LOS ANGELES — Tiger WoodsOn Thursday, he will play at the Genesis Invitational (3:04 p.m. ET, ESPN+) in his first PGA Tour event for nearly seven months. Woods said Tuesday at a news conference that he would not participate in the event if he didnt believe he could compete or win.
Woods will be the focal point of all attention, but there will be plenty of great golf this weekend. The Official World Golf Rankings Top Three Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroyAnd Jon RahmWill continue to fight for No. In a field of high-level events, the No. 1 spot is a very tight one.
After watching practice rounds at Riviera Country club and the pro-am on Wednesday morning, our golf experts gave their verdict on what to expect this weekend.
Riviera can be a strenuous walk but its a favorite for Tiger. How did he view practice and Wednesdays pro-am?
Mark Schlabach:I was shocked that Woods was playing an 18-hole pro tournament. Its understandable that hosting a tournament means you have to do everything you ask everyone else to do. It was cold and windy but he wasnt stiff on practice range. He didnt seem to have any problems until the last few holes, and he was walking normally throughout the front nine without any limp. I don’t know if he decided to quit playing after a good shot on 16, or because he was fed up with playing with non-professional golfers. He took his sweet time as he walked up and down the hills, but he was able to complete the 52 steps that lead to the scoring tent.
Paolo Uggetti:It was a windy, cold 41 degrees here in Pacific Palisades as Woods began to tee off Wednesday at 6:30 AM PT. Woods was barely visible in the sun, but there was still a small crowd around him as he drove the driver down the first fairway. It was hard to see how comfortable Woods was moving at first. But, as the front nine went on, it became apparent that he was not limping and was walking much better than last time. Woods began walking slower on the back nine, and his slight weight compensation returned.
Woods explained Wednesday to the media that hitting shots is not an issue but that his right ankle is. Woods said that he was ready to play the course and, presumably, walk it. He was cheerful Wednesday, even though the wind picked up and it became more difficult to hit shots.
Tiger said he came to win. Is that what we should expect?
Schlabach: Woods stated that he wouldnt have come to the Genesis to play if it wasnt possible for him to contend or win the tournament. It would be a huge step forward to make the cut and stay for the weekend after what we saw a year ago. Woods is 47 years of age. Woods only played nine rounds in the three major championships last seasons. After 54 holes, he was forced out of the PGA Championship and missed the cut at The Open in St. Andrews in August, his last official PGA Tour tournament.
Woods stated that his right leg, which was surgically repaired in May 2013, is in much better shape than it was one year ago. Woods is still experiencing pain in his right ankle and plantar fasciitis on his right foot. He admitted that he hadnt walked 18 holes in four days this year. Good shots are not a problem. Its about getting from point A and point B, as he has repeatedly said. If he makes it to the final, will Woods leg and ankle hold up for four days? This will be his question every time he competes in the future.
Uggetti: It would be outlandish and strange for Woods to say that he is playing in a tournament to have fun and not win. Woods has repeatedly stated that he only plays if he wins, but that doesn’t mean that we should expect him to do that. Hes just coming off major surgery and a long layoff. The challenge is still to beat the best players in the world at a PGA Tour-designated event.
Schlabach said that making the cut would be a great moral victory for anyone except him. This is a realistic goal, but not a guarantee. Woods, as well as the rest of the golf world, hopes that playing in tournaments such this one will help him prepare to win the majors.
He will tee off at 3:04 p.m. ET on Thursday with a super group that includes Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. What can we expect to see from them?
Schlabach: Hogans Alley, a shotmakers golf course, is where Thomas, one Woods closest friends, can play a mid-iron and wedge. Thomas had a slow start to 2023. However, his form began to improve at the WM Phoenix Open. On Sunday, he shot a 65 and finished alone fourth. Thomas finished sixth last season after missing the cut at Riviera Country Club in back-toback starts. Thomass work around the greens is exceptional, and it will be hard to beat him if his putter gets too hot.
Given how well McIlroy had played in the past few weeks, it was surprising that McIlroy wasn’t a factor at Phoenix. TPC Scottsdale was not a favorite track of McIlroys; he skipped it until it became a designated event. Mcllroy has done better at Riv with three top-10 finishes in each of his four starts. Mcllroys Phoenix ballstriking was good, but he never felt comfortable on the green. McIlroy is a threat every time he takes to the green nowadays.
Uggetti: While I dont mean to begrudge a featured group of this size, this feels a little too much a Marvel situation, especially after Riv became the hot spot in all LIV rumors. Since then, these three have been staunchly pro PGA Tour. McIlroy has often complained that playing in a group alongside Woods is not always the best thing for his game. It will be a loud and large gallery on Thursday, and although I know Thomas and McIlroy love playing with Woods it wont always be easy.
McIlroys performance in the designated event feels strong. Schlabach said that McIlroy is a regular player here and has been playing at an elite level for the last 10 months. Its difficult to predict Thomas performance at any given event. However, Im interested in how his putting skills on Rivs small greens. Thomas is currently 159th in strokes won: putting, and has already switched putters once.
Its been a tough battle at the top. How will Jon Rahms and Scottie Scheffler fare at Riviera?
Schlabach:Scheffler won the Masters last season but its hard not to believe that he didn’t take home another win. He went 10 years without a win before he was crowned at Phoenix. Hes now back at TPC Scottsdale after ending his drought , and one can only wonder if hes ready to put together another heater similar to last season, when Scheffler won four times in six starts while also winning his first major at Augusta National. Scheffler is hard to stop when he gets it going. He has only four starts at Riviera and did progressively better in each: missed cut; 30th; 20th; seventh last year. He was the leader in strokes gained, tee-to-green and approach. This would be another good recipe for the Genesis. Scheffler enjoys competing in big events and has 23 of the top 25 players from the world here. Hell be motivated to win.
Scheffler, McIlroy and McIlroy were both great, but Rahm has been consistent. This season, the Spaniard has made five starts, including back-toback wins at American Express and Sentry Tournament of Champions. Rahm wasnt at his best at Phoenix last week, but he still managed to finish solely third. Hes firing on all cylinders in every aspect of his game right now. Hes driving the ball long, hitting greens, and making putts.
Uggetti: It seems like the crème de la crème is beginning to rise this season and stay at the top. Even when Rahm has to struggle, he seems to quickly revert back to his elite self and make a challenge to the leaders. Scheffler remains the tours quiet steadfast. He might not be paired up with Woods like McIlroy or Thomas, but it is fascinating to hear him describe his weekly approach to golf.
I wouldnt be surprised to see Rahm and Scheffler among the top 5 this week. Its a course that works well for both of them (largely because their games seem to be flourishing). One of the new events on the tour seems to have the intention to allow the best players in the game to show themselves to be that. Rahm and Scheffler do that better than anyone right now.
Who is the winner this week?
Schlabach: Give me JT. He is getting more fit and will want to perform well during the first round with Woods. He loves the course, even though he lost to a good friend. Jordan SpiethThe 2012 NCAA championship. Thomas winning Woods tournament would be a huge accomplishment, especially considering Tiger hasn’t won at Riviera Country club.
Uggetti: Its very difficult to pick anyone but the trio of McIlroy, Rahm and Scheffler at the moment. However, in an effort not to be too conservative, I think this week is set up well for a repeat winner. Max Homa. Although he didnt have his best performance in Phoenix, its easy for him to bounce back at a course where he has won before.
Collin Morikawato win (22-1); Tourney matchup Morikawa vs Spieth (-140).
Anita MarksMorikawa is a star in the Golden State. Morikawa is a great player on the tour. He ranks 7th in SG Tee-to-Green, 6th for Approach, and 13th off a tee. He putsts well at Riviera Club.
Xander Schauffele top-5 finish (+350); first-round leader (30-1)
Marks: Schauffele is ranked fifth in tee to green and seventh in scoring par-4. He has not finished worse than T-23 to 019 in five appearances at Riviera Club.
Tiger Woods, top-40 finish (2-1)
Marks: Woods will make his 15th appearance at Riviera this weekend, but has never won. He has been second-placed twice.
Tiger Woods, top-40 finish (2-1)
David Bearman: While Scheffler, Rahm Nick TaylorJT was the focus of attention last week. He managed to sneak into fourth place with a 67-60 finish. After a slow start to his 2023 campaign, it was exactly what he needed. JT is now in good shape and will play Riviera. He was sixth last year and finished second in 2019.
Adam Scott(60-1 to win; top-10 finish (+450).
Bearman: Every course has a horse for the course, and Rivieras is Adam Scott. He was the winner of the 2020 and 2005 editions, runner up two more times, and T-4 last season as part seven top 10s in fourteen appearances. He is also well-rested after completing the Hawaii swing with a Sony T-21 finish.
Tiger Woods to Make the Cut (+150)
Bearman: You wont have many chances to play Tiger to win the weekend at plus-money. Although he hasn’t played competitively since July, he insists that he isn’t playing for show, he is in it to win it. Although he doesnt claim he will make it, he has made the cut in 11 consecutive pro appearances. Plus, you want someone to root for.