(Reuters) – Tournament host Tiger Woods had little time to fine tune his game ahead of the Genesis Open but that did not stop him from making a hot start with an eagle at the first hole in the opening round in Los Angeles on Thursday.
Woods, seeking a record 83rd PGA Tour victory, was delighted with the quality of his play on the front nine but was a little untidy coming home, dropping a couple of shots for a two-under-par 69 that saw him trail leader Matt Kuchar by five.
In a field that includes nine of the world’s top 10, number one Rory McIlroy had a pair of eagles in a 68 that was one shot better than Brooks Koepka, who he has just replaced at the top of the rankings.
Woods said he had spent limited time on the practice range due to his commitments as tournament host.
“Got off to a nice start on the front nine. Just didn’t hit any good shots on the back nine,” he told reporters.
“I haven’t had a whole lot of time to practice this week. I’ve been a little busy. First time I saw the range was yesterday for about 10 minutes warming up for the pro-am.”
Leader Kuchar wielded his putter with precision to open a three-shot lead over a group of five players and owed much of his lead to a couple of unlikely putts that he holed from the 30-foot range.
“You can’t count on that every day, but it sure is fun when they do go in,” said Kuchar, who won the Singapore Open last month.
He arrived at Riviera in a much more relaxed frame of mind than a year ago, when he was mired in controversy following criticism of his decision to pay a stand-in caddie just $5,000 from his winner’s take at a previous tournament.
The world number 20, who is seeking his 10th career PGA Tour victory, eventually agreed to pay David Ortiz $50,000.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford)