LOS ANGELES — When the idea of a PGA Tour-designated event first originated, it might have been difficult to dream up a better reality than the one that has played out through three days at the Genesis Invitational.
With 23 of the top 25 players in the world in attendance, five of the 10 best in the world are inside the top 10 as we head to the final day at Riviera Country Club — a setting that both Collin Morikawa and Max Homa said was one of the best courses “on tour” and “on the planet.”
Yet the star-studded field has been outshined, in some ways, by the return of Tiger Woods to professional golf. Woods not only made the cut on the number, he proceeded to stitch together a marvelous round of 4-under 67 on Saturday that has him tied for 26th. The tournament host finds himself 12 shots behind the leader, Jon Rahm, who continues to show why he’s been the best player in the world so far this season.
Here are three things to watch ahead of Sunday’s final round in Los Angeles:
1. The ongoing resurgence of Tiger Woods
Tiger makes birdie to move 4 under
Tiger Woods maintains his momentum on the back nine with this nice birdie putt on the third day of the Genesis Invitational.
Saturday’s 67 was Woods’ best round of golf since he returned to play following his car accident in 2021. The 15-time major champion said as much after detailing how his core is a lot stronger, which has helped him retain his speed off the tee, while his iron game remains sharp and his putting has improved significantly. After the third round, Woods is tied for third in total strokes gained. The body? Well, that’s another question.
“It’s a little sore right now,” Woods said. “The golf part I can do — it’s just a matter of whether I can get from point A to point B. That’s been the struggle part of it.”
That was much clearer after the round. Woods’ limp between interviews was much more pronounced than it was at any point on the golf course, but he (and his caddie, Joe LaCava) seemed encouraged by how well he was holding up. Recovery for Sunday, Tiger said with a grin, will be “fun.”
Despite the fact that he’s well behind the leaders, the possibility of Woods finishing in the top 25 is remarkable given the circumstances. The rust is evident, but on Saturday, how much that all-time talent can still fuel a performance like that is just as crystal clear. As Woods pointed out after the round, this is the first time in a long time he’s had to play and walk 72 holes. And so the question will continue to remain: Can his body let his golf game excel again?
2. The inevitability of Jon Rahm
After Homa drained a birdie putt on the 13th green to remain tied with Rahm at 14 under, it appeared we were set to witness an evenly matched back-and-forth duel that would extend through Sunday. Instead, Homa faltered on 15 and 16, bogeying both holes, while Rahm, steady as ever, made six straight pars to go 2 shots ahead. Then came 18, where the Spanish golfer drained a 23-foot birdie putt to extend his lead to 3. Just like that, he had taken control of the tournament.
None of this is surprising given Rahm’s machine-like performance this season. He already has two wins, and even in those tournaments in which he doesn’t top the leaderboard, he’s always lurking and threatening to make a surge. Despite being no. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking, it’s nearly impossible to argue at this point that what we’re witnessing is anything less than the best golfer in the world.
It’s fitting, then, that in an event featuring the game’s best, Rahm not only leads going into the final round, but those behind him will have to shine — while hoping he struggles Sunday — to have a chance. And these days, that notion is looking more and more like an exercise in futility.
3. Can Max Homa — or anyone else — track Rahm down?
There is no shortage of names below Rahm who have the potential to turn a Sunday coronation into a battle. Homa, having won here in 2021, will surely not go away quietly. On Saturday, Homa, the winner at Torrey Pines a few weeks ago, talked about how his game has evolved from his early wins on tour and how he’s been able to remain steady even when hitting bad shots. Now the challenge is tougher: After leading the first two days of the tournament, Homa let Rahm speed ahead Saturday and will start the final round 3 shots back.
“Somebody’s going to come out tomorrow and somebody’s going to shoot a round of 4, 5, 6, 7 under,” Rahm said Saturday after his bogey-free round. “It happens every single tournament we play in, right? So I have to be aware that somebody’s going to make a run and I’m going to have to shoot a 60s round for sure to give myself a chance to win as well.”
Aside from Homa, a few other names on the leaderboard could give Rahm a run if they go low. While Patrick Cantlay quietly remains 5 shots behind after a round of 68 and Keith Mitchell shot 69 to remain 11 under and 4 shots back, Morikawa is perhaps the biggest name on the board at 7 under.
It was Morikawa who lost the lead to Rahm at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this year. That comeback was 7 strokes. If Morikawa — who put himself behind the eight ball by bogeying three of his last four holes — wants to redeem himself Sunday, he’ll have to one-up that comeback by a stroke.