After squeaking inside the cut line, Tiger Woods played his best round of the week on Saturday in Round 3 as he jumped several spots on the Genesis Invitational leaderboard following a 4-under 67.
Woods, who will now have a late-morning tee time in the final round on Sunday, doesn’t have a chance to win at Riviera but thrilled nonetheless on Saturday with two birdies on his front nine (the back nine on the golf course) and an early eagle on his 10th hole (the par-5 first hole on the course).
It was Tiger’s first eagle since the 2020 Genesis Invitational. You know, before the pandemic started.
Following the fireworks on No. 1, Woods finished out his round with another birdie at No. 5 to run it to 5 under on the day, at which point he had the second-best round of anyone in the field on the day. Think about that. On the weekend at one of the trickiest golf courses on the PGA Tour, somebody who hadn’t played tournament golf in seven months was cruising toward the second-best score in one of the best fields in golf. How remarkable.
Woods closed with three pars and a bogey to stay inside the top 30 on the leaderboard at the time he finished.
At 3 under for the tournament, Woods is currently out-playing six of the top 30 players in the world in addition to those who missed the cut.
- Tyrrell Hatton (-2)
- Sepp Straka (-2)
- Tony Finau (-1)
- Tom Kim (-1)
- Sungjae Im (-1)
- Xander Schauffele (E)
What worked for Woods on Saturday? Well, his short game was much cleaner than it was over the first two days, which is always helpful. An example of this came at the par-3 6th hole where he hit a bad tee shot but easily got up and down from a potentially precarious spot (what spot isn’t precarious on the 6th hole?) for an easy three.
But, the real reason was that he hit the ball like 2003 Tiger more than he did like 2023 Tiger. Woods finished in the top 20 in the field in both driving and approach play on Saturday and plotted his way around Riviera with shots like you see above at the first — a 191-yard dart that barely landed on the green and bent toward the stick like he was guiding it with a remote control from the fairway.
In other words, these are not shots a 47-year-old man with a broken back and a leg that needs hours of treatment every night should be hitting.
Yet, here we are. Tiger Woods has a legitimate chance to finish in the top 10 at the Genesis Invitational on Sunday in his first PGA Tour start since fall 2020. Tiger Woods! I thought making the cut this weekend would be a victory, but now he looks like he could sneak into the top 10 (or better). If he hits like he did on Saturday then it’s almost assured that this will happen.
Perhaps Tiger’s most important move on Saturday, though, didn’t come on the course or on the leaderboard. After making birdie at the par-5 17th, Woods went up to a young fan behind the green, gave her a signed glove and checked the sign she had with a box next to “meet Tiger Woods” himself.
While Woods isn’t truly playing for a title this weekend, and likely won’t very often over the course of the rest of his career, he’s still playing for something. For himself, for his friends, for the Tour, for those who have showed up specifically to catch a glance. Probably, on some level, for some amalgamation of all of those things. Remarkably on Saturday, they all got exactly what they wanted to see.