Tiger Woods makes return to Riviera

PACIFIC PALISADES, CA - FEBRUARY 15: Tiger Woods plays his shot from the fourth tee during the first round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on February 15, 2018 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Playing a PGA event at Riviera for the first time in 12 years, Tiger Woods strung together a series of key putts for a 72 Thursday.

The guy who grew up 40 miles away, first played Riviera as a teenager, and was out of golf with a bad back returned Thursday and shared the lead at the Genesis Open.

That would be Patrick Cantlay, not Tiger Woods.

And the biggest difference was that hardly anyone saw it.


Cantlay, the No. 1 amateur in the world when he was at UCLA, birdied all the par 5s and kept it smart the rest of the way around a firm Riviera course for a 5-under-par 66 to share the lead with Tony Finau in Los Angeles.

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Woods, who grew up in Cypress and made his PGA Tour debut at Riviera when he was 16, played this event for the first time in 12 years. He lost a tee shot in a eucalyptus tree and made double bogey as part of a rugged start, and then settled in with a series of key putts for a 72.

Finau started with four birdies in five holes and finished with one last birdie for his 66.

An unusually large crowd for Thursday at Riviera was out early to watch Woods, with fans standing six-deep around some of the greens. There still were not enough people to help locate his tee shot on the par-5 11th hole, presumably swallowed up by the tree.

Woods is playing Riviera for the ninth time as a pro, the most of any PGA Tour course without ever winning. His expectations are tempered now at age 42 and returning from his fourth back surgery. His game isn’t sharp, though it’s moving in the right direction. He made five birdies despite hitting only seven greens in regulation, and he recovered from being 2 over after three holes.


‘‘I'm not that far off to really putting some good numbers out there,’’ Woods said. ‘‘I've got to clean up my card — too many bogeys out there. If I can just clean that up, I can start making my way up the board.’’

Cantlay’s only bogey came on the par-3 fourth hole when he came up short of the green and missed a 10-foot putt. Cantlay played with Jordan Spieth (71) and fellow UCLA alum Kevin Chappell (69).

‘‘I'm pretty familiar with the golf course, and you've just got to hit a lot of smart shots over and over and over again, and not get too greedy,’’ Cantlay said.

He can’t remember how many rounds he has played at Riviera. The Bruins typically played at Bel-Air on Tuesday and Thursday, and Riviera about once a month.

‘‘I feel very familiar with the lines on the golf course, and it’s one of my favorite golf courses,’’ he said. ‘‘I think the architecture out here is definitely one of the best we play all year. I think it rewards really smart, safe golf a lot. I say safe, but just picking your spots, not trying to get overly aggressive.’’


He was a little aggressive, intentionally or not, with a 9-iron in the 13th that was left of the flag on a green that moves to the left. He holed a 15-foot birdie putt, and a small clan of Bruins-clad fans broke into a cheer, ‘‘U-C-L-A, UCLA fight, fight, fight!’’

Cantlay smiled walking off the green.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson got off to a rough start, particularly on No. 5. He played his third shot from ankle-high grass and it flew over the green. His chip came back down the slope and the world’s No. 1 player walked off with a triple bogey. Johnson wound up with a 74.

Sam Saunders was among three players at 67. Bubba Watson was in the group at 68. Twelve players did not finish the round before darkness.

Woods played with Justin Thomas (69) and Rory McIlroy (71).

LPGA — Jin Young Ko made six birdies on the back nine in her LPGA Tour debut to take a two-stroke lead in the opening round of the Women’s Australian Open in Adelaide.

Ko carded a 7-under 65 to move past second-place Jiyai Shin, a fellow South Korean. Lydia Ko of New Zealand was among a large group tied for third at 68.

European — Cancer survivor Matthew Southgate and Paul Waring both shot a 7-under 65 to share the first round lead by two at the Oman Open in Muscat.

Waring had a bogey-free round, while Southgate made his second hole-in-one in a month.