LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods played and walked 16 holes in the Genesis Invitational Pro-Am Wednesday morning in his first public round of golf since missing the cut at last year’s Open Championship in St. Andrews.
Woods, who will play with Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy in the first two rounds of the tournament starting Thursday, arrived at Riviera Country Club Wednesday before sunrise and practiced at the range with lights before his 6:30 a.m. tee time. At the time Woods teed off, the sun was just peeking out over the horizon and the temperature was in the low 40s. It remained there throughout the front nine holes while the wind picked up significantly. Woods, wearing what appeared to be several layers, looked cold but comfortable swinging.
“I am very rusty, but I’ve come off a rusty situation before and I’ve done well,” Woods said Tuesday. “Plus, I know this golf course. I know I haven’t had a lot of success on this golf course, but I knew what to practice for, shots to hit at home getting ready.”
During the first part of his round Wednesday, Woods’ gait looked more normal than it has in the past, with no noticeable limp, though he did appear to take his time and care walking up and down steep slopes. By the back nine, he did look to be walking more gingerly, avoiding putting too much weight on his ankle. After picking up his ball on the 16th hole, Woods did not play the rest of the way and took his time walking back up the clubhouse. He did not take a cart.
As the 16-time major winner said Tuesday, hitting shots is not an issue for him, but walking, and specifically his right ankle, are what have affected him the most. Though Woods said his leg and the plantar fasciitis are doing better, the task of potentially walking 72 holes over the course of four days remains daunting, but not daunting enough that he believes he shouldn’t be out here with a chance to win.
“I would not have put myself out here if I didn’t think I could beat these guys and win the event,” Woods said Tuesday. “That’s my mentality.”
Woods also spent extra time on the greens Wednesday — which at Riviera tend to be some of the smallest and toughest on the PGA Tour — practicing extra putts from different positions. The wind was so strong at one point that Woods hit driver and 3-wood into the par-4 ninth hole. He laughed as his approach shot came up short in a greenside bunker.
It has been almost two years since Woods was seriously injured in a car accident near the site of this week’s tournament, which Woods hosts. He then underwent multiple surgeries on his right leg and foot and at one point, Woods said surgeons nearly had to amputate his right leg. Since then, Woods has only played in majors until now.
“I know I’m not going to be playing a full schedule and I’ve got to pick and choose what I’m going to be playing in and it will be very limited,” Woods said Tuesday. “So I’ll put all my energy into those events.”