Kuchar leads by 3 at Riviera; Tiger’s hot start fizzles

Matt Kuchar took advantage of ideal scoring conditions during Thursday’s morning wave to post a 7-under-par round of 64 and leads by three shots at the Genesis Invitational in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Kuchar started on the back nine of Riviera Country Club and birdied three of his first four holes. He added another at the difficult par-4 18th hole to make the turn in 4-under 32. Kuchar added three more birdies over his final nine holes to build a three-shot lead that would hold up throughout the day.

The 64 tied Kuchar’s lowest career round at Riviera.

“I absolutely love coming here every year,” Kuchar told reporters. “I think it’s one of the few courses that has truly stood the test of time. It was a great test of golf 50 years ago when Ben Hogan was playing it, and it’s a great test today with Tiger Woods and all the young boys playing it.”

South Korea’s Kyoung-Hoon Lee is tied for second at 4 under along with a quartet of Americans: Wyndham Clark, Russell Henley, Adam Schenk and Harold Varner III. Schenk reached 5 under before a bogey on the 16th hole.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, playing his first round since reclaiming the No. 1 world ranking, also posted a strong morning round. His 3-under 68 included a pair of eagles to offset two bogeys. He’s tied for seventh in a group that also includes Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Australia’s Jason Day.

“The afternoon tomorrow is going to play a lot different than how it played today,” McIlroy told reporters. “It’s going to be dry again, and it’s going to firm up. It’s going to keep getting trickier, and you’re going to have to really think your way around this place.”

Woods got off to a blistering start that saw him eagle the first hole and reach 4 under through eight holes. But his round fizzled out from there as Woods went 2-over par over his final 10 holes. Trying to win at Riviera for the first time in 14 starts, Woods will tee off Friday morning five shots off Kuchar’s pace.

“Got off to a nice start on that front nine, then just didn’t hit many good shots on the back nine,” Woods told reporters. “Made a couple loose swings … made a couple of good saves on the back nine for par, but just wasn’t able to get any birdies on the back nine.”

However, he fared far better than playing partner Justin Thomas, who struggled to a 3-over 74 – one shot better than the 75 he posted in the final round last year to lose the 54-hole lead.

Brooks Koepka is also at 2 under, as is defending champion J.B. Holmes and England’s Justin Rose.

Phil Mickelson opened with a 1-over 72 as he plays for the fifth consecutive week.


McIlroy, Koepka and Spain’s Jon Rahm could finish the week ranked No. 1. Rahm opened with a 1-under 70. … No. 7 Webb Simpson is the only top 10 player not in this week’s field. … This is the lone PGA Tour event in which Woods has made at least 10 starts without recording a victory. He’s seeking to win a record 83rd career PGA Tour title in his 14th start at Riviera. … Bubba Watson, who has won the past three times at Riviera on even-numbered years, opened with a 1-over 72, as did fellow former champion Dustin Johnson. … The event began in 1926, and Riviera will be the site of the 2028 Olympic golf events.

–Derek Harper (@DerekAHarper), Field Level Media

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