PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 15: Byeong Hun An of South Korea reacts after a birdie putt on the first green during the first round of The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club on February 15, 2024 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Korea’s Byeong Hun An brilliantly fought back from a difficult front nine to post a 4-under 67 for tied eighth place, three back of leader Patrick Cantlay, after the first round of The Genesis Invitational on Thursday.

Making his first start at Riviera Country Club since 2017, the 32-year-old struggled with an outward 37 but lit up his homeward journey with four birdies and an eagle on the 17th hole following a majestic approach to four feet at the tricky par-5 test.

Compatriot Tom Kim opened with a 69 after putting on a scrambling masterclass with eight up-and-downs for par saves to share 15th place alongside Si Woo Kim and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who made five birdies. Sungjae Im returned a 71 while Chinese Taipei’s Kevin Yu shot a 75 in the third Signature event of the season offering a prize fund of US$20 million.

Cantlay, a former FedExCup champion, fired his career low round at Riviera with a superb 64 to lead by one stroke from Luke List and Aussie duo, Cam Davis and Jason Day while tournament host Tiger Woods, playing in his first official tournament since last April, carded a 72.

“At the end of the day I was 4 under, but at the start of like the front nine, I definitely thought I was going to shoot about 6 over. It’s very hard to turn it around and I did that so I’m

very proud of myself,” said An, who posted two top-5s in Hawaii last month.

The former U.S. Amateur champion, who is seeking a first PGA TOUR victory, woke up from the wrong side of bed by dropping four bogeys in his opening five holes before clawing his way up the leaderboard with some magnificent ball striking and putting. He hit it close on 10 and 11 for easy birdies and rolled in a 15-footer and 30-footer for further gains on 15 and 16 before closing out in style by hitting a second shot from 285 yards out to close range for eagle on 17.

A fresh mindset where he now enters each tournament with no expectation has been a boon for the powerful Korean. “I don’t expect anything,” he insisted. “We don’t – like I said, if you don’t deserve to finish top-5, at least I don’t feel it that way. Even I had a great offseason, I thought I prepared really well. Now I saw it worked out because I had some good starts but when I’m playing, I don’t expect anything. It’s golf, right? It’s hard to predict anything. I didn’t know what was coming at me today.”

An struggled on the putting surfaces early before finding his range with his broomstick putter.

“It was a bit of everything. Struggled a little bit on the front nine with putting. I feel I was hitting it pretty good all 18 holes, but I struggled with a bit of speed control. I kind of turned around nicely on the back, pretty much made a lot of putts. It’s a tough golf course, you can make some birdies out there, but you can make some bogeys easily. I just had to grind. It’s a lot harder than it looks.”

Cantlay, an eight-time PGA TOUR winner, hit eight birdies against a lone bogey for his best haul at Riviera in 29 career rounds at The Genesis Invitational. “I think I’m really comfortable around this place. Greens are really good. Our group had good momentum, Jordan (Spieth) and I were a bunch under on the front nine and, you know, a day where I putted really, really well, made every putt I should have and a couple longer ones. It was a good start,” said Cantlay.

All eyes were on Woods, who admitted he had butterflies in his stomach as he prepared for yet another comeback. The 15-time major winner endured a mixed bag with five birdies and six bogeys. “Definitely nervous. I care about how I play and certainly I was feeling the nerves starting out,” he said.

“A lot of good and a lot of indifferent. It was one or the other. I don’t know how many pars I had, wasn’t many. I was either making birdies or bogeys and just never really got anything consistent going today.”


First-Round Notes – Thursday, February 15, 2024

Weather: Mostly sunny. High of 63. Wind SW 8-13 mph.

First-Round Leaderboard

Pos. Player R1
1 Patrick Cantlay 64 (-7)
T2 Cam Davis 65 (-6)
T2 Luke List 65 (-6)
T2 Jason Day 65 (-6)


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