PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club


'My streak continues': Tiger Woods came up empty again at Riviera but progress certainly was made

February 19, 2023

Icon Sportswire

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — The roar was deafening. The kind where you knew exactly who produced it. It was Tiger Woods at the par-4 13th hole at Riviera, rolling in a 30-foot bomb for birdie from the fringe. All the phones were out. "TI-GER! TI-GER!" chants followed. Niall Horan, of One Direction fame, got up from his seated position and applauded for a solid 15 seconds, as if he were asking for an encore.

Woods' score at the time? One under for the tournament, two over for the day. It pulled him within 15 shots of Jon Rahm's lead.

Of course, that mattered very little on Sunday at the Genesis Invitational, and it matters very little in every official PGA Tour round Woods tees it up in. Yes, we'd love to see him shoot lower scores. To see him truly in the mix again. To see him raise an 83rd trophy, as unrealistic as that is. But for now, a 30-foot birdie putt that salvaged an otherwise pedestrian round will have to do.

Woods, 47, turned up at Riviera this week having not played a real competitive round since the Open Championship last July. He winced. He perspired. He trudged up every hill that required trudging. He finished all four rounds with a broken body because he doesn't know how to do it any other way. This is how it is now. He's never going to feel good, but maybe just one week he'll feel good enough to shock the world once more. Ultimately, this week, he finished with a two-over 73, putting him at one under overall, tied for 45th. It's not the result he wanted, but it's the one he produced despite all evidence pointing to him missing the cut. Even he knows that's progress, as much as it pains him to say it.

"It was progress, but obviously I didn't win," said Woods. "My streak continues here at Riv."

That "streak" is his losing streak at the iconic L.A. venue, a place where Woods has somehow never won despite the fact he's won just about everywhere on the planet. He's now 0-for-14 at the course he famously made his PGA Tour debut at as a 16-year-old in 1992.

"I felt like the first couple days I left certainly a lot of shots out there with some putts, especially Friday when I was blocking everything," Woods said. "Yesterday was better. Still wish I could have gotten within a touch of the leaders, but today they're running away with it. Even with a good round yesterday I wouldn't have been in touch today."

Woods left a number of putts out there on Sunday, too, normally a telltale sign of competitive rust. Even as the incredible preparer he is, it's just not possible to replicate tournament conditions back at home.

"Even if I played four days at home, it's not the same adrenaline," the 15-time major champion said. "It's not the same as the system being ramped up like that, the intensity, just the focus that it takes to play at this level. No matter how much—I'm very good at simulating that at home, but it's just not the same as being out here and doing it."

This leads to the obvious question of, when will Woods get back out there and do it again? He's mentioned many times over the last year that he'll likely only play the majors and maybe a few other tournaments. The Genesis is already one of those "others" now, and he didn't sound like a man ready to add another "other" to his schedule before the Masters in April.

"Here's the deal: Like I told you guys last year, I'm not going to play any more than probably the majors and maybe a couple more," he said. "That's it, that's all my body will allow me to do. My back the way it is, all the surgeries I had on my back, my leg the way it is, I just can't. That's just going to be my future.

"So my intent last year was to play in all four majors, I got three of the four. Hopefully this year I can get all four and maybe sprinkle in a few here and there. But that's it for the rest of my career. I know that and I understand that. That's just my reality."

Technically, Woods didn't rule out the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, a tournament he's won eight times. Or the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, a tricky but flat and walkable course for the old goat. Those are also a pair of "elevated events," an idea Woods had a hand in developing. Knowing how firmly on the side of the PGA Tour he is in the PGA Tour vs. LIV saga, it would be massive to see him turn up again once on the Florida Swing.

Given how he looked and sounded on Sunday afternoon, however, it just doesn't appear likely.

"I can do carts at home, I can do that, I can hit balls, chip and putt," Woods said. "But as I said, it's time or attention and getting your eight to 10 miles of walking in and the concentration that it takes. Yeah, it's hard. I've done it for a long time, but it's just not—the body sometimes, it says no even though the mind says yes."

The mind and body will both say yes to Augusta National in April, that much we know. We also know there will be roars, and it still will not matter what his score is or how he's producing them.