It can’t be fond memories of the place, because they are few. Tiger Woods will play the Genesis Invitational at the Riviera Country Club this week, injecting an already star-stacked field with that incomparable Tiger factor.
The gallery will swell. The television audience will skyrocket. Tiger could stumble. Tiger could dazzle. A spectacle is guaranteed.
It began with Woods addressing the media Tuesday and making it clear that despite five back surgeries, an arduous recovery from a near-fatal car accident and recent issues with planter fasciitis, he is here to win.
“I know some players are ambassadors of the game, but I can’t wrap my mind around that as a competitor,” he said. “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.”
Woods will play his first competitive rounds since missing the cut at the Open Championship at St. Andrews in July and his first non-major since 2020. Last year he played only in three majors, finishing 47th at the Masters, missing the cut at the Open and withdrawing from the PGA Championship after the third round.
Why here? Why now? Woods has always left Riviera disappointed, from his first pro event as a 17-year-old amateur in 1992 when he didn’t make the cut to 13 starts at the event without a victory. He’s played no other course as many times without a win.
He is the host of the Genesis Invitational, which benefits his TGR Foundation. But his name will always be linked to the tournament for another reason, his harrowing, horrific car crash in the early morning of Feb. 23, 2021, on the Palos Verdes peninsula. The accident occurred the day after the tournament, which Woods attended as host but did not play.
Woods’ rehabilitation was lengthy and arduous. He nearly lost his right leg, and problems lingered into last fall when plantar fasciitis in his right heel forced him to pull out of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas before it began.
“As far as the recovery, it’s more of my ankle, whether I can recover day to day,” he said. “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.”
Once they got over the shock of Woods tweeting that he’d play this week, his fellow golfers expressed delight at the prospect of seeing him with a club in his hands.
“I was surprised, I actually didn’t know when to expect to see Tiger,” said Justin Rose, who watched Woods, 47, play with his son, Charlie, in the PNC Championship in December. “He looked impressive there. In terms of the important part of can you hit a golf ball, can you get a ball in the hole, all of that seemed really in order.
“But we know that’s definitely not the thing he struggles with, right? It’s obviously the physical side of putting together four rounds of golf and a really good sign to see him in the field and feeling willing and able to get out here.”
The Genesis will feature 23 of the top 25 players in the Official World Golf Ranking as well as the top 30 in the FedExCup standings. Woods, who is tied with Sam Snead for the most career PGA Tour victories at 82, will play with Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy the opening two rounds.
“I know the golf course even though I haven’t had much success,” Woods said. “I knew what to practice for and what shots to hit.
“There’s an ambassador role in hosting events like this, in hosting the Genesis Invitational or the Hero, doing those type of things, I totally get it. But as a player, I flip the hat around and become a player, and from a player standpoint, I’m here to get that W.”