Kuchar leads Genesis Invitational as Tiger Woods shoots 69

By Sports Desk February 13, 2020

Matt Kuchar earned a three-stroke lead after the opening round of the Genesis Invitational, where Tiger Woods started hot but faded.

American golfer Kuchar carded a seven-under-par 64 to set the early pace at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades on Thursday.

Kuchar – who was part of Tiger Woods' triumphant Presidents Cup team in Melbourne in December – is without a solo victory since the 2019 Sony Open in Hawaii more than a year ago.

But Kuchar made a strong start in California, where the nine-time PGA Tour champion was bogey-free as he holed seven birdies to top the leaderboard ahead of Lee Kyoung-hoon, Russell Henley, Wyndham Clark, Adam Schenk and Harold Varner III.

It is a star-studded field for the invitational event – one of only five tournaments given that status by the PGA Tour – and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy is in contention.

World number one McIlroy recorded two eagles, a pair of bogeys and a birdie for a three-under-par 68 on day one.

McIlroy headlines a group of 10 players tied for seventh, including Jason Day and Patrick Reed.

Woods is a stroke further back after the 15-time major winner faltered following a bright start in his pursuit of a maiden Genesis Invitational trophy.

The American superstar made an eagle on his first hole, opening a tournament with an eagle for just the second time since 2003 – the fourth of his career at Riviera.

Woods holed two birdies on a flawless front nine before fading after the turn, with the veteran bogeying twice – including the last for a two-under-par 69.

Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant – who tragically died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Giannia and seven other victims last month – was honoured around the course.

From a flag in Lakers colours and with Bryant's number eight, to Brooks Koepka sporting headcovers inspired by the five-time NBA champion.

Former world number one Koepka, reigning champion J.B. Holmes and Justin Rose are among the players at two under, while the likes of 2018 winner Dustin Johnson, two-time champion Phil Mickelson, three-time victor Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth ended the day one over the card.

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    Rory McIlroy opened up a two-stroke lead at the WGC-Mexico Championship to continue his good form on Thursday.

    The world number one, who has started 2020 with two top-five finishes, carded a six-under 65 in the opening round at Club de Golf Chapultepec.

    Starting on the back nine, McIlroy made an eagle at the par-five 11th before holing five birdies, with his only blemish coming with a bogey at the fourth.

    McIlroy, runner-up last year, is two shots clear of Americans Bubba Watson and Justin Thomas.

    "It was good. All aspects of my game were working pretty well. I drove the ball well, and I took advantage of that," McIlroy said.

    "I think the big thing was I putted well. I didn't putt so well at Riviera [at the Genesis Invitational] last week. I went back to my old putter, I was trying a new one last week.

    "It didn't quite work out the way I wanted it to, but I was comfortable on the greens today and holed some nice ones coming in."

    Watson is a three-time runner-up at the tournament and made five birdies and a bogey during his round, while Thomas finished second in 2018.

    Louis Oosthuizen, Billy Horschel, Corey Conners and Bryson DeChambeau, who carded three-under 68s in their first rounds, are tied for fourth.

    Three-time winner Dustin Johnson endured an awful start by opening with a five-over 76.

    The defending champion made a double bogey and four bogeys to go with his birdie as he was left in a tie for 62nd.

  • McIlroy rules out playing in Premier Golf League, says money should not be driving force McIlroy rules out playing in Premier Golf League, says money should not be driving force

    Rory McIlroy has ruled out signing up for the Premier Golf League because he wants to be "on the right side of history".

    The world number one is opposed to the plans for the breakaway competition, which could see professional golf at its highest level experience a major split.

    England's Justin Rose has admitted the move could be financially appealing to many players, with an 18-tournament tour run by the World Golf Group set to offer annual prize-money of $240million.

    However, McIlroy wants no part of the proposed new tour, saying it would take away his "autonomy and freedom".

    "The more I've thought about it, the more I don't like it," McIlroy said on Wednesday.

    McIlroy also believes 15-time major winner Tiger Woods would have no interest in signing up for the league, and without commitment from such star names the project may be a non-starter.

    "The one thing as a professional golfer that I value is the fact that I have autonomy and freedom over everything that I do," McIlroy said in a news conference, ahead of this week's WGC-Mexico Championship.

    "I pick and choose. This is a perfect example: some guys this week made the choice to not come to Mexico. If you go and play this other golf league, you're not going to have that choice.

    "I read a thing the other day where it said if you take the money, they can tell you want to do, so if you don't take the money, they can't tell you what to do.

    "And I think that's my thing. I've never been one for being told what to do, and I like to have that autonomy and freedom over my career, and I feel like I would give that up by going to play this other league."

    Referring to a bid by Greg Norman to form a new tour in the mid-1990s, McIlroy indicated he was happy with the modern shape of golf's tours.

    "People are looking at it purely from a monetary standpoint," McIlroy said. "I would like to be on the right side of history with this one, just like Arnold [Palmer] was with the Greg Norman thing in the nineties.

    "I value a lot of other things over money and that's my stance on it at this point."

    The Northern Irishman added: "Money's cheap, money's the easy part. It shouldn't be the driving factor.

    "For some people it is, and we're professional golfers and we're out here playing golf to earn a living.

    "But at the end of the day I value my freedom and my autonomy over everything else.

    "Tiger's 44, he's got two young kids, he's openly said last week he wants to play 12 times a year. This league's proposing 18 [tournaments] so he's not going to do it."

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    Brooks Koepka believes Patrick Reed was fully aware of his actions when he flattened out a bunker to improve his lie during the Hero World Challenge in December, saying he was "building sand castles".

    Reed was penalised two strokes for his actions on the 11th hole at the Albany Golf Club in The Bahamas in December, as video footage showed him twice hacking away sand in a bunker during practice swings.

    Golf's rules state that players cannot improve their ability to play a shot by "removing or pressing down sand or loose soil".

    The American made a bogey but was subsequently handed a two-stroke penalty upon the completion of his round.

    After accepting the penalty, Reed defended his actions, insisting he had not intended to move the sand.

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    "Yeah. I don't know what he was doing, building sand castles in the sand, but you know where your club is," Koepka said in an interview on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio when asked if Reed had cheated.

    "I took three months off and I can promise you I know if I touch sand. If you look at the video, obviously he grazes the sand twice and then he still chops down on it."

    "It goes on a little bit more than people think," Koepka added of players improving lies.

    "I haven't opened my mouth. But now if I saw it, just because of where I'm at in the game, the stature that I have, I would definitely say something."

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