Tiger returns to action for his second PGA Tour event this year and Dustin Johnson defends at the 2018 Genesis Open.
In his much anticipated return to action following his encouraging T23 performance at the Farmers Insurance Open, Tiger Woods will tee up Riviera for the first time since 2006. He has a lot of history here, having first appeared as a 16-year-old in 1992, but it's an event that he has never managed to win.
Woods, who will be playing alongside Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas for his first two rounds, said he is excited to be paired with those two but admitted that his past experience here counts for nothing given the difference he has noticed on the course, saying the old yardage books are 'out the window'.
"I think that all three of us are excited about playing with one another in this event, and I'm looking forward to the challenge of not only competing against those guys but competing against the rest of the guys in the field."
"The yardage book on No. 12 when I used to play is a 1-iron and a pitching wedge, now it’s a driver and a 7-iron, 6-iron, somewhere in there. Some of the holes have really changed. So the old yardage books are out the window."
"This is a whole new game, everything’s bigger now. The bunkers are deeper, they seem to be bigger. The greens have gotten more pin locations than I remember, they’ve added a few sections around here. So I’ve got to do a little bit more homework tomorrow in the pro-am.
So what should we expect from Tiger this week? He will have to drive it a lot straighter than he did at Torrey Pines to do well here, and he's put those wheels in motion by adding nearly a degree of loft to his TaylorMade M3 driver and changing the shaft to the Matrix Ozik TP7HDe X-flex shaft that he last used in the 2015 Wyndham Championship.
Watch Tiger's full press conference below
For the moment it seems Woods is content trying to get tournament reps in as he aims to understand how his body will work under pressure in competition, but his mind is still never far from the W.
"Well, I’d eventually like to win tournaments. I’m trying to get through that process, go through that process, get to that point."
"I'm starting to understand my body a little bit more with this back that's different than it used to be, and those are things that I could never have figured that out on my own not in a tournament setting because in a tournament setting, things are ramped up and I could feel some of the things were off and was able to work on them. The more tournaments I play in, the more I'll be able to get a better understanding of that."
Who to watch: The rest of the field
Dustin Johnson: The World No.1 comes in as defending champion, and his record here is exceptional. In his last four starts at Riviera DJ's had a victory, two runner-up finishes and a worst finish of 4th (in 2016). Comes off a runner-up finish at last week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am having held the lead after 54-holes. Last five starts: T2-T9-1st- T14-T2
Phil Mickelson: A two time champion here, and finished runner-up last week after an impressive final round at Pebble Beach, following his T5 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Paul Casey: Casey still hasn't missed since the 2017 Sony Open, and has two top-10 finishes in his last two starts. Still looking for his second PGA Tour victory, and was runner-up here in 2015.
Tommy Fleetwood: His first appearance stateside this year coming off another excellent start to the season in the UAE, winning in Abu Dhabi and finishing T6 in Dubai. Fleetwood's first appearance at Riviera, but is coming off four straight top 10s so a good bet this week.
Chez Reavie: Arguably the form-horse in golf right now, Reavie heads to Riviera off the back of two back-to-back runner up finishes. Was 7th here in 2016.
Justin Thomas: Started his season by winning the first ever CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges, and has since gone 11th-T22-T14-T17. Last teed up in Pheonix, and despite a best finish here of T39 last year, we'd be stupid to rule out the World No.4
Rory McIlroy: A MC last week in his first 2018 PGA Tour outing, but given he went T3-2nd in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, wouldn't be surprised if Rory ends up in contention this week. Has only played here once in 2016, ending T20.
Jordan Spieth: Struggling with the putter a little at the moment, but a real threat if he sorts that out. 2nd in GIR this season, and has a best finish of 4th at Riviera in 2015. Last five starts: T20-MC-T18-9th-T3
Matt Kuchar: Hasn't finished better than T8 here in his last 10 appearances, and despite a T62 at Pebble Beach, he still comes in to this event with three top-10s in his last four starts.
Alex Noren: Followed up his play-off defeat to Jason Day with a T21 last week. Hasn't finished worse than T31 in his last four starts, but first start at Riviera.
Thomas Pieters: An outside chance this week. He was T2 in his first outing here last year, and although this is his first start in the USA this year, he's had an encouraging start to the year - finishing T5 in Abu Dhabi before a T32 in Dubai.
Tiger Woods: T23 and T9 in his last two starts, although admittedly is just looking to get tournament reps under his belt. His old yardage books may be out the window, but despite TW saying he could never play well here, he hasn't finished worse than T20 at Riviera since 1997.
How to Watch
Thursday 15th Feb: Sky Sports Golf (19:00), Featured Groups (14.30)
Friday 16th Feb: Sky Sports Golf (20:00), Featured Groups (14:30)
Saturday 17th Feb: Sky Sports Golf (19:00), Sky Sports Main Event (19:40)
Sunday 18th Feb: Sky Sports Golf (18:00), Sky Sports Main Event (21:45)
Notable Pairings (UK Time)
On Thursday, Sky Sports Golf's feature groups will show the marquee grouping of Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods in addition to the group of Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Tommy Fleetwood. On Friday, the feature groups will focus on Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Chappell, as well as defending champion Dustin Johnson's pairing of Adam Scott and Bubba Watson.
1522 Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods (Hole 10)
1532 Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Tommy Fleetwood (Hole 10)
2002 Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell (Hole 1)
2012 Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott (Aus), Bubba Watson (Hole 1)