Tiger Woods did not wait until Riviera Country Club’s eighth hole — nicknamed “Mamba” this week at the Genesis Invitational, in honor of the late Kobe Bryant — to pay tribute to the NBA icon on Thursday. Through the most cosmic of coincidences, his eagle putt at the par-5 first hole sat 24 feet 8 inches from the hole, the same two numbers Bryant wore during his Lakers career.
Naturally, Woods made his Kobe putt, starting off the tournament he’s hosting with an eagle.
“It’s ironic, isn’t it?” Woods told the Golf Channel afterward. “I didn’t know about the putt being that long.”
However unintentional, Woods’s eagle putt at No. 1 was just one of a number of tributes to Bryant on Thursday at the PGA Tour stop in Pacific Palisades, Calif. When he got to the hole nicknamed “Mamba” (the flag is in Lakers purple and gold) Woods carded a birdie — this time the putt was only 2 feet 9 inches — and flipped the ball to caddie Joe LaCava with a Kobe-esque follow-through.
Brooks Koepka took the course in spikes that he had specially made by Nike “to pay homage and channel the ultimate #MambaMentality this week,” he wrote on Twitter.
Koepka also had some special headcovers made for the tournament:
Rory McIlroy also swathed his clubs in purple and gold:
Justin Thomas also was sporting Kobe-themed spikes:
Woods grew up a Lakers fan in Southern California, with both he and Bryant beginning their professional careers in 1996.
“No matter what we do, I think for a while we’re going to always remember Kobe and what he meant, especially here in SoCal and the entire sports world,” Woods said Thursday after his 2-under-par 69 put him in a tie for 17th after the first round.