February 01, 2018

Tiger’s Blog: Returning to Riviera

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to host and play in the 2018 Genesis Open at Riviera. Unfortunately, last year my back was in bad shape and I was unable to participate.

What a difference a year makes. I had fusion surgery last April and recently competed in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, my first full-field event in a year and only my second since August of 2015. I finished T23, and all in all, it was a very positive start.

It felt so good to be back with the guys and compete again. Words can’t describe how much I missed it.  Most importantly, I was pain-free.

I am fired up to return to Riviera. I first attended the tournament when I was 9 or 10, my dad took me  there. We went a few more times and then I tried to qualify a couple times.

The second time I tried to qualify to play Riviera, I was 15 and we played the South Course at Los Serranos Country Club. It was a moment I will never forget. I was playing the best round of my life and was 8-under par through 17 holes, thinking I was actually going to qualify for a PGA TOUR event. The head pro came up to me and said, “I have to tell you, because I know it’s going to change how you play this last hole,” which was a par-5 with a second shot over water. “There are already two guys at 10-under and only two make it.”

I said, “What?” I had to eagle the last hole to get into a playoff and I hit my second shot in the water, made bogey and shot 65.

The next year, 1992, I received a sponsor’s exemption and didn’t play that badly, shooting 72-75. Maybe I could have made up a couple more shots per round, but I felt pretty good about it.

Then I looked at the scoreboard and I’m 17 strokes behind Davis Love III. It was eye-opening knowing that I was really not that good. I thought I could play the game, but obviously I wasn’t worth a lick compared to these guys and had a long way to go.

Needless to say, it was very motivating. At the time, I hadn’t played amateur golf yet; just junior golf. I skipped the amateur ranks to play in one event. It made me more determined than ever to work on my game and improve.

I’ve had several chances to win at Riviera, but just haven’t gotten it done. Obviously, it would mean a lot to me, even more now as tournament host.

I love coming back to SoCal and am very appreciative of the support I have received through the years. We have great golf fans and I hope you will come out to watch me and the guys on one of the best courses in the country. We have an outstanding field.

TGR Live manages the event, which makes it extra special. Proceeds benefit my foundation, which helps us expand our educational programs and reach more kids.  Here, we are able to showcase what we are doing for kids and how we have impacted so many lives for the last 20-plus years.

We all feel a great sense of responsibility to put on a great tournament and give back to the community. As my dad always said, “Make sure you leave it better than you found it.”

Each generation should have a better opportunity, and it’s up to us to give them that chance. I think my dad would be very proud of what we’ve done and how we’ve been able to present these opportunities for kids on a global basis with our new digital platforms. That, to me, is going to be a world changer.