Matt Kuchar made a mess of the easiest hole at Riviera. He couldn’t find the fairway and felt he was on the defensive all afternoon Friday in the Genesis Invitational.
He was good enough with the short irons that Kuchar still managed a 2-under 69 and built a two-shot lead over Rory McIlroy and two others going into the weekend at the legendary Los Angeles course.
“It definitely wasn’t my best stuff today,” Kuchar said. “Two under was an awfully good score for the way I drove it.”
Tiger Woods happily would have taken a score like that. Instead, he made his bid for a first victory at Riviera and a record 83rd title on the PGA Tour a lot tougher. Two swings with a wedge wound up costing Woods three shots, and his 73 left him nine back.
“I made some pretty bad mistakes out there,” Woods said.
He can’t afford any more, not with 44 players ahead of him, including past champions like Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson, and players who would desperately like to add their name to the list of winners at this historic club.
McIlroy, in his return to No. 1 in the world, handled the par 5s and kept mistakes to a minimum in his round of 67, which puts him in the final group Saturday with Kuchar and Harold Varner III, who had a 68 in the morning.
Kuchar was at 9-under 135. He began with a bogey on the par-5 opening hole, one of only two players in the 121-man field to not make par or better. Kuchar went long of the green, took two chips to get on the green and missed a 15-foot par putt.
“You feel like you’ve already given up two shots on the day. Never a fun way to start,” Kuchar said. “But knowing there’s 17 holes to go, there’s still room to figure it out.”
Wyndham Clark had a 68 and joined McIlroy and Varner in the group two shots behind.
“I’m managing my game well,” McIlroy said. “I’ve hit a couple loose shots here and there, but I’m thinking my way around the golf course and that’s what this place is all about.”
Also Friday, Woods announced he’s skipping next week’s Mexico Championship, a World Golf Championships event. That means four of the world top 10 won’t be present, No. 8 Woods joining No. 2 Brooks Koepka (tied with Woods at even par), No. 6 Patrick Cantlay, and No. 10 Justin Rose.
LPGA — Seven-time major champion Inbee Park moved into contention for her 20th LPGA Tour victory by taking a share of the second-round lead at the Women’s Australian Open in Adelaide, the last LPGA tournament for a month after the cancellation of three scheduled events in Thailand, Singapore and China.
European/Asian — The Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on April 16-19 and the China Open in Shenzhen on April 23-26 were postponed because of ongoing coronavirus concerns. Rescheduling is being discussed, the European Tour said.