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Tiger chases history on hallowed ground

China Daily | Updated: 2020-02-14 09:06
Tiger Woods is all smiles during the Genesis Invitational pro-am on Wednesday at Riviera Country Club, the Los Angeles venue where the American played his first PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old amateur in 1992. AP

Woods can break all-time win record on LA course where PGA career began

There is perhaps no more symbolic place for Tiger Woods to make history than at Riviera Country Club, the venue for this week's Genesis Invitational.

Woods, who remains in search of a record 83rd PGA Tour title, will attempt to break Sam Snead's all-time win record at the place where it all began. He made his tour debut at this event in 1992 as a 16-year-old amateur.

"To come here in 1992 and play, but to come here with my dad and my old pro, Rudy, who took me up here," Woods said. "I remember watching Lanny Wadkins play well here and win, seeing Corey Pavin and Davis (Love III) and Freddie (Couples) go after it. There's a lot of history for me to come up here and play. This was the second professional event I ever went to besides San Diego."

Woods' ties to the Genesis Invitational run deep. He grew up in nearby Orange County, and his TGR Foundation is the host organization and primary beneficiary for the week. The nearby TGR Learning Lab was founded in Anaheim in 2006 and impacts thousands of children each year in education.

"We've served over a million kids now, so it's been tremendous for us to come back to this area where it all started and to have this type of event, this type of exposure, for us to be able to help as many kids going forward, not just here in the United States but internationally, so special," Woods said.

The Genesis is one of just two events where Woods has made double-digit appearances without registering a win, alongside The Northern Trust.

Not only must Woods contend with that history, but he will also have to take down a loaded field that includes nine of the world's top 10, including Brooks Koepka and new world No 1 Rory McIlroy.

"I have historically never really putted well here," Woods said. "I've played here so many rounds. It suits a natural cutter of the golf ball, so I figured that's what I have done pretty much my entire career.

"But when it comes right down to it, you've got to hit the ball well here because the greens are so small and they're so slopey. But for some reason everything kind of breaks toward six and I still haven't quite figured that out."

But things are still trending upward for the 44-year-old Woods, who finished tied for ninth two weeks ago at the Farmers Insurance Open.

He won in his only other tour start of the season in October at Japan's ZoZo Championship and sits 19th in the FedExCup standings.

The top 30 players in those standings will qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship in August, which Woods won in 2018 for his 80th career victory.

"I've played in a number of events (here) over the years, and for me not to win an event that has meant so much to me in my hometown... I've done well in San Diego, I've done well at Sherwood, just haven't done well here," Woods said.

"So hopefully I can put together this week and we'll have a great conversation on Sunday."

Mourning Kobe

Woods, meanwhile, says he is still struggling to come to terms with the death of Kobe Bryant.

More than two weeks after the NBA great died in a helicopter crash, Woods is among those who find the shock may have worn off but the disbelief remains.

"It's hard to put into words what transpired and the fact that it's a reality," the 15-time major champion said. "Part of me thinks that it's not real."

The 41-year-old Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, aka Gigi, were among nine people killed in a Jan 26 crash in the Santa Monica Mountains west of LA.

Woods, who learned of the Los Angeles Lakers legend's death after his final round at Torrey Pines that Sunday, said he grew up a "diehard Lakers fan" and noted that he turned pro the same year that Bryant was drafted into the NBA.

"I don't really know what I said post-round," Woods said. "I was in shock just like everyone else, trying to put it in words going forward.

"The reality of the situation is Kobe and Gigi are not here, but it's hard to accept.

"People who are close to him and all the families, it's just hard to accept that reality."

Bryant's widow, Vanessa, has announced a public "celebration of life" for Kobe, Gianna and the other crash victims will be held on Feb 24 at Staples Center arena.

The date-2-24-20-honors the jersey numbers 2 and 24 worn by Gianna and Bryant and the 20 years Bryant was in the NBA.

Vanessa took to Instagram on Monday to express her struggle to come to terms with her family's loss.

"My brain refuses to accept that both Kobe and Gigi are gone," she wrote. "I can't process both at the same time. It's like I'm trying to process Kobe being gone but my body refuses to accept my Gigi will never come back to me.

"It feels wrong. Why should I be able to wake up another day when my baby girl isn't being able to have that opportunity. I'm so mad. She had so much life to live."

AFP contributed to this story

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