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‘If I’m playing, I play to win’: Tiger Woods looking to hoist trophy for first time at 2023 Genesis Invitational

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Tiger Woods isn’t ready to be a ceremonial golfer. He’s teeing it up this week to win at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club.

“I would not have put myself out here if I didn’t think I could beat these guys and win the event,” Woods said on Tuesday in his pre-tournament press conference. “That’s my mentality.”

Woods is playing in his first official PGA Tour event since he missed the cut at the British Open in July. He withdrew ahead of the Hero World Challenge, an unofficial event that he hosts, on November 28, citing plantar fasciitis in his right foot. He competed in The Match, a 12-hole exhibition, and the PNC Championship, a 36-hole two-person team event with his son. On both occasions, he was allowed to use a golf cart, something that he won’t be able to use this week at one of the tougher walks in golf. When Woods announced on Friday that he was ready to play “an actual PGA Tour tournament,” fellow pro Max Homa, who won the Genesis Invitational in 2021, joked that the players would take turns carrying him down the steep hill from No.1 and back up to the clubhouse after 18.

“Which no one would mind,” Homa said. “It’s awesome. I’m really glad he’s back. I think we’re privileged any time he plays now.”

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Another former winner at Riviera, James Hahn echoed that sentiment.

“We all talk about who the next guy is, I don’t think anybody compares,” said Hahn. “When we see him at Riviera, we’re all going to be humbled and we’re going to realize there can only be one ‘Chosen One’ and he’s The Chosen One. I see all the stars in the locker room but when I see Tiger, I’m speechless. It’s different.”

Woods said it was always his plan to play here this week at the tournament where he also serves as host and his foundation is the primary beneficiary. It’s been a laborious process for Woods, who endured a single-car accident a day after the tournament concluded in 2021, to be able to return to action.

“Whether or not this body would listen to me or not was the main question,” he said. “I could do the Ranger Rick thing, so I can hit golf balls and do all that stuff, it’s matter of whether I have endurance in my leg, and we’ve been pushing it pretty good and able to do recovery each and every day, which is great, so I’m excited about being able to compete and play and play here at Riviera where basically it all started.”

Woods, 47, made his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old amateur in this tournament in 1992. He said the plantar fasciitis is better and his leg, which was injured in the crash, has improved from a year ago.

“It’s more my ankle, whether I can recover from day to day,” he said. “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 that we’ve had to dance. But it’s gotten so much better the last couple months.”

Woods noted that he has walked distances on the beach back home in Florida and progressed from hitting balls every day and working on his short game at home to playing a few holes at his club before advancing to nine and then as many as 18. But he confirmed he hasn’t played four rounds in four consecutive days, which he’ll have to do this week if he can survive the 36-hole cut on Friday. Woods said he tried to stress out his ankle on a daily basis and then monitored the inflammation to see how it reacted.

“I may have overdone it a couple times here or there, but here I am,” he said. “It’s built up fantastic to get to this point. Then after this event we’ll analyze it and see what we need to do to get ready for Augusta.”

When asked if he feels grateful to be able to play he responded with an emphatic, “Yes.” Woods endured surgeries on his knees previously, but it was undergoing spinal-back fusion surgery in April 2017 when he started to realize his mortality in the game.

“There comes a point in time where a couple of my friends in the NFL, when you become afraid to get hit, you take that one little flinch of I don’t want to get hit,” Woods said. “Well, when I had my back I didn’t want to hit certain shots because I may end up on the ground, so that was tough.”

Woods, winner of 15 majors among his 82 Tour titles, said he is motivated to end a three-year winless drought that dates to the 2019 Zozo Championship. Woods knows there will come a time when he no longer will be able to add to his win total – and he conceded that time is coming sooner rather than later – but his competitive spirit won’t allow him to go there just yet.

“That’s not in my DNA,” he said. “If I’m playing, I play to win. I know that players have played and they are ambassadors of the game and try to grow the game. I can’t have my mind, I can’t wrap my mind around that as a competitor. If I’m playing in the event I’m going to try and beat you. I’m there to get a W, OK? So, I don’t understand that making the cut’s a great thing. If I entered the event, it’s always to get a W.”



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