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Lynch: Far off the pace, Tiger Woods relegated to ceremonial role on the weekend

Golfweek logo Golfweek 4 days ago Eamon Lynch
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PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — It’s part of the honor of being the tournament host — but an indignity as a player — that Tiger Woods is guaranteed to be present at Sunday’s trophy presentation at the Genesis Invitational, and almost as certain to leave it empty-handed.

The 82-time winner on the PGA Tour has hoisted many a piece of silverware in such ceremonies, but this weekend he seems fated to again play the part of the man handing over the prize and not the one receiving it. Woods is far off the pace at Riviera Country Club after a second-round 73, a middling performance that ensured only that he’ll have two more rounds to help kill time before presiding over Sunday’s closing ceremony.

“I’m going to have to make birdies if I want to win this event. I’m so far back right now, virtually, about 50 guys ahead of me, 40 guys ahead of me,” Woods said. “I’m going to have to make some birdies this weekend. Hopefully I can get off to a quick start like I did last year.”

Genesis Invitational: Best photos | Leaderboard

Eight shots off the lead when he finished, Woods seems unlikely to get that longed-for first win at a course where he debuted as a 16-year-old amateur in 1992. Asked earlier this week to account for his 0-for-13 drought, Woods said, “I have historically never really putted well here.” Like his winless run, that streak continued Friday as he ranked close to last in Strokes Gained Putting, losing more than two shots to the field on the greens.

None of his other statistical indicators offered much comfort either. He drove the ball better in the second round and hit 9 of 14 fairways, but failed miserably to capitalize. Having ranked No. 1 in Strokes Gained Approach the Green in the first round — gaining almost 3.5 strokes on the field — he was outside the top 100 in the second round, an uncomfortable rank in a 120-man event.

Woods missed 10 greens, and couldn’t capitalize on the occasions when he did find the target, requiring 15 putts for those 8 greens in regulation. “I was not sharp today,” the reigning Masters champion said. “I just could not get the ball close enough to the hole to give myself good putts. And then when I did, I was in the wrong spots, I was above the hole and had to putt pretty defensively.”

His day began promisingly with a birdie on his opening hole (the 10th) but an ugly double-bogey on the 15th derailed him, and three more bogeys in a four-hole stretch on his second nine quelled any hope of a revival. It has been 21 years since Woods threatened to win at Riviera — the last of his two second-place finishes — but he refused to attribute his performance through 36 holes to his current host duties.

“It’s not the first tournament I’ve hosted. I’ve been doing this for a very long time,” he said. “They’re challenging weeks in themselves, talking to the staff and sponsors and different obligations that a tournament host has. I’ve been involved in events, jeez, since ’99, so been doing this a very long time and this is no different.”

Woods may not be the only man in the field handling distractions. There have been widespread rumblings throughout the week about the proposed Premier Golf League splinter tour. A meeting Tuesday night at the nearby home of a Middle Eastern financier drew agents for most top stars and seven PGA Tour players, though Woods was not among those present. Outwardly, he remains focused on this week, this leaderboard.

But with more than three-dozen players standing between him and the lead — including world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Jon Rahm and defending champion J.B. Holmes — he will need to conjure something like the 65 he produced in the third round last year to stand any chance of contending. “I just need to clean it up,” Woods admitted. “But I’m now pretty far back and I have to make a lot of birdies this weekend.”

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