Woods is still the fans’ favorite

Even when Woods is not at the top of the leaderboard, he still has the largest crowd following him.

LOS ANGELES — The first tee box saw many groups come and go Thursday morning. But early on, fans began to crowd the path next to it. Many people in the masses jostled to get a better view while the security personnel worked hard to maintain order. With empty wrappers in their hand, nobody wanted to lose their spot. Someone special was coming through.

As the time came closer to 12:04 p.m., the commotion ramped up. Then, the figure the spectators were waiting for stepped onto the first tee box, and they bursted into cheers. 

“Tiger, Tiger, Tiger,” they chanted.

Tiger Woods returned to the PGA TOUR for the first time this year. And despite his first shot landing in the rough, the crowd followed him and roared him on as he competed alongside Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. Their excitement increased as the day went on, even with Woods over par through fifteen holes. But then Woods treated them to a show. He scored three birdies on the final three holes to finish two under par. 

More like the younger Woods.

On the eighteenth hole, McIlroy’s approach shot landed close to the hole. Then, Woods matched him by sticking his ball close, bringing the crowd to their feet. 

“It was a lot louder than I had [remembered],” Woods said. “I haven’t played in a tournament in a long time, so I haven’t played any tournaments. I was trying to calm [myself]… I didn’t really look up as much. I probably should have, but I didn’t.”

After an eventful finish, Woods began his second round this morning around 7:24 a.m. And like Thursday, masses of spectators followed him, even with the early start. Their support remained high as he sculpted his shots while fighting to make the cut. 

He finished the round three over par, bringing his total to one over par.

It is not only the spectators who admire Woods, though. Many of the players idolize him, too. 

On Wednesday, Aaron Rai walked and chatted with Woods while Woods was on his back nine in the Pro-AM. Such a sight is uncommon, but it happens for Woods. For two-time PGA TOUR winner Tom Kim, when Woods’ name is mentioned, his face lights up. He smiles as he prepares to share stories about his childhood icon.

 “I was on the range yesterday, and there was literally thousands of people around one player. I was like, I wonder who that is. I looked over, and it was Tiger. I was like, ‘oh, ok, sweet,’” Kim said.

The Genesis Invitational is Woods’ first tournament this season and first event since June of last year when he competed in The Open. He plans only to play the major championships and other select events due to the condition of his leg after a rollover car crash in 2021. 

Despite sporting a slight limp around the course this week, Woods walked the entire first 36 holes. However, once he feels like he can no longer compete to win, he expects to stop playing golf. 

“If I’m playing, I play to win,” Woods said on Tuesday.

Despite relatively limited time remaining for him, he will likely draw the crowd’s attention for as long as he is around. Woods energizes the crowd.

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