Tiger Woods teed it up on the first tee box at Riviera. The gallery was at least ten people deep. It was the first time the 82-time winner had played a PGA Tour event in 844 days, and there was no better place for him to return than the course where he began his PGA Tour career 31 years ago.
Photo Cred: USA Today
Woods hit 3-wood off the first tee and found the right rough on the par-5. Followed by a cheeky pitch to four feet and Tiger hammering in the birdie putt to start the tournament with a birdie. The next six holes were not as easy for Tiger, who only hit one of his first five fairways. Following a bogey on the par-3 4th, Woods found himself in the native area on the 5th. As he has always done, Tiger ground, hitting a third shot from the fairway bunker to eight feet and holing the putt to save par.
Photo Cred: Toronto Star
Tiger striped his drive down the eighth fairway, outdriving Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, something he did a few times during this round. Woods then hit his approach to two feet and tapped in the birdie to return to red figures. He hit another bomb down the fairway at nine and a solid approach, two-putted for par. Tiger shot a 34 on the front, making the turn at -1. It truly is incredible that Tiger Woods, at age 47, on 1.5 legs with a fused back, was hitting the ball past two of the best drivers.
Photo Cred: NBC Sports
The back nine did not start as smoothly as Woods found two bunkers on the short par-4 and had to hit an eight-footer to avoid a double bogey. Things did not get better for the 15-time major winner as Tiger parred the easy par-5 11th and bogeyed the 12th, dropping him to +1. Woods parred the next three holes and entered the famous par-3 16th still in blue figures. Anytime Tiger plays, it is amazing. There was no doubt his round so far was a little disappointing. Then everything changed.
Tiger hit his tee shot on 16 to five feet. Despite a stroke, he was able to catch the left edge for birdie. Tiger then piped his drive on the par-5 17th right down the middle of the fairway with 307 yards worth of carry. Woods went for the green in two but hit it just over into the rough. It was a good leave and left Tiger with a straightforward chip. Unfortunately, he couldn’t catch the chip cleanly and faced a 24-foot birdie putt. Woods was visibly frustrated after his 3rd shot but stepped up and sunk his longest putt of the round to get back to red figures. When Tiger’s ball found the back of the cup at seventeen, the crowd erupted, a roar that only Tiger Woods can evoke.
Photo Cred: The Spun
The closing hole at Riviera is a rough par-4 where most players look to make par and get into the clubhouse. Tiger had different ideas, hitting his drive 317 yards, and throwing his approach to eight feet. As Woods lined up the putt on eighteen, hundreds of patrons stood by anxiously, ready to explode upon a birdie and groan upon a miss. Tiger slammed the putt into the back of the cup to finish with a 2-under 69. As Woods walked off the green with a big smile emerged on his face, a welcome sight for Tiger fans.