Woods holed a 24-footer for birdie on his 36th hole of week to give himself a good chance of making the cut.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — After holing a 24-footer for birdie on his last hole of his second round, Tiger Woods was darn sure he’d make the cut at the Genesis Open.
“I know that one [under par] is in, so I’m playing the weekend, and I get two more rounds to kind of get after it," Woods said with the confidence of a 14-time major champion.
The leaderboard told a different story.
Woods’ 36-hole score of one under par (70-71) was tied for 57th when he walked off Riviera Country Club’s 9th green on Saturday morning, but a full half of the field still had its second round to complete in ideal scoring conditions. He didn’t realize it at the time, but this could be a sweat.
Still, he's likely to avoid missing the cut for the second straight year at this iconic Los Angeles layout. Woods’ relationship with Riviera is a complicated one—it’s the site of his first-ever PGA Tour start, when he was a scrawny 16-year-old in 1992, but it’s also the course he’s played the most without a victory. Even if he does survive the cut, Woods’ winless streak at this event—which he hosts as part of his TGR initiative—will almost assuredly reach 13 and counting.
Birdies weren’t the problem over the first two rounds, as he made 10 over his first 36 holes. The nine bogeys were the problem. More specifically, three-putts were.
After rain pushed his first round to Friday morning, Woods hit 17 of 18 greens in his opening round but had four three-putts and 34 putts overall to shoot a one-under 70. After a 45-minute break, he and playing partners Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas headed right back out in dank, uncomfortable conditions to squeeze in as many holes as possible. Woods eagled the easy par-5 first hole, his 10th of the day, to reach three under for the week but made two closing bogeys as darkness crept in and halted the round.
He returned at the crack of dawn early Saturday morning and promptly bogeyed the 4th to put himself outside the projected cut line. After four pars, he reached the par-4 9th needing to make birdie for a chance to continue playing this weekend. Ever the grinder, Woods read his putt from every possible angle before making a confident stroke and putting it right in the heart of the cup.
Woods has holed a healthy amount of lengthy putts this week, but it’s the short ones that have given him issues.
“I am not seeing the line,” Woods said. “I’m not feeling comfortable because I’m not seeing the line. Consequently, I’m having a hard time starting my ball on line.”
Two guys who are feeling comfortable: Thomas and McIlroy.
Thomas put on a remarkable display off golf on Friday, rattling off 14 birdies in 30 holes on Friday in conditions that were both challenging and unpredictable. He added another birdie on Saturday morning to post 11 under, tied with Adam Scott for the lead.
"I managed it pretty well for not being able to feel my toes and finger there for a little bit," Thomas, who is seeking his 10th Tour win before turning 26, said. "That was probalby the coldest I've been on a golf course in a while."
McIlroy bounced back from a one-over opening round to shoot a bogey-free 63 on Sunday, vaulting himself into contention despite being on the wrong end of the draw. Players who were initially scheduled to play Thursday morning and Friday afternoon, but actually played Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning, had noticeably better weather during their rounds.
Thus, the conditions didn’t do Woods any favors this week. He often speaks of feeling more limber when warm weather can lubricate his 42-year-old joints. Warmth hasn’t been apart of the equation this week, and he noticed how much looser his younger playing partners’ bodies were.
“I can hit the ball as hard as I did on 9, and I cannot clear the bunker like Rory did with a toe shot,” Woods said. “That’s what the temperature does.”
The good news for Woods: the sun was shining on Saturday and expected to continue doing so for the rest of the day. Should he make the cut, he'll play his third round in warmer climates this afternoon .
Woods’ play since his remarkable win at last August’s Tour Championship has been uninspired—he went 0-4 at the Ryder Cup, finished second-to-last at the Hero World Challenge, finished T20 at the Farmers Insurance Open before the uneven performance here. He’ll likely have two more rounds to iron out the kinks before heading south of the border for next week’s WGC-Mexico Championship.