Tiger Woods returned to Riviera Country Club with a roller coaster round of 72 on Thursday that left him six shots off the Genesis Open first-round lead shared by Patrick Cantlay and Tony Finau.
Cantlay and Finau, each seeking a second US PGA Tour title, wrapped up their five-under-par 66s shortly before darkness halted play with a dozen players still on the course.
They were one stroke in front of Tom Hoge, Dominic Bozzelli and Sam Saunders on four-under 67, with 11 players tied on 68.
Finau teed off on 10 and birdied four of his first five holes. He capped his round with a 17-foot birdie at the ninth for his share of the lead.
“It was really nice to see that one go in on the last hole,” he said.
Cantlay got to five-under with a birdie at the 17th, where he blasted out of a greenside bunker to 10 feet and made the putt.
“It feels good. I played really well today, hit a lot of good shots, was really solid,” Cantlay said. “Nothing crazy, I didn’t make a bunch of putts or anything, just kept hitting it to the safe side of the hole and rolling it down there with good pace, and a couple fell at the end.”
Saunders got as low as five-under, but couldn’t stay there on a sun-warmed Riviera course that was playing tough.
Woods, playing just his second US PGA Tour event since spinal fusion surgery last April, again showed some inconsistency off the tee.
However, as at Torrey Pines three weeks ago he displayed a solid short game in an eventful round that included five birdies, four bogeys and a double-bogey.
While Woods has a long history at Riviera, where he played his first US PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old amateur in 1992, in 11 prior appearances he has never won here.
He hadn’t teed it up on the classic course west of downtown Los Angeles since 2006 and for his return he played in a marquee group with former world number one Rory McIlroy and reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Justin Thomas.
McIlroy balanced three bogeys with a birdie and an eagle for an even par 71.
Thomas had five birdies in a two-under 69.
All three opened with birdies at the 10th. But Woods quickly found himself in trouble when a wayward tee shot at the 11th lodged in a eucalyptus tree, leading to a lost ball and a double bogey.
A bogey at the 12th had him two-over and in recovery mode the rest of the way.
“I was at one-under early, first hole, and all of a sudden I went double bogey-bogey and I was like, ‘Oh, man, here we go,'” Woods said. “I’ve got to somehow turn this thing around.”
Two more birdies and a bogey saw him make the turn at one-over, and he was even for the day after a birdie at the first.
Then came bogeys at five and seven — where he was dismayed to drop a shot from the fairway.
“I made really silly bogeys out there, in particular number seven,” Woods said. “But overall I thought I hung in there and grinded.”
After a birdie at the eighth, Woods’s chances of finishing even for the day evaporated with one last wayward tee shot at the ninth, where he was so far right he was in a bunker off the 10th fairway.
He blasted it up to the fringe to salvage a par and pronounced the overall performance “all right”.
“You know, no one’s going low out there, it’s too hard,” Woods said. “The greens are starting to get a little bouncy and those short ones are not easy.”
Nothing seemed easy for world number one Dustin Johnson, who launched his title defense with a three-over par 74.
Johnson teed off in the afternoon and quickly found himself four-over thanks in large part to a triple-bogey seven at the par-four fifth, where his third shot out of the rough went over the green and he eventually needed five strokes to reach the putting surface.