In February 1992, a sprightly 16-year-old golf prodigy by the title of Tiger Woods made his first PGA Tour begin on the Riviera Nation Membership in California.
Thursday – 31 years, 15 main triumphs and 82 PGA Tour wins later – a really totally different Woods, one pained by damage, performed on the similar venue for the Genesis Invitational, a event he hosts the place proceeds go to his TGR Basis.
But, by way of his mentality, it will likely be the identical Woods on the tee.
“If I’m enjoying within the occasion, I’m going to attempt to beat you,” Woods informed reporters Tuesday.
“So I don’t perceive that making the reduce’s an incredible factor. If I entered the occasion, it’s at all times to get a W. There’ll come a time limit when my physique won’t permit me to do this anymore, and it’s in all probability sooner somewhat than later, however wrapping my forward round that transition and being the ambassador function and simply attempting to be out right here with the fellows, no, that’s not in my DNA.”
Woods began the event Thursday with a 2-under par 69, with birdies on his ultimate three holes.
After struggling severe leg accidents in a automotive accident in February 2021, the story of the 47-year-old’s current profession has been of 1 decimated by damage and a grueling restoration course of.
Woods’ participation in California this week marks his first official event begin since The Open Championship in July final 12 months and solely his first non-major PGA Tour occasion because the ZOZO Championship in October 2020.
There have been a few cameos in December – a father-son outing at the PNC Championship and a pleasant battle at TNT’s The Match – however even in these, he appeared to be visibly battling motion at numerous factors.
His place on enjoying a restricted schedule, selecting and selecting a choose variety of tournaments, stays the identical, with Woods earmarking The Masters at Augusta as a possible goal. Whereas he revealed his leg has improved, Woods admitted struggles along with his ankle imply extended spells of strolling stay difficult.
“I can nonetheless hit photographs, nevertheless it’s the strolling endurance that’s exhausting,” he stated.
“That’s one thing that we’ve needed to work on, strolling distances on the seaside, simply mainly stress it out but additionally have the ability to recuperate by the subsequent day and see how it’s inflammation-wise after which preserve working towards.
“I could have overdone it a pair instances right here or there, however right here I’m.”
Woods arrives in California on the precipice of greatness. His victory on the 2019 ZOZO Championship tied legendary compatriot Sam Snead for the all-time document of 82 PGA Tour wins, which means that yet another triumph would see Woods turn out to be the outright chief.
Snead’s feat was a benchmark that when appeared insurmountable till a prodigious expertise emerged on the flip of the century. Sound acquainted? Earlier this month, LeBron James sunk his 38,388th profession level to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar because the NBA’s all-time main scorer.
“What he [James] achieved is completely unimaginable – simply the sturdiness, the consistency and the longevity,” Woods stated.
“I grew up watching Kareem right here … that document we by no means thought it could be surpassed. What LeBron is doing – but additionally the quantity of minutes he’s enjoying – nobody’s ever completed that at that age, to have the ability to play all 5 positions, that’s by no means been completed earlier than at this degree for this lengthy.
“So far as our equal to that, I don’t know, possibly you take a look at possibly me and Sam [Snead] at 82? It takes a profession to get to these numbers. That’s how I believe in all probability finest the way you take a look at it.”
Woods Thursday was a part of a star-studded grouping, enjoying alongside four-time main winner Rory McIlroy and two-time main champion Justin Thomas. A smiling Woods completed with 5 birdies and three bogeys in his spherical, whereas McIlroy shot a 4-under 67 and Thomas carded a 68.
McIlroy is vying to immediately reclaim the world No. 1 spot, misplaced to Scottie Scheffler on Sunday after the American defended his crown at the Phoenix Open. Victory clinched a fifth PGA Tour title for Scheffler, who is happy to go once more with the added bonus of Woods on the fairways.
“Tiger means a lot to us as gamers out right here on Tour and he’s completed a lot for us out right here that it’s enjoyable for us to have the ability to see him nonetheless proceed to do what he loves,” he informed reporters Tuesday.
“It was fairly scary a couple of years in the past when he bought in that accident and we didn’t know if he was going to have the ability to do that once more, and so simply to have him out right here on the grounds and to see him round doing what he likes to do is plenty of enjoyable for us.”
A $3.6 million winner’s reward can be up for grabs, although defending champion Joaquin Niemann won’t be in California to defend his title. The Genesis Invitational is likely one of the PGA Tour’s “designated occasions,” providing a boosted prize purse of $20 million to rival the choices of the LIV Golf Tour, of which Niemann is part of.
On Tuesday, Woods stated that whereas there have been “combined feelings” amongst gamers on the Tour’s new format, he was optimistic about its improvement.
“From a advertising and marketing aspect of it and from the Tour aspect of it and the way forward for our sport, it’s been very constructive,” Woods stated.
“We have to preserve going with it and wish to remain aligned and preserve progressing and making it higher. We have to produce the most effective product we presumably can to promote to all of the viewerships.
“It’s about us creating the most effective merchandise so we’ve got extra eyes on it, extra stars, individuals need to come out and both watch the sport of golf, take part, both on social media or the totally different streaming platforms,” he added.
Talking Wednesday, McIlroy stated the suggestions he had acquired concerning the designated occasions echoed what Woods had heard.
“It’s the highest half of the membership being actually joyful that they’re in them and… however then the fellows possibly on the surface wanting in being concerned about in the event that they’re at all times going to be on the surface wanting in,” McIroy informed reporters.
“I believe that the massive factor has been, ‘Is that this going to be like a closed store for a similar guys each single week?’ And it’s not. This tour was constructed on meritocracy. This tour was constructed on if you happen to shoot the scores, you may transfer up the degrees and play the largest occasions. That’s not going to be taken away.
“It’s nearly making it extra aggressive. Finally, I believe that’s factor. Like I’m not saying that we’re going to have discipline sizes of fifty, it’s going to be nearer to what you’ve seen prior to now. We’re not attempting to restrict alternatives out right here, however we additionally need to ensure that when individuals get alternatives, it’s essentially the most aggressive, best tournaments and essentially the most aggressive product that we are able to put on the market.”