Tiger Woods Pays Emotional Tribute to Kobe Bryant at Genesis Invitational

Tiger Woods paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant during the first round of the Genesis Invitational at the Riviera Country Club, California, on Thursday.

Playing in his first event since the Los Angeles Lakers legend's death on January 26, Woods finished with a 2-under par 69 after fading away after a strong start.

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While the 15-time major winner trails leader Matt Kuchar by seven shots, he caught the eye with a subtle nod to the memory of Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash just outside Los Angeles alongside with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people last month.

The Riviera Country Club is located approximately 15 miles from the Staples Center, which was Bryant's home court during his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

This week, the course's eighth hole features a yellow and purple flag, while the sign at the tee will carry the "Mamba" monicker that became synonymous with Bryant during his NBA career.

In the midst of an impressive front nine—he was 4-under par at the turn—Woods birdied the eighth and celebrated by simulating a basketball-like shot back to his caddy.

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If the tribute to Bryant was planned, Woods' first homage to the memory of the five-time NBA champion earlier in the day was anything but.

Starting from tee No.1, the 44-year-old eagled his first hole with a remarkable putt, which measured exactly 24 feet and eight inches.

Bryant wore 8 and 24 during his 20-year career in the NBA and the significance wasn't lost on Woods.

"It's ironic, isn't it? It was a nice way to start," he said at the end of the first round. "I didn't know about the putt being that long. As I said, ironic that having those two numbers. And then No. 8, happened to hit one in there close and had a nice little kick in there for birdie.

"No matter what we do, I think for a while we're going to always remember Kobe and what he meant, and especially here in Southern California and the entire sports world. Like I said, very ironic that I happened to have those numbers on those holes and those exact measurements.''

Woods wasn't the only player to pay tribute to Bryant. Former world No. 1 Brooks Koepka wore some purple-and-gold Mamba custom-made Nike shoes, while his headcovers were Lakers yellow and carried both Bryant's name and number.

Justin Thomas, who played alongside Woods in the first round on Thursday, also wore purple-and-gold shoes, while James Hahn's had the number 24 engraved in purple-and-gold on his wedge.

Tiger Woods, PGA Tour
Tiger Woods of the United States catches a ball on the eighth green during the first round of the Genesis Invitational on February 13 in Pacific Palisades, California. Harry How/Getty
Tiger Woods Pays Emotional Tribute to Kobe Bryant at Genesis Invitational | Sports