The scene was similar to the last time Tiger Woods played against the best in the world. The public filled each balcony of all the floors of the Riviera clubhouse, hoping to catch a glimpse of an unusual participation by the star.
And Woods saw to it that that crowd of onlookers made more of a scandal at the end.
He gave a show during his first competition in seven months. He finished with three straight birdies and a big smile after shooting a 2-under 69.
This left him five shots behind Max Homa and Keith Mitchell, the leaders in the Genesis Invitational.
Woods went from the bunker to the fairway and into the bunker on the 10th hole, and had to hole an eight-foot putt to clear the bogey. On the 12th, he was wild from the start and hit another bogey, leaving him even for par on a balmy, breezy afternoon.
Down the stretch, he looked like the Woods of yore. A tee shot five feet from the par-3 16. Another 25-foot birdie at the par-5 17. And a great shot, a few yards longer than Rory McIlroy’s, bound for 18, which left the table ready to solve with the 9-iron, seven feet.
“I was able to respond and get this to work,” Woods stressed. “It was a nice ending.”
Although they hurt, his legs held on. The ultimate challenge was getting them up those 52 steps to the clubhouse to sign their card.
The idol will have to take his next step soon. He finished his round around 5 p.m. local time. You must start the second at 7:24 in the morning.
Homa played in the morning and finished with three consecutive birdies for a score of 64. Mitchell was active in the afternoon, scoring a pair of birdies on the last two holes to share the lead.