Tiger Woods shot 69 in the Genesis Invitational’s first round to celebrate his return to competitive golf with a trio of birdies.
At Riviera Country Club, the tournament’s host was five strokes behind co-leaders Max Homa and Keith Mitchell. He hadn’t played an event without a cart since the Open Championship last summer, when he missed the cut at St. Andrews.
On a sunny afternoon in California, the 47-year-old had five birdies and three bogeys, but his legs held up.
“I happened to actually hit some good shots finally and made a couple of putts,” Woods said. “Even though I had a little mishap at 10, I was able to fight back and get it going. It was a nice finish.”
He stated that as the round progressed, his level of comfort increased.
“There’s nothing like come game time just the feeling of the butterflies and trying to calm all that stuff down,” he said.
At Riviera, Woods played alongside close friends Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, who all birdied the 18th.
McIlroy carried on with his quest to become Scottie Scheffler’s successor at the top of the rankings. Scheffler only managed a 70, while the 33-year-old shot an opening four-under 67 to fall three strokes behind.
If McIlroy wins, he will overtake the American, no matter what happens to him. If Scheffler finishes in the top 25 or Jon Rahm wins or finishes in second place, McIlroy will be satisfied with third place.
With a 65, Rahm was third going into the second round, one stroke behind the leaders.
But Woods was the undisputed star of the show in a field that included 19 of the world’s top 20 players.
Woods acknowledged that it was “a lot louder” than he anticipated, and as he attempted to put together a solid round, he didn’t have time to appreciate the support of the crowd.
“I was trying to calm myself down all day, trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing out here because I haven’t played,” Woods said.
“I probably should have appreciated the fans more than I did, but there was so much going on in my head trying to get the ball in the correct spots and the correct feels just because I haven’t done this in a while.”