Genesis Invitational – What’s in store with Tiger Woods expected to make the cut?
LOS ANGELES — After dazzling the crowd at Riviera Country Club on Thursday with three straight birdies in his final three holes to shoot 2-under in his first PGA Tour round in over 844 days, things were looking up for Tiger Woods on Friday something different. He blasted a 3-over-74 to finish the first two rounds 1-over. Still, it’s enough for the cut.
With a layoff seven months since his last round of golf at The Open, it would be no small feat for Woods to make the cut. Our experts have their say on his return to competitive golf:
How did Woods look on Friday vs Thursday?
Markus Schlabach: Walking and his swing didn’t look much different from Thursday to Friday. I think Friday’s play wasn’t as fun and he didn’t seem to be interacting with his playmates Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy as much as the day before. Woods seemed to make a point of interacting with fans. I think his frustration with his putting probably took away some of the adrenaline he had in the opening round. I couldn’t believe Woods actually admitted Thursday that he had butterflies and nerves.
Paolo Uggetti: Woods wasn’t noticeably worse running around the Riviera on Friday, but once the birdies stopped falling on the back nine, he seemed to slow his pace a bit. After missing the fairway right on the ninth hole (his last hole of the day), he was the last in his group to walk up the fairway, seemingly taking his time with every step. Given that the Thursday-Friday turnaround was quick and, as Woods said, required a lot of ice and overnight treatment, it was no surprise that he might have slowed down and had more discomfort in the second round. Endurance will continue to be his greatest test this week and beyond.
How much has playing with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas helped him?
Schlabach: I think it was the absolute best pairing Woods could have asked for to get his competitive juices flowing again. He really seems to love nudging JT and Rory as he drives the ball past them. It doesn’t sit well with them that a 47-year-old player who’s had countless operations on his back, neck, knees and right leg can still smash a ball past them.
Uggetti: Apparently a lot. Maybe it’s the long absence from the game or the fact that Woods is at a different stage in his career, but it seemed he was more willing to admit how much fun he was having with two of his closest friends as well as Thomas to play caddy, Jim “Bones” Mackay.
“Having these two great guys and two great Loops was an incredible pairing,” said Woods. “Bones and Joey [LaCava] Going back forever so it was a lot of fun.”
What is going well for him?
Schlabach: After all of his surgeries, I find it absolutely remarkable that Woods is still averaging more than 300 yards from the tee. Most players in their late 40s don’t hit that far, even those who haven’t faced the medical issues that Woods has. On the second round, he had 364-yard drives on the third and 15th holes and a 325-yarder on the first.
In the first two rounds, Woods averaged 301 yards from the tee, which comes close to placing in the top 25 of the field. McIlroy, one of the longest hitters on the tour, averaged 310.5 yards. Thomas averaged 295.8.
Woods’ ball speed was in the 170-180 mph range on Friday. He said he could no longer push himself off the ground to set off an explosion because of his surgically repaired right leg, foot and ankle. He uses a lot of core strength, but has to be careful because of his stiff back.
“Technically, there are things that work, but when I try to step on them and use the floor, it just doesn’t happen anymore,” Woods said. “But if I step on it and use my core too much, then my back isn’t very good. I have to be very careful how I do this. But yeah I did that at home, that’s the speed I hit him. I don’t have the high speed like some of these guys, like the two guys in my group, they can hit that ball and send it. I don’t have it because of limitations in my back and leg.”
Uggetti: His driver still drives a long way. Woods is ranked 25th in driving distance this week and has kept up with his playing partners, both of whom are hitting the ball far. As Woods explained after his round on Friday, his lower body can no longer push off the ground to gain more distance, but through careful use of his core he can still reach ball speeds of 180mph and hit the ball far enough. It also helps that Riviera plays in a way that keeps the ball rolling well. You can see why Woods wanted to make this his debut tournament.
What isn’t working for him?
Schlabach: After a seven-month layoff, it was to be expected that Woods’ money clubs – his putter and wedges – would probably be a bit rusty. So it was not surprising that his work around and on the greens left a lot to be desired. Woods didn’t think his putting weaknesses were due to technical issues. It was more like he just blocked and missed. He said they were bad putts. He didn’t hit many fairways (11 of 28) but that’s difficult for anyone on the Riviera.
Uggetti: Putt. Woods nearly lost two shots on his putting on Friday after gaining two shots on Thursday. He said after his round on Friday that he was just hitting bad putts all day. Nowhere was that more evident than on the sixth green. After rolling his drive shot back to the front of the green, Woods considered hitting it over the bunker located in the center of the green with a wedge. He then grabbed his putter, stuck it in the bunker and finished the game with a bogey.
“I was blocking a lot of putts early,” Woods said. “And that’s probably the highest score I could have scored today. I probably should have probably shot five or six better.”
What is the most realistic result for his weekend?
Schlabach: According to research from ESPN Stats & Information, it is the eighth time that Woods has undercut the number in a tournament since 2015. His best finish in the last seven occasions was a tie for 11th place at The Players in 2018. Woods would never admit it, but the final 36 holes aren’t so much about where he finishes as it is how he finishes . Although he’s not in the race on Sunday, the weekend’s game is a great opportunity for him to test the strength and endurance of his surgically repaired right leg and ankle. He hasn’t played 18 holes at an official event since the Masters in April. This is the kind of test he needs as he continues his comeback.
Uggetti: While Woods is adamant that he only tees off to win, that’s no longer a realistic goal this weekend as he’s 11 shots behind leader Max Homa. To go under par in your first four rounds of the season would be a remarkable achievement given the situation and while I think that will be quite difficult, it’s an achievable goal. He’s only one over 36 holes and barring an injury or a withdrawal, he’s got a shot.
https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/35682729/tiger-woods-genesis-invitational-makes-cut-weekend-pga-tour Genesis Invitational – What’s in store with Tiger Woods expected to make the cut?