Tiger Woods sounded both realistic and confident Tuesday during a news conference ahead of this week’s Genesis Invitational. Yes, the catastrophic injuries he suffered in a February 2021 car crash will continue to limit his schedule moving forward. But no, he’s not playing in his first official tournament since last year’s British Open merely for appearances’ sake.
Tiger Woods says he is ‘playing to win’ at Genesis Invitational
“If I’m playing, I’m playing to win. I know some players have played as ambassadors to the game and trying to grow the game. I can’t wrap my mind around that,” Woods said. “I’m playing to beat the other players and get a ‘W.’”
Tiger Woods to make PGA Tour return in California
Woods, 47, announced Friday that he will play in the Genesis Invitational, which starts Thursday at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. It’s his first non-major tournament since the 2020 Zozo Championship because the severe leg, foot and ankle injuries he suffered in the crash have mostly kept him away from tournament golf.
The 15-time major winner said in November 2021 that his days as a full-time player on the PGA Tour were over because of the injuries and that he would “pick and choose” his tournaments. Woods repeated that “pick and choose” line Tuesday, reminding everyone that his appearance in this week’s tournament would not be heralding a full-time return. But he did say he would like to be able to play more than he did in 2022, when he took the course at only three tournaments, each of them one of golf’s majors.
“Would I like to play more? Yes,” Woods said. “Would [my health] allow me to? I don’t know. I have to be realistic about that.”
Most recently, Woods has been dealing with plantar fasciitis, a foot disorder that he said was related to the injuries he suffered in the crash. That malady forced him to miss December’s Hero World Challenge, a small-field tournament featuring top-ranked golfers that he annually hosts in the Bahamas. Woods said that his foot was feeling better this week and that it was his ankle that was bothering him the most, though he and his team have been working to build up his endurance.
“It’s just gone from a few holes to nine holes to the back nine and to 18 holes, then go back home and practice,” Woods said. “It’s just a buildup, and it’s built up fantastic to get to this point. And after this event, we’ll analyze where we are and get ready for Augusta.”
Woods’s career was seemingly on the decline even before the car crash (the golfer who spent a record 683 weeks at No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking now sits at No. 1,294). In the eight tournaments that immediately preceded the incident, Woods finished no better than a tie for 37th, and he could do no better last year than 47th place at the Masters. Oddsmakers have put significantly better odds on him missing the cut this week (-210 at DraftKings, suggesting a 67.7 percent chance of success) than winning the tournament (he’s a 150-to-1 long shot at DraftKings) or even finishing in the top 10 (12 to 1).
But his choice of the Genesis Invitational as a venue for his return makes sense, considering his charitable foundation is the tournament host and Riviera was the site of his first PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old high school sophomore in 1992. The former Los Angeles Open is one of the few tournaments Woods has not won: He has tried and failed to win at Riviera 13 times, his most appearances without a victory at one course. It’s also the tournament where he suffered the only playoff defeat of his career, to Billy Mayfair in 1998 (when the event was played at Valencia Country Club).
Still, there’s a certain level of comfort with the tournament and with Riviera.
“I know this golf course,” Woods said. “I haven’t had a lot of success on this golf course, but I knew what I had to practice.”