Tiger Woods, looking relaxed and pain-free even though he might not be, still thinks he can win on the PGA Tour.
“I’m excited to go out there and compete and play with these guys,” he insisted in his press conference at the tournament he hosts, the Genesis Invitational.
"“I would not have put myself out here if I didn’t think I could beat these guys and win the event. That’s my mentality.”"
He seems to mean it. Tiger Woods is there to succeed. Right now, it’s his ankle that’s holding him back.
“The leg is better than it was last year, but it’s my ankle. So being able to have it recover from day to day and meanwhile still stress it but have the recovery and also have the strength development at the same time, it’s been an intricate little balance,” he continued.
"But the bigger test may be one of three hills at Riviera Country Club. They could get in Tiger Woods’ way."
Tiger Woods has been practicing at home. He has played and walked at Medalist. He has not walked 72 holes, or four rounds in four days. So that will be a test for him. But the bigger test may be one of three hills at Riviera Country Club.
They could get in Tiger Woods’ way.
Only one of them is in play, but another will annoy him before and after his round.
On the course, from No. 1, the first hill is down, from the first tee to the first fairway. The second hill is up from the 18th tee to the 18th fairway. That one is gradual and will take some effort, but it’s not super killer. The final one is a monster, and it’s not even in play.
We’ll call it the bad hill. It is the hill that separates the range from the first tee and also separates the 18th green from the clubhouse. There’s no way around it unless somebody gives him a ride in a cart, which hopefully they will do. Either that or a sky hook.
On the day he starts on one, he will go to the range, then climb the bad hill to the 1st tee. Then he will climb it again at the end of his round. On the day when he starts on the 10th, he will not have to go up the bad hill to start because the 10th hole is on a similar level to the range.
But he will have to climb the bad hill to go from 18 to the 1st tee after completing his first nine holes. He will have to go down that hill both days. Sometimes after an injury, going down is as dangerous as going up is hard.
Should Tiger Woods make it to the weekend, the number of times he will have to scale the bad hill will depend on whether he is in the low-scoring half of the field or the high-scoring half of the field. That’s because, on the west coast, tournaments play split tees on the weekend.
Half the field tees off from No. 1 and half tees off from No. 10. And they play in threesomes. That’s in order to get done for the TV window on the east coast.
Other than that, Riviera is sublimely almost flat. Sure there’s a barranca that cuts through a couple of holes on one side of the course, but it’s basically a small wide ditch. Nobody wants their golf ball in it because it’s not manicured turf. The rest is no more than a mild slope here and there.
So while the course itself, except for the 18th hole, is not a miserable walking test for Woods at the Genesis, one hill, in particular, is problematic.
If he can make it up that hill when he needs to, he has a shot. If he can make it up that hill, he can play Augusta National with more ease than he did last year.