LOS ANGELES: Tiger Woods’s return to Riviera Country Club hogged the headlines, but it was another California son, Patrick Cantlay, sharing the Genesis Open lead on Thursday in his first appearance in five years.

“It’s one of my favorite golf courses,” said Cantlay, a Southern Californian who played college golf at nearby University of California at Los Angeles.

“I feel very comfortable here,” Cantlay said after his five-under-par 66.

“UCLA’s just down the road, so I know where to eat ... I think it all adds up.”

His affection for the course isn’t clouded by the fact that in two prior appearances at the Genesis Open, in 2012 and 2013, he missed the cut.

“I think it rewards really smart, safe golf a lot, just picking your spots, not trying to get overly aggressive.

“You don’t have to shoot at all the flagsticks, you can have a lot of 30-footers up the hill and occasionally make a few of them.”

Cantlay was also buoyed by the support of UCLA fans in the crowd as he tries to add a second US PGA Tour title to the one he captured in Las Vegas in November.

Pacific Palisades, CA, USA; Patrick Cantlay addresses the media following the first round of the Genesis Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club. USA TODAY Sports /REUTERS

His playoff victory over South Korea’s Whee Kim and German Alex Cejka was a breakthrough for the 25-year-old, who struggled for two years with a back injury and also the death of his caddie and friend Chris Roth in a hit-and-run accident in February of 2016.

“It’s been basically a year since I took up playing again and I’m just happy to feel really healthy and feel strong and feel like I can practice all the time,” Cantlay said after posting six birdies and a bogey to join Tony Finau atop the leaderboard.

“And my game feels good,” he added. “I knew that if I could get back to 100 percent healthy then I would figure out the golf part.”

Cantlay said he’d never talked back troubles with Woods, the 14-time major champion vying at the age of 42 to come back from spinal-fusion surgery and become a contender again.

“You know, you could have a million different things wrong,” Cantlay said. “So I was just worried about my (back) stuff and my stuff isn’t necessarily somebody else’s.” — AFP

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