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Tiger Watch

How has Tiger Woods not won at Riviera? His fellow pros certainly can't explain it

February 15, 2023
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Cliff Hawkins

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — In his prime, Tiger Woods was expected to win at any course he played on the PGA Tour, particularly any course he’d played more than once. En route to claiming a record-tying 82 tour titles, there were a handful of venues—notably Bay Hill, Firestone and Torrey Pines—where Woods won on several occasions, only fueling expectations.

But one course has proven a riddle Woods can’t seem to solve: Riviera Country Club, site of the tournament, the Genesis Invitational, that the 47-year-old now hosts.

It seemed only logical that Woods would eventually triumph at Riviera. It’s not far from where he grew up in Cypress, Calif., and it’s where Woods made his PGA Tour debut as 16-year-old amateur in 1992. Meanwhile, the gamed George Thomas layout is relatively generous off the tee, with slick, sloped greens that demand precise iron play and careful lag putting—both of which Woods is considered among the greatest ever at doing.

Yet in 13 starts at Riviera as a pro, Woods has never claimed victory—only a runner-up finish in 1999 and three other top-10s. Woods has never played more times at a tour course without winning.

The disconnect is one that not only Woods can’t explain, but neither can his fellow tour pros. Max Homa, a self-confessed Woods superfan and the 2021 champion at Riviera, said it best.

“It makes absolutely no sense,” Homa said. “It's a second-shot golf course, and he's the greatest iron player of all time. It truly makes no sense.”

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Max Homa got to see Tiger Woods play upclose when they were paired for the opening two rounds at the Open Championship last July.

Ross Kinnaird

Homa, ranked 12th in the world, and Woods share victories at several venues where superior iron play is rewarded. That includes Quail Hollow, where Homa has won twice, and Torrey Pines, where Woods won eight titles including the 2008 U.S. Open and where Homa last month earned his sixth career tour victory last month.

“I consider my strength being my iron play my whole career and I've played well [at Riviera] a lot” Homa said. “And when I go to certain courses that Tiger has played great at, like the ones where he's completely dominated, like Bay Hill, I play well at [too]. So when you come [to Riviera], I would have thought he'd won 10 times. I don't know, golf's funny in that way. He's good at everything, but that one's a mystery to me because this seems like this would just be a playground for him.”

Adam Scott also has had plenty of success at Riviera. The Australian star won a weather-shortened Nissan Open in 2005, before grabbing an official PGA Tour win at Riviera in 2020. Like Homa, the 2013 Masters winner scratches his head as to why Woods is winless at the historic Southern California layout.

“He's a really great iron player and you have to be a good iron player to play well here,” Scott said. “That may just be an anomaly and the only one in his whole career maybe. It's a little bit inexplicable. I don't know what to say about that. He's certainly capable of handling it.”

Scott, who is chasing an elusive second career major to go with his green jacket, did have a solution—although it’s unlikely to happen. “I don't know if he just doesn't feel it here, but I'll share some tips with him if he shares some tips on how to win a few majors with me.”