Riviera was a shoebox Saturday, tilted and tapped on one side.
Everywhere that Tiger Woods went, a U.S. Open-sized gallery followed. Even in Los Angeles, a city too cool to be star struck, he got the Mick Jagger treatment. Fans shouted his name — some watching from the patios of the mansions overlooking the course — and greeted him on every hole with a sea of raised cellphone cameras.
And Woods, who just made the Genesis Open cut, put on a show reminiscent of his heyday.
Under cloudless skies for a change, and with daylight beginning to fade, Woods went from an afterthought tied for 52nd at one under to a leaderboard riser tied for 14th at minus-6. He started his third round on No. 10 and was five under after his first four holes, before narrowly missing a birdie putt. He finished the round on Sunday morning with a six-under-par 65.
“I got off to a nice little roll,” Woods said. “Conditions were a little bit tough in the beginning, which is good for me because the guys weren’t really doing much around the golf course, so that was a positive.”
This is the 13th time Woods is playing in this tournament, and 11th as a pro, but he has yet to win it. He now hosts the event, which benefits his TGR Foundation. He made his tour debut here, in the 1992 L.A. Open, as a 16-year-old amateur.
Modest crowds were scattered around the rest of the course, mostly watching leaders Justin Thomas (-13), Adam Scott (-12), Patrick Rodgers (-11), and J.B. Holmes (-11).
In the morning, after finishing his second round of the rain-delayed tournament, Woods complained he was struggling reading the greens, as evidenced by his four three-putts in Friday’s round.
“I’m not feeling comfortable because I’m not seeing the line,” he said. “Consequently, I’m having a hard time starting my ball on line because I have a hard time seeing it. Hopefully I can find it here in the last couple rounds. Can’t get any worse than it was the first day; four three-putts is as bad as a human being can putt.”
By the afternoon, those lines came into sharp relief. He drained a five-foot putt for birdie on No. 10 after a beautiful chip out of the left rough. On the 570-yard 11th, he followed a blue-line straight drive of 321 yards with a 253-yard fairway wood that put him 10 feet from the hole. He made that for eagle, and the excitement grew.
Woods had a 190-yard approach to 21 feet on No. 12, the toughest hole on the course, and made that for birdie. And on 13, he made a 14-foot birdie putt, allowing himself a smile to the erupting crowd.
This is the second time since 2003 he has opened a round in five-under through four holes (second round of the 2009 Buick Open)
He cooled a bit on his final three holes before play was suspended for darkness, with three consecutive pars. The golfers will resume their third round at 6:45 a.m. Sunday, followed after a short break, then the same groups in the same order for the final round.
Woods, playing with Peter Malnati and Cody Gribble, will pick up his round on the par-5 17th, where play was called with his third shot just off the front of the green, 33 feet from the pin.
Woods said he likely would rise around 2 or 3 in the morning to begin his preparations for the final day, weather permitting. The forecast calls for cloudy skies and possible midday showers.
“This has been a long week and we’re almost done,” he said.
A long Sunday awaits. But if Woods can maintain his momentum, it could be a satisfying one.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer