LOS ANGELES—Even when Tiger Woods hardly ever lost, he never could win at Riviera.
Woods resumes his comeback from a fourth back surgery at the Genesis Open—marking his return to the course where he made his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old amateur, and the course where he walked away in the middle of the tournament and never returned.
He has played Riviera eight times as a pro—the most of any PGA Tour course where he hasn't won.
“I love the golf course. I love the layout. It fits my eye," Woods said. ”And I play awful.
"It's very simple. It's just one of those weird things.
“A lot of the holes, you hit nice, soft cuts. And I used to love to hit nice, soft cuts,” he noted.
“And for some reason, I just didn't play well.”
Woods has not been back to Riviera since 2006, when he was caught in the rain without an umbrella, shot 74, and made the cut on the number.
The next morning, Woods withdrew with the 'flu and never returned.
There was one stretch at the end of 1999 and early in 2000 when Woods won or was runner-up in 10 out of 11 starts on the PGA Tour.
The exception? He finished seven shots behind in a tie for 18th at Riviera.
The dynamics are different now.
While the goal is to win (that hasn't changed), the expectations have tempered through time and reality that Woods is learning a new swing after fusion surgery on his lower back.
His speed and power are back. His putting and chipping are better. He tied for 23rd at Torrey Pines three weeks ago.
“I'd eventually like to win tournaments," Woods said. "I'm trying to get to that point.”
He flew out from Florida with Justin Thomas, the PGA Tour player-of-the-year, and said he told him that he's still making subtle changes in his posture and in his swing because he is learning what he can do with a stronger, healthier back.
“The more tournaments I play in, the more I'll be able to get a better understanding of that,” Woods reasoned.
“But also, I don't want to play too much,” he stressed.
“This is still all new to me and I just want to be real smart about it.”