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One-over Woods has too many bogeys at Genesis Open; Cantlay, Finau tied for first at five under

Tiger Woods hits out of a sand trap on the 10th fairway after hitting his tee shot wide right on the 9th hole in the first round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on Thursday in Pacific Palisades.
Tiger Woods hits out of a sand trap on the 10th fairway after hitting his tee shot wide right on the 9th hole in the first round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on Thursday in Pacific Palisades.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

On a day when the golf course challenged much of the field, Tiger Woods made things hard on himself.

Each time he flashed the greatness that used to be his norm in the opening round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on Thursday, wayward swings on the tee or from the fairway kept him from getting into the same ZIP code as the leaders.

Five birdies? Good. Four bogeys and a double bogey? Not so much.

Woods demonstrated the erratic play that not surprisingly goes hand in hand with playing only his second PGA Tour event of the year after having basically taken 2 1/2 years off to recover from back surgery.

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He shot a one-over-par 72, the same opening-round total he posted as a 16-year-old amateur the first time he played this event in 1992. He sits six shots behind co-leaders Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay, tied for 63th place, and needs a much more consistent second round Friday to ensure a spot for the weekend.

“I made really silly bogeys out there,” Woods, 42, said as he tried to regain the form of 2013, his last successful season with five victories and player-of-the-year honors.

Cantlay, the former UCLA player who got his first PGA Tour victory in the Hospitals for Children Open in November, and long-hitting Finau shot five-under 66s. Cantlay, 25, lost most of three seasons because of a bad back before coming back a year ago and is now playing the kind of golf many people expected of him.

Tom Hoge, Dominic Bozzelli and Sam Saunders are a shot back at 67. Saunders, grandson of Arnold Palmer, is in the field on a sponsor’s exemption for the second straight year. He shot a 64 to take the first-round lead a year ago.

Twelve players were on the course when play was suspended because of darkness at 5:48 p.m.

Thursday was the kind of postcard-sunny late February day in Southern California that entices snowbound souls in the Midwest to put the house on the market and head west. And as has been the case throughout Woods’ career, he was surrounded by a phalanx of loyal fans framing every hole, smartphones continually raised in the hopes of capturing a moment of golf history.

They got a few glimpses of the old Woods. He birdied his opening hole, the tricky 315-yard par-four 10th, but then launched his tee shot on the next hole, the par-five 11th, high and to the right into the immense eucalyptus trees that guard so many of Riviera’s fairways. The shot never dropped to the ground, Woods returned to the tee and double-bogeyed the hole.

He missed the fairway on his third hole, wound up in a bunker on his approach and suddenly was two over par.

“Once I got to two over par …. I was like, oh, man, here we go,” he said. “I’ve got to somehow turn this thing around.”

It seemed that he would. He birdied No. 13, then after a bogey two holes later, made birdie on the 590-yard 17th with four perfect shots and birdied No. 1 to get back to even.

He gave himself a great opportunity to get to red numbers on the 434-yard third hole with a well-placed drive only 116 yards from the pin. But he missed the green with a wedge shot he called “awful” afterward. Fortuitously, the Golf Channel had not yet gone on the air at the time of the shot, when the two-word expletive Woods blurted offered his candid commentary. He did save par, but made two more bogeys in the last five holes.

“No one’s going low out there, it’s too hard,” Woods said. “The greens are springy… a little bouncy, and those short putts are not easy.”

After the round, Woods, as he often does, spoke about being close to where he wants to be.

“I’m not that far off to really putting some good numbers out there,” he said. “I just made too many bogeys.”

Playing partner Rory McIlroy, who shot an even-par 71 that included an eagle on the short par-five first, also had an optimistic view of his good friend’s game: “He remembers how to do this and his body’s allowing him to do this, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll make a little bit of noise this year.”

sports@latimes.com


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