LOS ANGELES – Between his World Challenge and now the Genesis Invitational, Tiger Woods has had plenty of practice as a tournament host/competitor. But that doesn’t make the dual role any easier.
To kick off tournament week – and an event featuring nine of the top 10 players in the world – Woods faced off against Bubba Watson in the second annual Celebrity Cup. Captaining A-listers like Alex Rodriguez, Chris Pratt and Larry Fitzgerald proved to be good fun, especially in victory, but it also set the tone for a week that’s been busier than most.
On Tuesday, Woods met with the media and attended other functions, eschewing practice time on the course for a day of rest and recovery. And besides, he’d get in 18 holes Wednesday during the pro-am – but only after a 10-minute warmup in chilly conditions before his 6:40 a.m. start time.
So, needless to say: “I haven’t had a whole lot of time to practice this week,” he said. “I’ve been a little bit busy.”
Though he striped it in the pro-am, Woods said that he was trying to “piece it together” on the range Thursday and only started shaping shots again toward the end of his session.
“I was just trying to get a nice movement pattern,” he said, “and I was able to start feeling that. I said, ‘Hey, just keep this thing going on the front nine.’”
And starting out, Woods looked as good as ever. He eagled the first hole, from 25 feet, and then stuffed short irons to 3 feet on Nos. 5 and 8, turning in 31 and sitting just three shots off the lead.
Only on the back nine did his swing start to unravel. He sprayed his tee shot into the trees on 11, leading to a layup and a par. He missed the green on 12 and couldn’t convert the 6-footer for par. A hole later, he hit a quick hook off the tee and scrambled for par. Same on 15, after another wild miss left.
The par-5 17th was hard work, too, after he drove into the right fairway bunker, had 192 yards for his third shot and dripped in a 5-footer for par. On 18, he hit a wicked slice into the eucalyptus trees. Forced to punch out, Woods smashed his club onto the cart path in frustration, knowing that he was likely headed for a bogey and a 2-under 69 that could have been so much better.
“Hopefully I can hit it as good (Friday) as I did on that front nine to give myself a number of looks for the entire 18 holes, not just nine holes,” he said.
Woods answered only seven questions from the press before heading toward the clubhouse. His second round begins early, at 7:16 a.m., and it was time, once again, to turn into the tournament host.