|-7 M Homa (USA), K Mitchell (USA); -6 J Rahm (Spa); -5 H English (US), M Kuchar (US), C Morikawa (US)|
|Selected: -4 D Ghim (US), A Hadwin (Can), L Hodges (US), T Hoge (US), R McIlroy (NI), A Svensson (Can), J Vegas (Ven), -2 T Woods (USA), -1 S Scheffler (USA)|
Tournament host Tiger Woods closed with three successive birdies as he returned to competitive golf with an under-69 score at the Genesis Invitational.
Woods hasn’t played a tour-level event since The Open Championship in July, where he failed to qualify.
The 47-year-old American is five strokes behind co-leaders Keith Mitchell and Max Homa at Riviera Country Club.
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, hoping to return to world number one, finished his third run in the lead.
A first triumph in the California event – which is one of the PGA Tour’s ‘high’ events with an increased prize fund of $20m (£16.6m) – would return McIlroy to the top of the standings, regardless of the current position of incumbent Scottie Scheffler.
A place in the top three could be enough depending on the finishing positions of Scheffler and third-placed Spaniard Jon Rahm.
In a bogey-free round, McIlroy birdied the first and last but couldn’t catch any more shots until the 11th and 14th recording a first-round 67.
Rahm finished his round in third place, one shot off the lead, after a round that featured eight birdies and two bogeys, while Scheffler 70’s opener featured three bogeys in five holes.
Birdies on the last two holes put him back in contention, ending on an under.
Woods, who seriously injured his right leg and foot in a car crash two days after that tournament in 2021, said he retained the confidence to win big events.
“I was able to fight and get things done, it was a nice finish,” he said.
“That’s the only reason I play. There will come a time when I can’t do that anymore, but at the moment I feel like I still can, given the right golf course.
“There’s nothing like playing time, feeling the butterflies and trying to calm it all down.
“[With] adrenaline, the ball goes further. I had to remember all that.”
Woods has won a joint-record 82 PGA Tour titles, tied with Sam Snead, but he has never won at Riviera Country Club in 13 previous attempts.
Leading the pack, 2021 winner Homa landed shots on four successive holes from the seventh but was only tied for the final five. Mitchell went home 31, including birdies on the final two holes.
The American trio Harris English, Matt Kuchar and Collin Morikawa are joint fourth, two strokes behind the leaders.