No one knows better than his fellow pros how much Tiger Woods loves high-level competition, so when he posted on social media that he will tee it up at The Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles this week, they were uniformly excited for him.
News of his intentions rippled across TPC Scottsdale as players worked to complete their second rounds at the frost-delayed WM Phoenix Open on Friday afternoon.
“That’s great,” Jason Day said after signing his card. “That’s awesome. That’s actually really good news. I’m actually really happy about that. It’s good that he’s out, he can walk and it’s nice to be able to see that. So, yeah, I’m excited to see him (this) week. That’s going to be fun.”
It’s not that Woods hasn’t played any golf lately; he just hasn’t walked. He teed it up twice in unofficial events in December, at the PNC Championship with son Charlie (they finished T8) and in The Match as Woods and Rory McIlroy took on Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. (Spieth/Thomas won.) Woods got around in a golf cart both times.
He hasn’t played an official PGA TOUR event since The Open Championship last July, and this will be his first non-major TOUR start since he suffered severe injuries to both legs in a single-car accident in February 2021. Plantar fasciitis, a foot ailment, knocked him out of the unofficial Hero World Challenge – a tournament he also hosts – in the Bahamas in December.
Woods grew up in Cypress, California, 40 miles from Riviera, and made his PGA TOUR debut there as a high school sophomore in 1992, missing the cut. He has never won the Genesis, finishing runner-up in 1998 and ’99, but is on record saying he loves Riviera.
Still, his plan to play the Genesis came as a surprise, as Riviera CC is not an easy walk.
“I imagine we’ll be carrying him down the hill on 1 and up it on 18, which no one would mind,” said Max Homa, a Southern California native who won the 2021 Genesis Invitational. “But it’s awesome. I’m really glad he’s back. I think we’re privileged any time he plays now.”
Woods, 47, has won 82 times on the PGA TOUR, which is tied with Sam Snead for the most ever. He won the Masters Tournament in 2019, proving that he’s still capable of beating the best when he’s healthy, and captured the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP for win No. 82 later that year.
As with Day, Jon Rahm was happy to hear of Woods’ imminent return.
“He’s playing Riv?” Rahm said. “Nice. I didn’t know. Great to hear. After all, he’s gone through. It’s incredible that he keeps trying. Spoke to him at Bahamas. Everything he had on his leg and then you add the plantar fasciitis. I really feel for him in that sense.
“But I know he’s going to keep doing everything he can to still try to win more tournaments,” Rahm added. “Possibly get that 83rd win. Hopefully, obviously in his mind a major, right? It’s a true honor for all of us. Any time Tiger can be present on the golf course playing makes the tournament even better. I’m hoping he can play comfortably and I’m hoping he can play well.”
Added Tom Kim, an avowed Tiger fan: “I think it’s great for the game. … Hopefully, I can kind of work myself up and kind of hopefully play with him if I get the chance.”
Although Woods has never won The Genesis Invitational, he has won multiple times at the approaching Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, THE PLAYERS Championship, and Masters Tournament. Will he play in them, too? Nobody knows, maybe not even him, and for now, players were just excited to see him at the Genesis.
“I’m stoked to see him back out there,” Homa said. “Yeah, he’s always remarkable. You never know what he’s going to do. It will be fun to watch him play some golf.”