LOS ANGELES – A few observations from walking alongside Tiger Woods during Wednesday’s pro-am at the Genesis Open:
• All in all, pretty solid. Unofficial card had Tiger clocking in with a 2-under 69, with his only hiccup a three-putt bogey on the devilish 10th hole. After taking a couple holes to loosen up in the pre-dawn hours, he hit eight of nine greens in regulation on the back. Strong.
• The tee shot still needs work. Tiger told reporters this week that he has switched drivers, opting for a more “stout” model with more loft. Jury is still out on that, as he spent his fair share of time in the rough on both sides off the tee.
• The good news, however, is that the rough at Riviera doesn’t seem quite as thick as the gnarly stuff he encountered at Torrey Pines. Only one shot really required him to dig it out with a mighty lash, and even that approach got up near the green. Otherwise, it seems like he’ll have some options even if he gets a little wild off the tee.
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• Another silver lining about Riviera: he won’t need to lean on the driver. Woods hit iron off the tee on a pair of par 4s and took fairway woods on a couple others. With only three par 5s, he just might be able to get it around even if his longest club fails to cooperate.
• The few pitch shots he encountered were all solid, although he only made one putt outside of about 6 feet. He’ll surely need to roll in a few putts of consequence on the tricky poa annua surfaces if he’s going to stick around for the weekend, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
• Overall, Tiger was feeling pretty chummy Wednesday. Plenty of smiles, plenty of detours for pictures and autographs with young fans, and plenty of back-and-forth with amateur partner Mark Wahlberg. After all, this is Hollywood.
• It’s tough to read too much into a pro-am outing, but this seemed like a step in the right direction. No red flags, no signs of physical issues and no recurrent miss that he’s unable to shake. But tomorrow, as they say, is a new day.