Tiger Woods shoots best round since 2019


February 18, 2023 | 8:41 p.m

LOS ANGELES — Jon Rahm could hear cheers from across the Riviera, the sound usually associated with someone making an accusation. Except that the players came from the opposite side of the court who were too far from the lead.

What they meant wasn’t nearly as mysterious as who they belonged to.

“You know exactly where Tiger is,” Rahm said after his own masterpiece at Saturday’s Genesis Invitational, a 6-under 65. He’s 15-under for the tournament and has a three-shot lead. Max Homa, who shot a 69, is second at 12-under and Keith Mitchell, who also shot a 69, is third at 11-under.

Woods, who apologized Friday for his tampon prank with Justin Thomas in Thursday’s first round, gets a wild cheer as he heads to the tee, although this time golf was the source. He had a 67 that didn’t allow him to gain ground – in fact he fell another shot and was 12 behind on Sunday.

“Today was better,” Woods said. “I felt like I made some nice adjustments to my putting and that’s what held me back yesterday. I’ve been riding well for the last three days, my iron game has been good. And the hard conditions that I like, that’s my thing with iron game. I just wish I could have putt a little bit better yesterday.”

Tiger Woods, who hit a 67 in the third round, hits an iron shot into the 14th hole at the Genesis Invitational.
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What stood out was the day. It was his best result on a Saturday at an official event since fall 2019.

It’s certainly a small sample – 12 tournaments since he won the Zozo Championship in Japan in 2019 – but his legs are a bigger problem than how he swings the racquet.

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Woods fractured bones in his right leg and ankle in a car accident in Los Angeles two years ago. He returned 14 months later to play at the Masters and made the cut, a remarkable feat. And then, over the weekend, he hobbled to a pair of ’78s.

A month later at Southern Hills for the PGA Championship, he made the cut again on Friday with a stunning play on the track. But the wind shifted, a cold front hit Tulsa, Oklahoma, and he shot 79 and retreated.

Woods made the cut on the number at Riviera and started on the back nine. He opened with a 15-foot birdie putt, missed a good chance on the par-5 11th, and then raised the putter in his left hand when his 25-foot birdie putt off the edge of the par-14 3 dropped for another birdie.

The greatest moment was on the par 5 opening hole after he made the turn. Caught between clubs and feeling some wind on his face, he hit a cut with a 5-iron that landed on the front of the green and rolled inches on the cup before settling 3 feet away in what amounted to a tap-in eagle.

Tiger Woods overlooks a putt on the 18th green during the third round of the Genesis Invitational.
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He finally dropped a shot on the seventh when his approach rolled off the steep ledge, leaving a difficult incline. But he finished better than Friday when he bogeyed three of his last four holes.

“I thought I could get a run where I could reach the top and touch,” Woods said, before conceding he was too far behind.

Rahm is playing on a different level, a level Woods is familiar with. The Spaniard has not finished in the top 10 since August and is targeting his fifth win in his last nine starts.

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Third round leader Jon Rahm hits his approach shot on the 17th hole at the Genesis Invitational.

Woods said he was in pain after his fourth straight day – starting with Wednesday’s Pro-Am when he stopped playing after 16 holes – and he speaks of recovering after a round and preparing before that.

That part isn’t fun. Saturday was. And while the morning chill wasn’t great, the fast-paced Riviera conditions are right up his alley.

“I was pretty one-dimensional in how I hit my shots,” he said. “I kind of went to my little stock shot because I just wasn’t playing enough where I feel like I can hit different shots. … The way the golf course plays, as fast as it is, a flat cut can go a long way here, so I was able to hit that shot. Then with the firm greens I enjoy that for my iron game and finally made a few putts.”

Sunday will be his first 72-hole event since the Masters and only his second since his car accident that happened not far from Riviera. Woods is already looking forward to his return to Augusta National, but wants to wait until after this week to add tournaments before then.

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