Tiger Woods starts well at Genesis then sends Rory McIlroy back to the range

Tiger Woods closes with three straight birdies as he cards an extremely impressive 2-under 69 on his PGA Tour return at Riviera. 

Andy Roberts's picture
Fri, 17 Feb 2023
Tiger Woods starts well at Genesis then sends Rory McIlroy back to the range

Tiger Woods closed out with three straight birdies to card an extremely impressive 2-under 69 on day one of the Genesis Invitational on the PGA Tour.

Woods, 47, is hosting this week's tournament at famed Riviera as he makes his competitive return for the first time since the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews.

The round was so impressive by Woods, especially from off the tee, that it even sent his playing partner Rory McIlroy back to the drawing board. 

Related: Rory McIlroy's name butchered on first tee at Riviera

McIlroy may have edged Woods by two shots with a flawless round of 4-under 67 in the opening round, but it was Woods' performance with the driver that impressed the World No.2 so much on day one. 

Woods outdrove McIlroy mulitple times in the first round, as proven in the image below. 

On one hole, Woods flexed his muscles and piped his drive past Thomas.

No doubt, he wanted to try and needle the player he has described as his "little brother". 

It appeared to be a tampon and Woods has already come under a huge amount of criticism for the "embarrassingly immature sexist prank". 

Paige Spiranac has since leaped to the defence of Woods. 

Although McIlroy also pipped Woods when it came to overall driving distance on day one, Woods was more than holding his own. 

McIlroy averaged 315 yards, while Woods came in with 311 yards, ranking him 37th in the field of 129 players. 

McIlroy, who can return to World No.1 again this week, said: 

"I'm going to work on the range. 
"I don't like him hitting it by me."

Woods opened with an up-and-down birdie at the easy par-5 1st before handing it back at the par-3 4th.

The 15-time major champion then stuck it to three feet with his approach on the par-4 8th and binned the putt to go out in 1-under par.

He would make a mess of the short par-4 10th and difficult par-4 12th with bogeys to fall back to 1-over par, but in true Woods-like fashion he rallied to the house with a hat-trick of birdies from the 16th.

Woods sent a beautiful tee shot down the heart of the pin on the par-3 16th, converting the birdie putt from five feet. 

He then holed a 23-footer for birdie on the par-5 17th after having missed the green from 276 yards with his second shot. 

Woods then split the fairway down 18 and sent his approach shot into seven feet, and he drained the putt for a third straight birdie and fifth of the day.

It all added up to a round of 2-under 69, leaving Woods in a tie for 27th.

That was one shot better than newly-promoted World No.1 Scottie Scheffler, who carded a 70. 

Woods admitted he had a blast out there in the first round, playing alongside two of his best friends on Tour - McIlroy and Justin Thomas.

JT shot a 3-under 68 to sandwich himself in the middle of the three-ball.

After the round, Woods said: 

"The ebb and flow of needling each other, encouraging each other and telling stories.
"I hadn't been out here so I've missed some of the things that have transpired on tour, which is kind of fun."

The really big test now comes for Woods, as he will be off early in the second round.

Woods is set to play at 7:24 a.m. local time on Friday, which is just a 14-hour turnaround for him to get his body ready for another 18 holes in much cooler weather, too. 

He has told the media that his preparation for the round will involve "lots of icing and treatment" in order to get himself ready.

Earlier this week, we discussed this particular subject on the GolfMagic 'From The Tips' Podcast, which you can watch below: 

Woods of course nearly died two years ago this month when crashing a rental car in Los Angeles. 

He has since been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, an injury of the feet. 

Prior to Woods' car crash, he was already recovering from multiple back surgeries. 

At the top of the board at the Genesis Invitational, it's Max Homa and Keith Mitchell on 7-under par. 

The American duo lead arguably the hottest man in golf right now, Jon Rahm, by one shot. 

Homa said his opening hole was the 'coolest way' he's ever begun a round of golf as he raced out of the blocks at Riviera. 

The in-form Homa knows this venue well having claimed his second PGA Tour victory here in February 2021. 

He's now got six titles and is in good position to claim his seventh after firing an opening round of 64. 

Homa's start was an entertaining one. He started on the back nine and tried to drive the green at No. 10. 

His tee shot came up short and nestled in the thick rough at the 302-yard par-4. He then dumped his flop shot into the bunker. 

Homa was staring a bogey or worse in the face but then holed out to begin his round under par. 

Watch Homa's entertaining start here:

He turned in 2-under 34, picked up strokes at No. 1 and No. 2 before finishing birdie-birdie-birdie just like Woods to snatch a share of the first-round lead narrowly ahead of Rahm (65). 

As for Rahm, he said the tournament felt like a major championship given the stacked field at the elevated event. 

His form has been ridiculous in 2023, having already won twice on the PGA Tour. Those victories were back-to-back. 

Collin Morikawa also finds himself nicely in contention following a 66.