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Rebecca BRYAN

Woods back in action at Riviera, first Tour start in seven months

. ©AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) - Former world number one Tiger Woods launched his first US PGA tournament bid in seven months on Thursday and was one-under through nine holes in the first round of the Genesis Invitational.

The 15-time major champion, who hadn't teed it up in a tour-level event since the British Open in July, has been limited the past two years by the severe leg injuries he suffered in a February 2021 car accident, and acknowledged this week his fitness remained an unknown factor.

"As far as the recovery, it's more of my ankle, whether I can recover day to day," 47-year-old Woods said Tuesday.

"My leg is better....It's been an intricate balance, a little dance.It's gotten so much better the last couple months.I wouldn't put myself out here if I didn't think I could beat these guys."

Woods was greeted by cheers and chants of "Tiger!Tiger!" at the first tee.

He opened with a birdie at the par-five first and after a bogey at the fourth he got back under par with a birdie at the eighth, where he landed his second shot from the fairway three feet from the pin.

Shouts of encouragement greeted Woods around the course from the massive galleries that surged around him and playing partners Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas.

With afternoon starters on the course Max Homa was the leader in the clubhouse after a seven-under par 64 that featured eight birdies.

That included three in a row to end his round at the seventh, eighth and ninth holes.

Homa was a stroke clear of world number three Jon Rahm, who had eight birdies in his six-under par 65.

After multiple surgeries in the wake of his accident, Woods made a stunning comeback at last year's Masters, finishing in 47th.

He withdrew from the PGA Championship after 54 holes and missed the cut at the Open Championship at St.Andrews.

Woods had been scheduled to compete at the unofficial Hero World Challenge in December, but pulled out because of plantar fasciitis.

That ailment hasn't completely been resolved but is "better," said Woods, who is targeting the four major championships and a few other tournaments this year.

The golf superstar, whose 82 US PGA Tour titles is tied with Sam Snead for the record, has never won at Riviera, despite teeing it up 13 times on the course in the Pacific Palisades west of downtown Los Angeles.

He's also up against a stellar field, which features 19 of the top 20 players in the world.

Northern Ireland star McIlroy, bumped from the top of the rankings by Masters champion Scottie Scheffler last week, could regain the summit.

Rahm, chasing a third title of 2023, also has a shot at number one this week.

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