By Don Wanlass
One of the greatest athletic performers of the 21st century is in town this week and it isn’t LeBron James.
If you ever wanted to see Tiger Woods compete in person, Riviera Country Club is the place to be Feb. 16 and 17.
He might be there Feb. 18 and 19, too, but with Tiger these days making the cut is as much of an achievement as teeing it up is to start with.
After 82 wins on the Professional Golf Association tour — 15 of those wins in major tournaments — there isn’t much left in the 47-year-old Tiger’s tank.
It was two years ago that he was involved in a car accident that almost left him a cripple. This will be his first competitive event in seven months in which he will have to walk the course.
The memories are still there of Tiger limping around the course at the Masters and the PGA Championship last year trying to gut out the last two days of each tournament. He didn’t make it at the PGA Championship, withdrawing after three rounds when he had no chance to win on Sunday. Hopefully, he is in better shape this week.
Speaking at a pre-tournament press conference Feb. 14, Tiger said he is in much better shape. In fact, he said he has made great strides in the last two months with his right leg, which was broken badly in that car accident two years ago.
Tiger said he entered this week’s tournament to win it, not just because he is the host.
“If I am playing in the event, I’m going to try and beat you,” he said. I’m there to get a W. … If I entered the event, it’s always to win a W.”
Tiger will golf the first two days of the tournament with Justin Thomas and Rory McElroy, two of his good friends and two of the top 10 golfers in the world.
Tiger first played in what used to be known simply as the Los Angeles Open in 1992, when he was a 16-year old amateur. He failed top make the cut. He has played in the tournament 12 other times since then. He has yet to win here.
There is no other course on the planet that Tiger has played 12 times and not won at least once.
“I know the golf course, even though I haven’t had much success,” he told the media. “I know what to practice for and what shots to hit.”
A win this week at Riviera would rank right up there with any of Tiger’s remarkable accomplishments. He grew up in Southern California. He hosts the tournament, which benefits his TGR Foundation. He has never won here and he is trying to come back from an injury that would have made most mortals retire.
But that’s not the only reason to go to Riviera this week.
Twenty-three of the top 25 ranked golfers in the world are also entered in the tournament, so there will be good golf to watch, whether Tiger is on his game or not.
Scott Scheffler, who won last weekend in Phoenix to return to the No. 1 spot in the PGA rankings, will be there. So will Jon Rahm, Jordan Speith and most of the other stars on the PGA Tour.
Also teeing it up will be Marcus Byrd, who is the recipient of the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption for this year’s tournament. Sifford, one of the trailblazers for Blacks on the PGA Tour, won the L.A. Open in 1969 when it was held at Rancho Park Country Club.
The L.A. Open has given an exemption to a golfer representing a minority background since 2009. In 2017, the exemption was renamed to honor the memory of Sifford.
Byrd plays on the Advocates Professional Golf Association tour and won last season’s fall series. He attended college at Middle Tennessee State University and has been playing professionally since 2020.
This week marks the second time he will tee it up with PGA members.
Tickets are available at genesisinvitational.com/tickets/.
TRADE MOVES: Both the Lakers and Clippers were active at the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline, hoping to make moves that will pave their way to the playoffs and a possible NBA Championship.
The Lakers did what everyone said couldn’t be done — they unloaded Russell Westbrook, his large salary and bad attitude. And they got players who can help them and only gave up one of their future first-round draft picks in the process.
The Lakers got D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt for Westbrook, Damian Jones and Juan Toscano-Anderson in one deal. They also got center Mo Bamba for guard Patrick Beverley in another.
Those moves definitely upgraded the Lakers’ roster.
Russell, who the Lakers drafted as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, has stepped in immediately for Beverley as the starting point guard. He might not be the defender Beverley is, but he will definitely be an offensive improvement.
Vanderbilt, a 6-8 forward, has already made an impression with his energy at both ends of the floor. He can score, rebound and play defense.
Beasley hasn’t made much of an impact yet, but he is a much-needed outside shooter who will hopefully provide scoring off the bench.
Bamba fell out of favor in Orlando after being the sixth pick overall in the 2018 draft. A 7-0 center, he could allow Anthony Davis to switch back to the power forward spot he prefers.
He had career highs in scoring and rebounding last year at 10.6 points and 8.1 rebounds.
When you factor in the addition of Rui Hachimura a few weeks ago, General manager Rob Pelinka did a better than could be expected job of rebuilding the Lakers’ roster on the fly.
The Lakers will have 23 games left after the all-star break this coming weekend. They are 2½ games outside of the play-in tournament (10th place), but only 4½ games from sixth place, which guarantees them a place in the playoffs.
Hachimura and Vanderbilt are overall improvements over Troy Brown and Lonnie Walker at small forward and Russell is an improvement over Beverley and getting rid of Westbrook was addition by subtraction.
If the Lakers can put together a winning streak of five or six games when play resumes Feb. 23 they can play their way into a playoff run in a Western Conference that is incredibly balanced this year. Only 6½ games separate the 13th place Lakers from the third place Sacramento Kings currently.
If Davis and James can stay healthy — always a big if with this team — the Lakers have a chance to make some noise in the last seven weeks of the season.
The Clippers did not overhaul their roster as drastically as the Lakers, but they still shuffled the deck and dealt themselves a different hand for the stretch run.
They unloaded guards Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard and John Wall and added center Mason Plumlee and guards Eric Gordon and Bones Hyland.
Jackson had gone from starting point guard to seldom-used reserve lately, Wall has been injured for most of the last three seasons and Kennard — a three-point sharpshooter — has been hampered by a calf injury all season.
In return, the Clippers get a solid backup center in Plumee, a reserve guard in Gordon, who they drafted seventh overall in 2008, and an unknown quantity in Hyland, a second-year player who had fallen out of favor in Denver but who Clippers officials fell in love with in 2021 during pre-draft workouts.
Hyland plays with energy and can handle the ball as a back-up point guard or play the wing and shoot.
The Clippers are now waiting to see if anyone will fall to them as teams begin to release players they no longer want to see if there is someone who can help them stay in the playoff race.
The Clippers are currently in fifth place in the NBA West, 1½ games out of third place, but only 2½ games from falling out of the playoffs. Like the Lakers, they need to develop consistency over the next seven weeks and stay healthy if they hope to have a playoff run this season.
SUPER BOWL RECAP: That was a heckuva Super Bowl Feb. 13. The Chiefs won on a last-second field goal, 38-35 in the third-highest scoring Super Bowl ever.
Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles won the first half and Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs won the second half.
Mahomes was no surprise. He was named the NFL most valuable player — his second MVP award — in the week leading up to the Super Bowl and won his second Super Bowl MVP award, even though Hurts had a better day overall.
Hurts cemented his name on the list of top NFL quarterbacks with his overall performance. He completed 27 of 38 passes for 304 yards and a touchdown and ran for 70 yards on 15 carries and three touchdowns.
Unfortunately, he gave the Chiefs a gift touchdown early in the second quarter when he lost the ball and Nate Bolton recovered it for the Chiefs and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown.
Mahomes completed only 21 of 27 passes for 182 yards, but he threw three touchdowns passes and scrambled for 26 big yards on the winning fourth-quarter drive.
The Eagles had an 11-minute advantage in time of possession, but the Chiefs scored on all four of their second half possessions to overcome a 24-14 halftime deficit.
And that was a defensive holding penalty in the final two minutes.