Tiger had positive strokes gained putting today and currently leads the field in strokes gained approach.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) February 14, 2020
Currently ranked 118th of 120 players in strokes gained off the tee.
I came into the 2020 Genesis Invitational extremely excited about what the week held, and Day 1 was certainly not a disappointment. Tiger Woods flirted with the lead (we'll get to that) and Rory McIlroy made two eagles (we'll also get to that), but in the end it's Matt Kuchar who leads a gaggle of stars and superstars after 18 holes at Riviera Country Club.
First place -- Matt Kuchar (-7): Kuchar was flawless on Thursday as he posted a bogey-free 64 that was three better than anyone else in the field. Top 10 from tee to green. Top 10 in putting. And a long way from his trip here last year in which the El Tucan apology started. Kuchar has had a nice run at this course with top-30 finishes in each of the last four seasons, but now he has a real chance to win for the third straight year for the second time in his career (he also won in 2012, 2013 and 2014). Kuchar won in Mayakoba in 2018, the Sony Open in 2019 and is now one of the two or three favorites (along with Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy) to win this one with 54 holes left.
Other contenders of note -- Rory McIlroy (-3), Patrick Cantlay (-3), Jason Day (-3), Bryson DeChambeau (-3), Brooks Koepka (-2), Tiger Woods (-2), Jon Rahm (-2), Patrick Reed (-2): Most of the big dogs coming in this week are either four or five back of Kuchar. There's a group just behind the leader at 4 under, but it doesn't include any monster names. McIlroy probably has the most juice currently out of this crew, and he made two eagles in three holes on Thursday (on Nos. 17 and 1). Everything is coming so easily for him right now, and he said after his round that he was proud of getting it to 3 under after playing the first seven holes in 1 over. I think the event comes down to two of these guys and Kuchar on Sunday.
What did Tiger Woods do? Well, he jammed all the excitement into the first hole. He eagled maybe the easiest par 5 on tour this season (see below), and then he played the next 17 holes in exactly even par to shoot a 2-under 69. His problem? Mostly off the tee. Woods finished first in the field on approach shots and 118th (or nearly last) off the tee. He lost three full strokes over the last nine holes, and that includes a ball that bounced off a tree and back into play on the par-5 11th hole. With the way he's swinging his irons right now, all he has to do is put it in play and he's an automatic score in the 60s.
Who had a great day? I'm simply using this space to remind everyone that Justin Rose was 40-1 to win this tournament coming in. After his 2-under 69, he's now 20-1.
Who had a lousy day? Justin Thomas struggled throughout. He looked off from his first tee shot, went out in 38 and bogeyed two of his last three. He's 3 over and T98 after Round 1. Knowing him, he'll probably go out and shoot 65 on Friday and get back in the tournament.
Stat of the day: There's no other one besides this one, right? Tiger's first eagle putt (which he made) on the first hole was 24 feet, 8 inches. Amazing.
One thing I loved: This made me giggle. Phil Mickelson making fun of Brooks Koepka's length? Come on.
What to watch on Day 2: The names at the top of this board do not inspire a ton of excitement. Kuchar is fine, but beyond him you have Wyndham Clark, Adam Schenk and K.H. Lee. OK, fine. The real juice is beyond them though, and I would expect somebody in the 3 under or 4 under group -- a monster name or two (or three) -- to race out and take over the tournament or even sidle up next to Kuchar for a weekend date late on Saturday afternoon. And beyond that, I expect two of those star attractions to end up duking it out on Sunday afternoon for this trophy. Maybe tournament host Tiger Woods will even present it to himself.