Tiger Cards 72 in 2024 Debut at Riviera

In his inaugural appearance for the 2024 season and his initial start in an official PGA Tour competition since his Masters participation in April, Tiger Woods dealt with back spasms in the closing stretch at Riviera Country Club.

As Woods attempted to execute an 8-iron shot from the right portion of the 18th fairway, his back seized up. The ball flew sharply to the right, colliding with a eucalyptus tree before settling behind a cluster of four neighboring trees.

A journalist tiptoed around addressing the golf world’s most dreaded five-letter term while asking Woods about his swing — but Tiger didn’t run from it.

“Oh, definitely, I shanked it,” Woods said. “Well, my back was spasming the last couple holes and it was locking up,” Woods said. “I came down and it didn’t move, and I presented [the] hosel first and shanked it.”

Woods managed to salvage his third shot onto the green, securing a bogey with a two-putt. It marked a disappointing conclusion to his round, settling him at 1-over 72 and tied for 49th, trailing leader Patrick Cantlay by eight strokes after the first round of the Genesis Invitational.

With the weekend on the line, Woods faces a challenge ahead on Friday. In this pivotal event, the top 50 scores and ties, along with players within 10 strokes of the lead, will advance to the 36-hole cut.

Throughout his round, Woods recorded five birdies countered by six bogeys. While he started strong with a 1-under 34 on the front nine, bogeys plagued him early on the back nine with two within the first three holes. Another bogey on the par-4 15th added to his setbacks, culminating in the misstep on the final hole. Reflecting on his performance, he described it as a blend of “a lot of good and a lot of indifferent.”

“It was one or the other,” Woods said. “I don’t know how many pars I had, wasn’t many. I was either making birdies or bogeys and just never really got anything consistent going today.”

“I struggled with the speed of the greens,” Woods said. “I couldn’t believe how fast they were today even though I made a couple. I ran a bunch by the hole today, it was very stressful. But the golf course is in such perfect shape. Considering the amount of rain they’ve gotten, to get the golf course this fast is pretty impressive.”

At 48 years old, Woods underwent fusion surgery on April 19 to tackle post-traumatic arthritis stemming from a car accident close to Riviera Country Club in February 2021. The surgery kept him off the course for almost eight months. Although Woods had been grappling with back spasms at home, Thursday’s round marked the first instance of experiencing them during competitive play in some time. Following the round, Woods mentioned that his right foot felt fine, yet his leg was noticeably sore.

“Things are a little bit sore, but that’s to be expected,” Woods said. “That’s nothing that we weren’t prepared for, and we’ve got some work to do tonight and tomorrow. I’m going to be rusty, and I have to do a better job at home prepping,” Woods said. “We need to do a better job with lifting and treating and continuation of rehab protocols, all those things. I just haven’t done it in a while.”

Tiger will tee off at 2:54 p.m. ET Friday at Riviera — let’s see if the G.O.A.T can make the cut.