Woods withdraws with ‘flu-like’ illness at Riviera, Cantlay leads

LOS ANGELES: Tiger Woods got off to an erratic start in his first US PGA Tour event in more than 10 months, firing a one-over par 72 that left him eight shots behind first-round leader Patrick Cantlay at the Genesis Invitational.

Woods, playing his first tour-sanctioned tournament since ankle surgery in April — two weeks after he withdrew from the third round of the Masters with foot pain — had five birdies and six bogeys at The Riviera Country Club, where his miscues included a surprising shank of his second shot from the fairway at 18.

“Oh, definitely, I shanked it,” said Woods, adding that back spasms that he’s subject to since spinal fusion surgery contributed.

He recovered by punching an eight-iron through a pair of trees to salvage a bogey, and said his long layoff — with two “soft” tuneup events in December — had left him lacking “sharpness.”

“A lot of good and a lot of indifferent,” Woods said. “It was one or the other … I was either making birdies or bogeys and just never really got anything consistent going today.”

World No. 7 Cantlay, meanwhile, piled up eight birdies in his 7-under 64, which gave him a one-stroke lead over Australians Cam Davis and Jason Day and American Luke List.

Davis shook off an early bogey to post seven birdies while List and Day both had six birdies in their 6-under 65s.

Jordan Spieth, Will Zalatoris and Tom Hoge shared fifth on 5-under 66.

“I thought it was good,” said Cantlay, an eight-time PGA Tour winner who is seeking his first title since 2022.

“Obviously got off to a great start,” added the American, who birdied the first and second and added birdies at the fourth, sixth and eighth to make the turn at 5-under.

Birdies at 11, 13 and 14 pushed him to 8-under — and a two-shot lead — but he gave a stroke back with an unlikely bogey at the par-three 16th — where his tee shot hit a tree and dropped 58 yards short of the green and his second found a greenside bunker.

“I got up and down for bogey, it was a good up-and-down,” he said. “Obviously a spot I’ve never been.”

The miscue was only a blip as Cantlay enjoyed a strong day on the greens — including birdie putts of 26 feet and 28 feet at the eighth and 14th respectively.

“I putted really, really well,” Cantlay said. “Made every putt I should have and a couple of longer ones.”

Cantlay played in the group ahead of Woods and said the 48-year-old superstar’s influence can be seen not only in the crowds he continues to draw but in the attacking style of today’s young pros.

“The Tiger effects, you see it this week, you’ve seen it for the last 15 years,” Cantlay said. “Young kids are growing up with better information, more drive and they’ve been emulating him for over a decade now. So I think that has led to a generation of golfers that as a whole are better.”

The tournament, hosted by Woods for the benefit of his charitable foundation, is the third of the tour’s eight signature events this year, designed to draw the top players and carrying a winner’s prize of $4 million.

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler opened his campaign with a 3-under par 68 that left him tied for 10th.

Second-ranked Rory McIlroy — who came into the week with a chance to supplant Scheffler atop the rankings with a victory — carded a 3-over 74 that featured a double bogey at the 15th and a triple bogey six at the par-3 16th.

The Northern Ireland star responded with his fourth birdie of the day at the par-5 17th, but he missed the fairway at 18 and closed with a bogey.

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