Woods wearing many hats at Riviera, just doesn’t have many answers

Tiger Woods tees off on the second hole during the Genesis Invitational pro-am Wednesday at Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. (Associated Press)
Tiger Woods tees off on the second hole during the Genesis Invitational pro-am Wednesday at Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. (Associated Press)

LOS ANGELES -- Tiger Woods is wearing a lot of hats at the Genesis Invitational -- one of them featuring a new logo -- without a lot of clarity on the state of his game or the future of the PGA Tour.

Woods joined the PGA Tour board last summer and has been involved in negotiations that led to Strategic Sports Group becoming a minority investor in a deal worth as much as $3 billion. Still unclear is where that leaves the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, the financial backer of LIV Golf.

“Ultimately we would like to have PIF be a part of our tour and a part of our product,” Woods said Wednesday at Riviera. “Financially, we don’t right now. And the monies that they have come to the table with, and what we initially had agreed to in the framework agreement, those are all the same numbers. Anything beyond this is going to be obviously over and above.”

As for his game, Woods said his speed is not the same with a 48-year-old body that includes a fused lower spine and a fused right ankle.

“I built this golf swing the last few years … based on my hands and what that feels like,” he said. “What that looks like, sometimes it doesn’t look pretty, but I can still hit the ball flush.”

That hasn’t translated at Riviera, the course he has played the most times as a pro (12) without winning. The short answer on why is that he’s never putted well here.

But he was clear when it came to launching his new “Sun Day Red” brand with TaylorMade Golf after 27 years with Nike. Asked what would become of his “TW” logo from Nike he often wore on the front of his cap and back of his shirt, Woods said he doesn’t get that back.

“I don’t want it back. I’ve moved on,” he said. “This is a transition in my life. I’ve moved on to ‘Sun Day Red’ and we’re looking forward to building a brand that elicits excitement.”

The other hat -- host of the Genesis Invitational -- requires little commentary. Riviera has been one of the premier stops on the PGA Tour for 60 years, and now it is a signature event that offers a $20-million purse.

The player-hosted events -- Riviera, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Memorial -- award $4 million to the winner (compared with $3.6 million for other signature events), though it also comes with a 36-hole cut to the top 50 and ties, and anyone within 10 shots of the lead.

The field is as strong as any this side of a major. The course has held up remarkably well despite two “atmospheric rivers” that dumped heavy rain on Los Angeles.

The course, a rectangular piece of property between the tony Brentwood neighborhood and Sunset Boulevard, is a haven for pure iron players and Woods has long been among the best.

But he has only three top 10s at Riviera, and only one serious chance at winning, finishing two shots behind Ernie Els in 1999. Most telling about Woods and Riviera was the end of 1999 and early 2000. Woods had 10 out of 11 starts on the PGA Tour when he either won or finished second. The exception was Riviera. He tied for 18th.

“I have traditionally not putted well here,” he said. “I’ve driven it well here. There are small greens and traditionally throughout my entire career my iron game has been pretty good, but I have never really gotten hot with the putter at this course.”

His health is good enough that he hopes to play at least once a month through the majors. The Genesis Invitational is his first PGA Tour-sanctioned event since the Masters.

Woods was walking fine (the shoes are prototype TaylorMade, but he abandoned the Nike swoosh after his February 2021 car crash in Los Angeles). He began his pro-am with Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Aaron Hicks by holing a 12-foot eagle putt on the first hole.

He talks about a “W” being nice, but that’s always the case. Since his last PGA Tour victory in Japan at the end of 2019, only once has Woods finished closer than 15 shots of the winner. That was at Torrey Pines in 2020, when he was six shots behind.

“In talking to him over the offseason, he was as enthusiastic as I’ve ever heard him,” Notah Begay III said from the PGA Tour Champions event in Florida. “He understands what his limitations are. Ten years ago, 15 years ago, there were no limitations on Tiger Woods. Now he understands, and that’s fine. He’s not the longest … but he’s way above average. So it’s just kind of like, can he piece it together at the right time? We’ll see.”

Woods still attracts a big crowd, and that’s expected when the tournament starts today.

“I’m just happy to see the man not limping as much,” Max Homa said. “It’s pretty amazing what he brings to an event with his presence on the golf course. … You have less people watching you play golf, but there are more people watching golf, which is cool.”

He still rules golf to the point this is one week the chatter about all the top players being divided among the PGA Tour and LIV Golf gets overshadowed.

Woods said the deal with SSG and ongoing negotiations with the PIF include “different models for pathways back” -- a reference to the potential of LIV players rejoining the PGA Tour.

“What that looks like, what the impact is for the players who have stayed and how we make our product better going forward, there is no answer to that right now,” he said.