PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — It’s going to be discussed every time he tees it up until he wins again, so we might as well just go ahead and address it: With a win this week, Tiger Woods would break a tie with Sam Snead and set the all-time record for PGA Tour wins with 83.
There’s not much Woods hasn’t done in golf, but if Sunday is to be a historic afternoon, he’ll also have to do something he’s never done before: win at Riviera Country Club, the host of this week’s Genesis Invitational, which he hosts in conjunction with this TGR Live venture.
“I have historically never really putted well here,” said Woods, who has played in the tournament 12 times at Riviera, the most he’s played any PGA Tour course without a win, though he does have a second-place finish and seven other top-20s.
“I’ve played here so many rounds. It suits a natural cutter of the golf ball, so I figured that’s what I have done pretty much my entire career,” Woods said. “But when it comes right down to it, you’ve got to hit the ball well here because the greens are so small and they’re so slopey. But for some reason everything kind of breaks toward six and I still haven’t quite figured that out.”
One of those rounds at Riviera was the first he ever played in a PGA Tour event. Woods made his debut here in 1992 as a wire-thin 16-year-old, shooting 72-75 and missing the cut by six.
He’s made a few cuts and won a few times since then—82 times, to be exact—including last October, when he won the inaugural Zozo Championship in Japan to pull even with Snead. We’ve seen Woods three times since then, and each has been impressive: a fourth-place finish at the Hero World Challenge, a tour-de-force 3-0-0 performance as a playing captain at the Presidents Cup and, most recently, a T-9 at the Farmers Insurance Open down the I-5 freeway at Torrey Pines.
Now he’s back at Riviera for the third straight year for what amounts to something of a home game: Woods grew up in nearby Orange County and his alma mater, Western High School in Anaheim, is roughly an hour away.
But there’s something different about this edition of the tournament formerly known as the L.A. Open: it’s no longer an Open. This is the first year the Genesis has been elevated to Invitational status, a change that’s more than just a new name. The field size has been reduced from 144 to 120, the purse increased to $9.3 million (with a $1.67 million first-place check) and the winner will receive a three-year tour exemption, rather than the normal two.
Another byproduct of the elevation is a stacked field. Each of the top five players in the world are here—including new No. 1 Rory McIlroy and the man he passed, Brooks Koepka—and nine of the top 10.
“Well, to have an event like this, to have the players that come and support this tournament over the years and to have it on this iconic layout with the history we have here at Riviera, it just adds to the event,” Woods said.