putting on Friday.
LaCava’s text said Tiger needed 10 extra minutes of chipping and 10 extra minutes for putting before Saturday’s round.
Later LaCava said of his man: “You can’t keep him on his feet for that long, right? I don’t want him on his feet for an hour and a half before he even plays, I get it. He needs to save himself for the round. But he’s trying so hard to get healthy that he hasn’t had enough attention to his short game. I said to him, ‘You’ve played two competitive rounds since May at the PGA.’ Those were at St. Andrews. I’m not beating him up. I’d expect him to be rusty but now that we’re here we’ve got to get after it.”
Tiger gave the swarm of spectators one last highlight on Sunday. At the par three 16th, he hit his tee shot to five feet and rolled in the birdie putt.
The tough part of Tiger’s week was not the playing — but the recovery process between rounds and he talked about that:
“I pretty much lay in ice pretty much all night,” Woods explained. “It’s not fun, very cold all the time. And then treatment, then getting muscles activated and go back and hop in the cold again. The ebb and flow of that, it’s hard. It’s hard mentally, it’s hard physically. It’s just one of those things, part of being an athlete – yes, we train; yes, we push our bodies, but it’s also what’s probably even more important is the recovery process.
“If you’re able to recover, you’re able to push it harder the next day.”
After he finished on Sunday, Tiger joked that he kept his Riviera winless streak going.
Sure, there was no win for Tiger Woods. No one expected him to win, perhaps not even Tiger though he’d never admit that.
Now comes the next big question — when will be see Tiger again? Will we see him before The Masters in April.
Tiger didn’t hesitate to say:
“I don’t know.”