Tiger Woods didn’t waste any time at Riviera Country Club on Thursday.
Woods, dialed in on his quest for career win No. 83, quickly dropped to 4-under after nine holes in his opening round at the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles, including a “you can’t make this stuff up” Black Mamba moment. While he cooled off a bit on the back — Woods made seven pars and had two bogeys, one on the par-4 18th — he finished the day with a 2-under 69, just five back from leader Matt Kuchar.
A perfect tribute to Kobe Bryant
Thursday marked the first time Woods played since he learned of the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant — who died last month in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles.
With the Genesis Invitational taking place just miles from the crash site, and in the city where Bryant’s storied career took place, it’s only fitting that the tournament honor him throughout the week.
Woods did just that instantly. After reaching the first hole in two, Woods expertly drained an eagle putt that was exactly 24 feet, 8 inches long — both numbers Bryant wore with the Lakers.
“It’s ironic, isn’t it?” Woods said after his round, via the Golf Channel. “I didn’t know about the putt being that long.”
Several players sported Bryant-themed gear throughout the day, and the No. 8 hole at Riviera Country Club was transformed to honor Bryant with a Lakers-themed flag pin, too.
Woods stuck his tee shot on that par-3 to just three feet before completing the birdie, too.
“No matter what we do, I think for a while we’re going to always remember Kobe and what he meant, especially here in SoCal and the entire sports world,” Woods said, via the Golf Channel. “Very ironic that it happened to have those numbers on those holes and those exact measurements.”
Woods is searching for career win No. 83 on the PGA Tour, which would break his tie with Sam Snead at the top of the all-time wins list. He tied Snead earlier this season with a win at the inaugural ZoZo Championship in Japan in October, though has played just once since — a T9 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open last month at Torrey Pines.
Woods has yet to win at Riviera Country Club, however. He’s played it 12 times on Tour without a win, which marks the most starts he’s had on a course without a victory. Yet with him hosting the Invitational this week, a victory would be even more special for the 44-year-old.
Kuchar surged ahead on Thursday to grab the early clubhouse lead with a 7-under 64, thanks to three birdies in his first four holes. Five different players sit in a tie for second at 4-under, while nine players — including Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Bryson DeChambeau — sit ahead of Woods at 3-under.