02/13/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/13/2020 21:08
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. - After a sublime 3-wood found the fairway on the iconic par-5 first hole at Riviera Country Club Tiger Woods sized up a downwind approach with his 8-iron from about 173 yards.
The tournament host had just kickstarted his campaign at The Genesis Invitational and swung freely from the short grass, watching his shot intently as it settled on the green some 24 feet, eight inches from the hole.
Yes. 24 feet, eight inches.
On his first competitive hole on the PGA TOUR in Los Angeles after the passing of Lakers legend and good friend Kobe Bryant, the 82-time TOUR winner faced a putt for eagle from the two numbers synonymous with Bryant's career. The Lakers honored Bryant's incredible contribution to their organization by retiring both No. 24 and No. 8 when his playing days were over.
The result of the putt therefore was never in doubt. It dropped into the cup and Woods had started an event with eagle for just the second time since ShotLink records were kept in 2003. Fitting indeed.
With a birdie at the par-4 5th and another on the par-4 8th - which sports a Bryant inspired purple and gold pin flag - Woods shot 31 on the front nine. It was the first time he had done so on the opening nine at Riviera since doing so in the final round of 2004.
In fact Woods was a cumulative 6 over for the last seven times he had played that stretch of holes at Riviera so the turnaround was most welcome. And he could've gone lower having missed an eight-footer on the second. With six of seven fairways hit and seven of nine greens it appeared Woods might threaten Matt Kuchar's early posted 7-under 64 that led the morning wave.
'It's ironic, isn't it? It was a nice way to start. I didn't know about the putt being that long. As I said, ironic having those two numbers,' Woods said. 'And then No. 8, happened to hit one in there close and had a nice little kick-in there for birdie.'
'You know, no matter what we do, I think for a while we're going to always remember Kobe and what he meant, and especially here in SoCal and the entire sports world.'