Everything you need to know ahead of Tiger Woods’ return to the Genesis Invitational

LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods will compete in the Genesis Invitational Thursday (3:04 pm ET, Sportzshala+) in his first official PGA Tour event in nearly seven months. At a press conference on Tuesday, Woods told reporters he would not enter the tournament unless he believed he could fight or even win.

While all eyes will be on Woods, there will be no shortage of great golf this weekend. The top three players in the Official World Golf Rankings, consisting of Scotty Sheffler, Rory McIlroy and John Rahm, will continue to fight for first place in a narrow circle of high-ranking players.

After watching the practice rounds and the pros compete on Wednesday morning at the Riviera Country Club, our golf experts gave their take on what to expect this weekend:

The Riviera can be a tough walk, but it’s Tiger’s favorite spot. How did he look in training and during the pro-am on Wednesday?

Mark Schlabach: I was surprised that Woods played in an 18-hole professional club. I think if you run a tournament you should do whatever you ask everyone else to do. It was cold and windy, but on the training ground he didn’t seem particularly stiff. He limped through the first nine and didn’t seem to have a problem until the last few holes. I don’t know if his decision to stop playing after a good 16 was because of pain or because he stopped playing with not so good golfers. He took his time walking up and down the hills on the course, but did very well on the 52 paces from the 18th green to the scoring tent.

Gender Objects: When the Woods kicked off Wednesday at 6:30 pm PT, it was windy and cold at 41 degrees here in the Pacific Palisades. The sun was barely out, but there was still a small gallery around him (fans weren’t allowed in on Wednesday) when he fired at a driver on the first fairway. At first, it was hard to tell how comfortable Woods was walking, but as the top nine progressed, he had no noticeable limp and looked much better than the last time we saw him play. However, on the back nine, Woods began to walk more slowly, and his slight weight compensation showed up again.

As Woods told the media on Wednesday, the problem isn’t with the shot, it’s with his right ankle. However, Woods said that he was specially prepared for the game and, probably, for the passage of this track. He was in good spirits on Wednesday, even as the wind picked up and the blows got a little more insidious.

The tiger says that he came to win. Is this what we can expect?

Schlabach: Woods said he wouldn’t show up at Genesis to play if he didn’t think he could wrestle or win the tournament. After what we saw a year ago, I think cutting out and staying over the weekend would be a big step forward. Woods is 47 years old. Last season he played only nine rounds in three major championships. He was forced to withdraw from the PGA Championship after 54 holes and missed the cut at The Open at St. Andrews in July, the last time he played on the official PGA Tour.

Woods said his surgically reconstructed right leg is in better shape than it was a year ago. He is still battling pain in his right ankle as well as plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He admitted that he didn’t play 18 holes for four days in a row this year. Making a good throw is not a problem. As he’s said many times, it’s about getting from point A to point B. Will Woods be able to sustain a leg, ankle, and foot for four days if he makes the cut? Unfortunately, this will be an issue every time he competes in the future.

Objects: At this point, it would be strange and out of character if Woods said he was only in the tournament to play and not try to win. He has repeatedly stated that he will only do this if he can win, but this does not mean that we should expect this. Remove the fact that he has undergone major surgeries and an extended hiatus, and the challenge is still to beat the best players in the world at a special PGA Tour event.

The downsizing, Schlabach said, would be a huge moral victory for everyone but him. At the moment this seems realistic, but not a guarantee. For Woods, and the golfing world at large, the hope is that playing tournaments like this one will help him prepare for the tournaments he really wants to win—the big ones.

He will fight Thursday at 3:04 pm ET in a supergroup of Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy. What will we see from them?

Schlabach: Hogan’s Alley is a shooter’s course, and few PGA Tour players are better at mid-iron or wedge-in-hand than Thomas, one of Woods’ closest friends. Thomas started off a little slow in 2023 but his form started to pick up at the WM Phoenix Open where he scored 65 points on Sunday to finish fourth in solo. Missing consecutive starts at the Riviera Country Club, Thomas was sixth last year. Thomas is on a world class green and will be hard to beat if his stick gets hot.

I was a bit surprised that McIlroy didn’t play with Phoenix considering how well he’s played over the past few months. On the other hand, TPC Scottsdale has never been one of his favorite tracks; he often missed the event until it was scheduled. McClroy has been better at Riva, finishing in the top 10 three times in his last four starts. His shots in Phoenix were good, but he never felt comfortable on the green. McIlroy is a threat to win every time he does it today.

Objects: I’m far from bemoaning a band of this magnitude introduced, but it’s too similar to the Avengers situation, especially a year after Reeve became the hot spot for all the LIV rumors, and the three have been staunch supporters of the PGA Tour ever since. . However, McIlroy has openly stated in the past that playing in a band with Woods is not always best for his game. Thursday’s gallery is going to be huge and loud, and while I’m sure both Thomas and McIlroy enjoy playing with Woods, it won’t be easy.

Looks like McIlroy should do well in one of the scheduled competitions. As Schlabach noted, he has a history of good play here and has been kicking at the elite level for the past 10 months or so. It’s hard to gauge how Thomas will perform at this or that event, but I’ll be interested to see how he performs on Reeve’s small, undulating greens. So far this season, Thomas ranks 159th in hits scored, putting and changing clubs once before.

It was a real battle for the first place in the standings. How will John Ram and Scotty Scheffler run the Riviera fair?

Schlabach: Even though Scheffler won last season, it’s hard to believe he didn’t win again after the Masters and went 10 months without a win before finishing first in Phoenix. After ending his drought at TPC Scottsdale, one has to wonder if he’s going to put together another heater like he did last season when he won four times in six starts and got his first major at the Augusta National. Once a Sheffler starts up, it’s hard to stop him. He has only four starts at the Riviera, but he has gotten better in each of them: a miss, 30th, 20th and seventh last year. Last week, he led the way in hits scored from tee to green and approach. This would be another good recipe at Genesis. Scheffler loves to play big tournaments and with 23 of the top 25 players in the world here, he will be very motivated to win.

As good as Scheffler and McIlroy were, I’m not sure anyone was as consistent as Ram. The Spaniard has made five starts this season, including back-to-back victories at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the American Express. Ram didn’t have the best results in Phoenix last week, but he still managed to finish third solo. There is not a single part of his game that is not working to its fullest right now; he drives the ball far, hits the fields and putts.

Objects: It feels like the cream of the crop is starting to not only rise this season, but stay on top. Even when Ram struggles, he seems to revert to his elitist self almost immediately and lash out at the leaders. Meanwhile, Scheffler is a quiet constant on the tour. He might not pair up with Woods like Thomas and McIlroy did, but after hearing him talk about his weekly approach, he might have preferred to be a bit under the radar than his more famous peers.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Ram and Scheffler in the top five this week. It’s a course that works well for both (largely because every part of their games seem to thrive). The intended effect of the new scheduled tour events seems to allow the best players in the world to prove they are. At the moment, no one does it better than Ram and Scheffler.

Who is winning this week?

Schlabach: Give me JT. He’s getting in shape and wants to do well playing Woods in the first two rounds. He loves this track, even though it was where he lost to good friend Jordan Spit in the 2012 NCAA championship. It also means a lot to Thomas to win the Woods Tournament, especially since Tiger didn’t win at the Riviera Country Club.

Objects: It’s very hard to pick anyone other than the trio of Rahm, McIlroy and Sheffler right now, but in trying to push the envelope a bit, I think this week is setting the stage for a repeat winner like Max Homa. The Southern California native didn’t have his best record in Phoenix, but from the way he hits the ball lately, it’s easy to see him rebounding heavily on a field he’s already won on.

Best rates

Collin Morikawa (22-1); Tournament match Morikawa vs Spit (-140)

Anita Marks: Morikawa was a stallion in Golden State. He has one of the best fades on the tour, placing 7th in SG-Tee-to-Green, 6th in Approach and 13th off the tee. He also plays well at the Riviera Country Club.

Xander Schauffele finished in the top 5 (+350); first round leader (30-1)

Tags: Schauffele is fifth in scoring from the tee-to-the-green, seventh in scoring in par-4 and has finished as good as a T-23 in T019 in five matches at…


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