‘He’s missed all over’: At a SoCal U.S. Open, Tiger Woods’ absence still looms

Collin Morikawa shakes hands with Tiger Woods on the 18th hole on the South Course during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course on January 24, 2020.

Collin Morikawa said Tiger Woods is still missed, not just at a Southern California U.S. Open.

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Tiger Woods‘ iconic “hello world” professional debut may have taken place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but there’s no doubt his story began in Southern California.

Not only was Woods born and raised in Orange County, he got his first PGA Tour start as a 16-year-old high schooler at the Los Angeles Open. Thirty-one years later, he hosts the same event, now known as the Genesis Invitational.

But with the city of Los Angeles hosting a major for the first time since Woods turned professional this week at LACC, his absence still looms large.

Woods hasn’t played since withdrawing from the Masters in the middle of the third round and then undergoing ankle surgery to help eliminate pain from his single-car crash the week after the 2021 Genesis Invitational. He’s made just five PGA Tour starts, and finished just two, since the accident.

However, Collin Morikawa, a Los Angeles native who played his college golf at Cal, says it’s not just here where Woods is missed.

“He’s missed all over the place, but I think his presence in the game of golf is always known,” Morikawa said Tuesday. “He’s impacted this game in ways that only some of us could dream of and some of us want to do in this game and just impact the lives of many people.

“I think a lot of us here today in the field and a lot of us even in this room owe a lot to Tiger, why we got involved in the game. Maybe not the sole reason, but for me growing up that’s all I cared about.

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“It’s been amazing to get to know guys like Rory [McIlroy] and Jordan [Spieth] and JT [Justin Thomas] and all these guys, but I didn’t care about them when I was growing up. I really didn’t. People ask me about the history of Rory winning this or Rory — certain guys winning this. I didn’t really care.

“I only cared about Tiger.”

Morikawa said he hadn’t spoken to Woods since his most recent surgery, but added that his health was much more important.

“I think for him, it’s just to be healthy at this point,” he said. “Who knows when we’re going to see him or not? I don’t think any of us take that for granted anymore. But it was amazing at least my first couple years getting to play with him a few times, getting some pairings with him. That’s the coolest thing you can dream of.”

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