After a promising top-25 finish at the end of January at Torrey Pines, Tiger Woods is optimistic for a quality showing in the Genesis Open this week at Riviera Country Club. He will play the role of elder statesman in his pairing with good friends Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas for the first two rounds.
“(Justin) asked me when did I play in this tournament as an amateur,” Woods said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I was 16, 1992.’ He said, ‘That was the year before I was born.’ I’m sorry, but that really put things in perspective really fast.”
A lot has happened since Woods first played the Nissan Los Angeles Open as an amateur 26 years ago, but his relentless determination to win has stayed the same. He drove the ball poorly in his PGA Tour return at the Farmers Insurance Open, so changes to the driver were in order.
“Now that my swing speed’s up again, I went back to a shaft I used in 2015 when I played Wyndham,” Woods said. “I needed a little more loft, so I added a degree of loft on it.”
It remains to be seen if that improves his fortunes off the tee on what is a long, difficult course with treacherous bunkers and tricky kikuyu rough. Woods remains noncommittal on whether he will play in next week’s Honda Classic – he has until Friday night to decide – but he reiterated several times how he wants to be smart about how much he plays.
“I don’t want to play too much,” Woods said. “This is still all new to me and I just want to be real smart about it.”
As is often the case with Tiger, he enjoyed a good joke with the media, this time concerning the Ryder Cup. When a reporter asked him about the possibility of him playing in the biennial event or being a captain, Woods offered the perfect solution.
“Why can’t I do both?” he said as the gathering had a chuckle.
Woods, McIlroy and Thomas tee off at 7:22 a.m. local time on Thursday, and 12:02 p.m. on Friday.