As Tiger Woods made his way around the back nine of the Riviera Country Club during Tuesday’s practice round, one thing was abundantly clear to the 14-time major winner.
It’s a far different golf course than the one he played the last time he entered this event in 2006. Riviera is now a 7,322-yard par 71.
“Some of the holes have really changed,” Woods said. “So the old yardage books are out the window. This is a whole new game.
“Everything is bigger now. The bunkers are deeper, they seem bigger, the greens have got more pin locations than I remember. So I have to do a little more homework (Wednesday) during the Pro-Am.”
It has been three weeks since Woods made his official return to the PGA Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where he made the cut on the number and then enjoyed a solid weekend to finish in a tie for 23rd. He said the only thing sore following the event were his feet – because he wasn’t used to walking a long course for four consecutive days.
Woods will be paired for the first two rounds of the Genesis Open with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, who flew to the event with Woods. Thomas enters this week ranked No. 4 in the world, McIlroy No. 10 after missing the cut last week. Still, they represent two of the four top-10 players in the field this week.
Woods? He’s sitting at No. 550, with only two full events under his belt over the past 13 months.
Thomas also asked Woods when he competed at Riviera as an amateur. Woods’ answer – as a 16-year-old in 1992 – brought a chuckle as it was the year before Thomas was born.
“I’m sorry, but that put things into perspective for me really fast,” Woods said with a laugh.
Woods said he has spent the time between tournaments trying to “clean up” his swing while keeping his putting sharp. While his short game was surprisingly strong at Torrey Pines, his driver was often well off the mark and left him scrambling to save par.
“I’ve got a lot of room for improvement and a long way to go,” Woods said about managing expectations.
At the same time, he’s excited to be competing again alongside the wave of strong young players, many of whom had never played with him before the Hero World Challenge in December.
Before then, “I was just a person they could bounce ideas off of.”
Woods added that he would love to compete for the United States Ryder Cup team as a vice captain in September, but acknowledged he has a long way to go with his game before that can be considered a potential reality.
–By Derek Harper, Field Level Media