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Former champ Homa leads at Riviera as Woods eyes up weekend

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Former champion Max Homa fired a four-under-par 68 on Friday to take a one-shot lead in the Genesis Invitational, where Tiger Woods was poised to play the weekend in his return to PGA Tour golf.

Homa’s 10-under-par total of 132 gave him a one-shot lead over third-ranked Spaniard Jon Rahm and Americans Keith Mitchell and Lee Hodges, with Woods 11 strokes adrift in his first tournament since he missed the cut at the British Open.

Tiger Woods of the United States lines up a putt on the seventh green during the second round of the The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club on February 17, 2023 in Pacific Palisades, California. (AFP) 

Woods was one stroke outside the cut line when he finished his round. After sweating out the afternoon his one-over total of 143 had him making the cut on the number, although even that wasn’t quite official since darkness halted play with a handful of players on the course.

“I did not putt well today,” Woods said. “I blocked a lot of putts early and this is probably the highest score I could have shot today.

“I probably should have shot five or six better than this, easily.”

Homa, who shared the overnight lead with Mitchell, shook off two front-nine bogeys, notching birdies at the ninth 10th and 11th to power back to the top of the leaderboard.

After saving par from a plugged lie in a bunker at the 12th he rolled in an eight-footer at the 13th to get to 10-under, and was 11-under after a six-foot birdie at 17.

He gave one stroke back at 18 with a bogey in the waning light.

“I was really proud that was the first time I’ve been leading after day one and I played a good round of golf,” Homa said. “Whether I was leading or not didn’t really matter, long way to go, but that was cool.”

Rahm, who has a chance to regain the world number one ranking from American Scottie Scheffler with a win this week, had two eagles in his three-under-par 68.

The first was an 18-footer at the first hole, which was promptly followed by a bogey at the second.

He bogeyed the fifth and ninth before catching fire late. After back-to-back birdies at the 13th and 14th he nabbed another eagle at the 17th in unlikely style.

– Fortunate bounce –

His approach shot from the fairway sailed over the green and struck a grandstand — but the ball bounced back and settled less than four feet from the pin.

“Obviously I got very fortunate to get that bounce not only to go on the green, but to have basically three feet straight up the hill,” Rahm said.

“That’s arguably the best bounce I’ve seen in person my whole golf career and it would be hard to beat in the future.”

Rahm admitted there was “almost a little hint of embarrassment” at how well the poor shot turned out.

“But I feel like as golfers we get plenty of bad breaks in our lifetime,” he added. “To get one of those we should cherish it because I won’t see something like this in a long time.”

Mitchell, chasing a second career title after his 2019 Honda Classic victory, was the first in the clubhouse on nine-under 133 after a two-under 69. Hodges joined the second-placed trio with an impressive five-under par 66.

Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa was a further stroke back on eight-under while Patrick Cantlay was at seven-under.

Rory McIlroy, who could also regain the world number one ranking he surrendered to Scheffler on Sunday, was tied for seventh with Matt Kuchar — just four shots off the lead.

“Sort of slow and pedestrian,” McIlroy said of his two-under-par 69. “I feel like I’ve left a lot of shots out there the last couple of days, I just haven’t got any putts to drop.”

Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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