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Tiger Woods is playing, hosting and talking LIV this week at Riviera

Tiger Woods is playing, hosting and talking LIV this week at Riviera

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Tiger Woods rematerializes at Riviera this week as a member of the PGA Tour policy board at a flashing-red moment in golf history, an entry in the 70-man field, a tournament host, a 48-year-old with an ankle fused 10 months ago, a titan slightly seething at never having won this storied event in 15 tries, a guy who had a harrowing car crash near here three Februarys ago, the face of a new clothing brand and a nostalgist who tosses around Riviera memories long enough to include a proper noun such as “Lanny” (meaning Wadkins).

It’s a good thing he has always had command of a range of topics.

As he spoke on them Wednesday on the verge of his first official PGA Tour competition since his third-round withdrawal with plantar fasciitis at last year’s Masters, he talked business in the vague terminology of business.

He raved about Strategic Sports Group, the collection of sports owners the PGA Tour declared partners Jan. 31. “The consortium that they have at SSG, the partners that they have that have come together to be a part of this group, is quite remarkable to be honest with you in the sports industry,” he said. “They’re unbelievable leaders. At a time that we need great leadership going forward, this elicits that.”

At an event whose previous two champions, Joaquin Niemann and Jon Rahm, have gone off to LIV, the rival circuit hatched in Saudi Arabia, Woods endorsed the idea of an eventual reunion. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to provide the best entertainment,” he said. “In order to do that, you have to have the best players play.” He added, “We’re looking into all the different models for pathways back” for the LIV players, trying to decipher “what it means for the players who’ve stayed,” mulling “varying degrees of ideas” and engaging in “daily, weekly emails and talks about this, and what this looks like going forward.”

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“We don’t even know in the longer term what that looks like,” he said.

As for Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which has spent the past two years striving to raid the PGA Tour, Woods said, “Ultimately, we would like to have PIF be a part of our tour and a part of our product,” eight months after the entities wreaked shock waves with an announcement of an intent to collaborate. He said he hasn’t met with anyone with the PIF, that he had only a vague sense from the PIF’s “representatives” about their ultimate wishes and, “I don’t know if it’s good or bad; it’s an ongoing, fluid process.”

Woods returns to the Genesis Invitational as a player, getting around well in Wednesday’s pro-am with Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Aaron Hicks, with Woods’s usual effects on the tenor of an event, even one he did play last year, enduring all four rounds and shooting 1 under par. Said Max Homa, who won this event in 2021: “I’m just happy to see the man not limping as much. Every event’s better when Tiger is here. It’s pretty amazing what he brings to an event with his presence on the golf course. . . . I don’t think it changes a whole lot; it just makes the event a bit bigger.”

His car crash on the Monday morning after the event three years ago was something that “happened,” he said. “Do I feel it physically? Each and every day.” The ankle surgery it helped necessitate in April does have him feeling differently. “My ankle doesn’t hurt anymore,” he said. “The balls aren’t rubbing together. But it’s different; other parts of the body have to take the brunt of that.”

Preparing for this has been a process of measuring “how the body feels from day to day and the grind,” something he called “the overall aching process of it all,” such as “trying to get used to the new feels of the body” and the golf swing he has built “the last four or five years based on my hands.”

He opened up his answers saying: “A nice ‘W’ would be nice. I haven’t ever won this event.” Ever the player who wouldn’t do anything without a belief he might win it, he said, “Hopefully I can figure out something.”

After 15 tries at a tournament U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark called “iconic” and Woods began playing at 16 in 1992, Woods said: “It is frustrating in the sense that this is a golf course that to me has been very comfortable visually. . . . It’s a fader’s delight.” But: “For some reason, I haven’t put it together at this event.”

He went back to his “foul ball” on the 72nd hole in a runner-up finish alongside Davis Love III and Ted Tryba behind Ernie Els in, well, 1999. And: “I have never really gotten hot with the putter during this event, this course.”

And that’s frustrating, even for a guy with a record-tying 82 PGA Tour wins in so many parts of elsewhere.

“You can see that,” he said, grinning, “and you’re asking me the question.”

He starts playing Thursday alongside major winners Justin Thomas and Gary Woodland, in the same week Woods unveiled his new clothing venture, Sun Day Red. To a question about whether he would want to keep his “TW” logo, Woods said: “I don’t want it back. I’ve moved on.” To a question from Jim Hill, the former NFL player and Los Angeles TV icon, about all his days at Riviera, Woods said, “Jim, it’s been full-on for us, for me, to have come out here when I was 7, 8 years old, when Lanny won going away.”

That was 1985, when Woods was 8 and Wadkins won by seven.

“I’m now hosting it and playing.” And branding. And emailing. And discussing.

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