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Eldrick’s Riviera Return

Not too many tracks on the PGA Tour get the love Riviera does. And no track on the PGA Tour owns Tiger Woods like the one in his old backyard. That’s not me talking, that’s El Gato himself. “I love the course, I love the layout. It fits my eye. And I play it awful.”

How bad does this place own T-Woods? He hasn’t played it in 12 years. He hasn’t won on it in 10 tries. And a crazy thing is going down this Thursday when the Genesis Open tees off at The Riv. The World’s 550th best golfer is pegging it up with two dudes in the Top 10. And no, this isn’t some fantasy camp or charity Pro-Am. This is the artist formerly known as Tiger Woods teeing off with reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Justin Thomas and 4-time major winner Rory McIlroy.

JT, Rory, and the Cat. All in the same group. I can see the traffic piling up on the West Side right now and they don’t tee off for another 24 hours.

Now you can question the sanity of a dude who could barely keep his driver in San Diego County last we saw him at Torrey Pines wanting a piece of two of the best young players on the planet. But you can’t question the brass. And if we’re really supposed to believe that this time is different for Tiger, and that it’s not just one last gravy train for Tiger Inc. before shutting it down and going home, then this is a damn fine way to do it.

Because 2 dudes playing in that threesome have a shot at winning this weekend. And the third one is Tiger Woods. But if the goal is to get back to winning tournaments, to get back into contention in majors, then this is a great play. If the goal is to start wearing Red on Sunday not as some signature flourish but because it means you’re out to kick ass and card birdies, then what better way to do it than by ripping the band aid and measuring your game against the best of the best.

So mark this day down: I’m giving the Cat credit. Not because I think he can go out and win this week. Hell, it’ll be a victory if he spends Friday night in L.A. and makes the cut. No, I’m giving him credit because he’s not out there ducking people. He’s going head-up with two of the headliners of today’s PGA Tour and doing it at a tournament where his Foundation is the host — meaning, he probably had more than a little sway when it comes to setting the tee sheet.

That doesn’t sound like the Tiger Woods we all know. That sounds like a guy who actually wants to take stock of his game, put it to the test, and do it on a track where he’s got nothing but bad memories. That sounds like a guy who I can actually get behind.

So good luck, Cat. You’re gonna need it. And always, gimme an A or gimme an F. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not rooting for you to fail. Nor am I rooting for you to root. Because I don’t root for guys. Just something to talk about. Well to be fair, I was sort of rooting for the tree you bounced your escalade off of; but other than I don’t root. But I do like the play here. Now go out there, back it up and give me something positive to talk about.

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