Woods fades to five adrift at PGA Genesis Invitational

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LOS ANGELES, Feb 14, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Tiger Woods started strong but
struggled late on the way to a two-under par 69 on Thursday at Riviera
Country Club, where he’s seeking a record 83rd US PGA Tour title at the
Genesis Invitational.

Woods has never won in 12 prior starts at Riviera, the classic course in
Pacific Palisades west of Los Angeles where he made his first tour start as a
16-year-old back in 1992.

Woods made a perfect start to his second bid to break his and Sam Snead’s
shared record of 82 PGA Tour titles, eagling the par-five first hole and
adding birdies at the fifth and eighth.

But the back nine was a battle all the way, starting with a tee shot into
the left rough at the 10th.

His tee shot at 11 hit a tree, and while he managed to give himself a look
at birdie on the par-five hole his 10-foot putt didn’t drop.

After a bogey at the 12th — where his approach rolled through the green —
Woods came up with par saves at 13, 15 and 17 — where he was in a fairway
bunker off the tee but salvaged par by two-putting from 68 feet.

In the right rough off the tee at 18, Woods ended with a bogey that left
him five shots behind leader Matt Kuchar.

“I got off to a nice start on the front nine and just didn’t hit many good
shots on the back nine,” the 15-time major champion said after hitting just
one of seven fairways on the back nine.

“Made a couple loose swings and made a couple good saves on the back nine
for par, but just wasn’t able to get any birdies on the back nine.”

Woods said his duties as tournament host meant he’d had little time to
practice this week.

“First time I saw the range was yesterday and that was for about 10 minutes
and that was warming up for the pro-am,” he said.

Nevertheless it seemed he’d found a groove when he belted his tee shot at
the first and with 171 yards to the pin hit an eight-iron to within 25 feet.

Shot Tracker data putt the putt at 24 feet 8 inches — the numbers almost
eerily invoking the memory of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, who died
in a helicopter crash on January 26.

“Ironic having those two numbers,” Woods said.

Woods, who matched Snead with a victory in the Zozo Championship in Japan
in October and finished tied for ninth at Torrey Pines in his only start
since, was looking forward to teeing off early in his bid to climb the
leaderboard on Friday.

“Hopefully we’ll have a little bit smoother greens out there on the golf
course,” he said. “Hopefully I can hit it as good as I did on that front nine
to give myself a number of looks for the entire 18 holes, not just nine
holes.”

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