Tiger Woods still is searching for answers after missing the cut in the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — That Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Genesis Open isn’t a huge surprise. Save for a couple of runner-up finishes at the event early in his career, he has never played great at the Riviera Country Club.
In 11 trips, Woods has never won there, posted a half-dozen other top-20 finishes and now gone home early twice. Good numbers for a lot of players, but relatively speaking not so impressive for a 14-time major champion and winner of 79 PGA Tour events.
“I love the golf course, I love the layout, it fits my eye and I play awful,” Woods said earlier in the week. “It’s very simple. It’s just one of those weird things. It’s a fader’s golf course for a righty. A lot of the holes, you hit nice soft cuts and I used to love to hit nice soft cuts, and for some reason I just didn’t play well.”
Torrey Pines South routinely ranks at or near the top of the list of toughest courses on the PGA Tour all year. The redesigned North Course also isn’t the pushover it used to be.
Woods made the cut there, and a tie for 23rd was more than respectable, but he needed four birdies over his final nine holes just to make it to the weekend.
Riviera, with it’s tight fairways, gnarly kikuyu rough and bumpy poa annua greens isn’t easy either. It was the 23rd-toughest course on tour last year, including majors, with a scoring average just over par, and the lead going into the weekend this year is just seven under, with Thursday’s co-leader Patrick Cantlay shooting just two under on Friday to maintain a share of the top spot with Graeme McDowell and Sam Saunders going into Saturday.
Woods, meanwhile, struggled to a 76 on Friday and finished the week ranked 128th out of 144 players in strokes gained off the tee, hitting just eight fairways in the opening round and only five in the second round.
That of course put stress on every other part of his game and he ranked 101st in strokes gained approach, hitting 16 of 36 greens in regulation. While his putting helped save him in the opening round when he shot just one over, it abandoned him a day later. Woods took 32 putts, making just two outside six feet.
“That’s just the way it goes,” Woods said. “This golf course is just playing very difficult, and when I made the birdies, I made a mistake and wasn’t able to salvage pars and get the momentum going that way.
“The last two tournaments I’ve played have been really tough tests. It is what it is. These are two tough venues and it was tough on me.”
Next week’s Honda Classic won’t offer any let up. Last year, PGA National ranked 16th on tour. It also features one of the toughest closing stretches in golf.
“I need to get some tournament rounds in and next week is a home match,” Woods said. “And I’m able to get some more work done this weekend.”
It also might not be a bad idea for Woods to think about where else he can do some work on his game, specifically some easier courses.
Long a creature of habit, Woods has always played — and won — on some of golf’s toughest venues. But he’s not the same player he used to be.
If he needs tournament reps, and clearly he does, grinding to make the cut, or worse yet missing it, aren’t going to that much good.
So why not consider the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run, or the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands? Both are birdiefests and about as stress-free an environment as you’ll find on tour. There are other events that come to mind, too, and maybe Woods will add one or more of them.
Rory McIlroy went to the Travelers last year and loved it. So much so that he’s going back this year because, among other reasons, it’s a place where he thinks he can win.
“He’s very close, he is very close,” McIlroy said Friday of Woods. “Give him a little bit of time. He’s still figuring a few things out with equipment, I think, sort of in between drivers and whatever, but he’s close.
“I think everyone just has to be patient with him, especially him being patient with it and just give himself time.”
A few easier places to play wouldn’t hurt, either.