Tiger Woods returns to Riviera, still getting acclimated to game


LOS ANGELES — An honest assessment of his Riviera experiences offered yet another sign that Tiger Woods is a new man when it comes to admitting his deficiencies and comeback hurdles.

“I love the golf course, I love the layout, it fits my eye and I play awful,” Woods said Tuesday in advance of the Genesis Open. “It’s just one of those weird things.”

If he’s worried about the state of his game, Woods isn’t letting on. Based on all sights and sounds in his first practice round here — an early morning nine with Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau – Woods, 42, continues to display the swing speed, flexibility and confidence of a much younger version of himself.

Discussing changes to his driver, new branding for his foundation, a feature pairing with Rory McIlroy and Thomas, and even the sound he likes from a club, Woods continues to convey he’s enjoying his golf life again. But for those demanding immediate returns, the man who once only showed up with a ‘W’ in his sights continues to take a slow-drip approach to this comeback.

“I’d eventually like to win tournaments. I’m trying to get through that process, go through that process, get to that point,” Woods said, recounting a conversation with Thomas, who managed his way onto an Air Tiger flight from Florida for the trip to L.A.

“I’m starting to understand my body a little bit more with this back that’s different than it used to be,” Woods said. “Those are things that I could never have figured out on my own not in a tournament setting.

“In a tournament setting, things are ramped up and I could feel some of the things were off and was able to work on them. The more tournaments I play in, the more I’ll be able to get a better understanding of that. But also I don’t want to play too much. This is still all new to me and I just want to be real smart about it.”

Woods sounded surprised at how different Riviera played since the last time he was here in 2006.

“On No.12 when I used to play was a 1-iron and a pitching wedge, now it’s a driver and a 7-iron, 6-iron,” Woods said. “Some of the holes have really changed. So the old yardage books are out the window. This is a whole new game, everything’s bigger now. The bunkers are deeper, they seem to be bigger. The greens have gotten more pin locations than I remember. So I’ve got to do a little bit more homework tomorrow in the pro-am.”

Even his explanation for taking his name off the foundation suggested a humble perspective.

“A lot of these kids probably won’t have any idea that I play golf or I used to play golf,” he said of students at the Learning Center now under the moniker TGR Foundation. “So it doesn’t really matter about that. We’re trying to set up something for the future that’s going to affect millions of lives all around the world.”

For golf fans, step two in the 2018 comeback is about one man trying to change his life on the golf course. All indications suggest that Woods’ odd run of Riviera bad luck will eventually come to an end. For now, he’s got two rounds with young buddy Thomas and McIlroy. That pairing should have Santa Monica Canyon buzzing and L.A. hoping to watch its prodigal son finally master the course where his public life began in grand fashion 26 years ago.

On the flight out, Thomas asked Woods about that week.

“He asked me when did I play in this tournament as an amateur,” Woods said. “I said, yeah, I was 16, 1992. He said, ‘that was the year before I was born.’ I’m sorry, but that put things in perspective really fast.”

Tiger Woods is all about perspective these days. That only adds to the fun in watching how this comeback pans out.

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