Tiger Woods will begin his second opportunity to become the PGA Tour’s winningest player Thursday at The Riviera Country Club in The Genesis Invitational, a tournament in which he is winless in 13 tries.
Woods tied Sam Snead’s record of 82 victories when he won the Zozo Championship Oct. 27. In his next start, Woods was among six golfers tying for ninth, sixth strokes behind Australian Marc Leishman in the Farmers Insurance Open, which concluded Jan. 26.
Woods played his first PGA Tour event at The Riviera Country Club in 1992, missing the cut in what was then known as the Nissan Open as a 16-year-old sophomore from Anaheim’s Western High School. The closest Woods came to winning on the course was in 1999, when he was among three golfers tying for second, two strokes behind South African Ernie Ells.
“I have historically never really putted well here,” Woods, who is the tournament’s host, said at a news conference Wednesday.
“It suits a natural cutter of the golf ball, so I figured that’s what I have done pretty much my entire career, but when it comes right down to it, you’ve got to hit the ball well here because the greens are so small and they’re so slopey. But for some reason everything kind of breaks toward six and I still haven’t quite figured that out.”
Woods lost in a playoff to Billy Mayfair in the 1998 Nissan Open, which was played at Valencia Country Club while Riviera prepared to host the U.S. Senior Open. It is his only loss in 12 playoffs on the PGA Tour.
The Genesis Invitational is one of two tournaments where Woods has made double-digit appearances and failed to collect a victory. The other is The Northern Trust, formerly The Barclays, Barclays Classic and Buick Classic in the New York City area, in which Woods has played 10 times.
A top-10 finish by Woods would be his 200th on the PGA Tour. Ten other players have recorded 200 or more top-10 finishes. Woods has four top 10 finishes in The Genesis Invitational.
The tournament has been renamed from The Genesis Open to reflect its invitational status, where players are required to meet certain criteria to be part of the field. It joins two other PGA Tour events with elevated status — the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Jack Nicklaus-hosted Memorial Tournament. Each of these events offer a larger purse, $9.3 million, and a three-year PGA Tour exemption for the winner.
“It’s incredible for the event just to be alongside those two unbelievable heroes of mine,” Woods said.
The tournament’s prize money has been increased from $7.4 million, while the winner’s share has grown from $1.332 million to $1.674 million.
The field has been reduced from 144 players to 120.
The tournament has drawn nine of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking including each of the top six — Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, American Brooks Koepka, Spaniard Jon Rahm and Americans Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay.
Woods is ranked eighth. He will be paired with Thomas and fellow American Steve Stricker for the first two rounds.
The player with the first hole-in-one each day on the 14th hole will win the first SUV from Genesis, the GV80. The caddie will receive a G70.
The player with the first hole-in-one each day on the 16th hole will win a Genesis G70. The caddie will also receive a G70.
The tournament winner will also receive a GV80.
The tournament initially known as the Los Angeles Open has been played annually since 1926, with the exception of 1943. It is the seventh-oldest active tournament on the PGA Tour.
Tickets are priced beginning at $55. Clubhouse tickets are $85. The Greenside at 17th tickets are sold out. Sellouts for Saturday and Sunday are “definitely possible,” tournament publicist Greg Ball told City News Service.
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