As far as golf goes, Riviera Country Club has not been friendly to Tiger Woods. At least, not as friendly as other golf courses—he does have a runner-up and seven other top-20 finishes at this kikuyu-covered gem, but he’s played 13 tournaments here and left without the trophy 13 times. It’s the most starts he’s made in a single PGA Tour event without a victory.
Woods’ relationship with Riv, however, extends much deeper than a scorecard. It’s where he made his first tour start, as a rail-thin 16-year-old in 1992. It’s a traffic-dependent hour away from where Tiger honed his game, at the Navy Golf Course in Cypress. And since 2017 it has hosted his event, the Genesis Invitational, which has coincided with major growth for his TGR Foundation.
Founded in 1996, the year Woods turned pro, the foundation’s initial mission was to give disadvantaged youth better access to the game of golf. Woods famously transformed the direction of his foundation shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, when during a 17-hour drive from Missouri to Florida (flights were grounded) he had an epiphany and instructed his father to change the focus to providing educational access to underprivileged kids.
Fast forward 20 years, and Woods’ foundation has now reached more than 2 million children through its in-person and digital programs.
“To have so many first-gens go off to college—then they come back and they’re the leaders of their community,” Woods, who is not playing this week at Riviera as he continues to recover from a back procedure, said before last year’s Genesis. “No one expected anyone in their community to go to college. And these kids go to Harvard and Princeton, Yale, Brown. You start meeting these kids who never ever thought they would go to college. It’s pretty unbelievable.”
This is the second year that the Genesis has had elevated status on tour, a change more significant than simply having “Invitational” replace “Open” in the tournament title. The field has been reduced from 144 to 120; the winner receives a three-year exemption, rather than the two for a “normal” PGA Tour event; and the purse increased to $9.3 million, highlighted by a $1.674 winner’s check. Symbolically, Woods’ tournament now stands level with Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
That, combined with perhaps the finest course on tour in Riviera, has attracted remarkably strong fields each of the past two years. Eight of the world’s top 10 players are teeing it up this week, and all the extra attention a field like this one demands only serves to bring more eyeballs to the TGR foundation and its mission.
“TGR foundation has experienced tremendous growth since Tiger became host of the Genesis in 2017,” TGR foundation President & CEO Gordon McNeill said. “As the benefiting charity, our programs have expanded to reach more students in the L.A. community and around the world.
“As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, we are excited to build on the 2 million students reached through our programs, in person and digitally.”
The foundation is particularly excited about Pathways Forward, the initiative it launched in January to enhance its current education programs and expand resources to reach more students on their pathway to college and career success.
Woods has always taken as much pride in his philanthropic endeavors as his athletic ones, and perhaps this week is a preview of what’s to come. Woods knows his days as a world-class golfer will not last forever, and there will be plenty of Genesis Invitationals that he does not play in. This is one of them, but his presence at Riviera is felt through the TGR Foundation, which will continue to impact children long after Woods’ playing days are finished.
Source: Golf Digest