Woods scorched on the front nine, making eagle on No. 1 before hitting two birdies for a 4-under par 31 Thursday at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. Woods' eagle putt on No. 1 came from 24-feet, 8-inches, matching the jersey numbers Bryant wore during his decorated NBA career.
"For a while we are going to remember what he meant, especially here in southern California," Woods said of Bryant.
Woods stepped up to the tee on No. 8 at 3-under par. The purple and yellow flag on the hole featured Bryant's No. 8.
Woods hit his first shot 304 yards into the right side of the fairway. He then smacked a 102-yard shot onto the green. Woods then sank a 2-foot, 9-inch putt. He took his ball out of the hole and mirrored a basketball shot when he gave it back to caddie Joe LaCava, paying tribute to Bryant, who was one of nine victims of a fatal helicopter crash Jan. 26 in Calabasas, Calif.
Woods made par on seven of his final nine holes, but carded a bogey on No. 12 and a bogey on No. 18.
The 15-time major championship winner was friends with Bryant. He learned of his death from LaCava while playing in the 2020 Farmers Insurance Open on the same day as the helicopter crash.
Matt Kuchar enters Friday's second round with a three shot lead on the field after carding a 7-under par 64 in the first round. Kyoung-Hoon Lee, Russell Henley, Wyndham Clark, Adam Schenk and Harold Varner III are tied for second place. Woods is tied for 17th.
There were several other Bryant tributes Thursday at Riviera. Brooks Koepka had custom purple, yellow and white golf shoes, which featured Bryant's nickname "Mamba" and had Bryant-inspired headcovers for his clubs. James Hahn had a wedge featuring purple and yellow inscriptions, including Bryant's No. 24.
Woods is the tournament host for the 2020 Genesis Open. He has never won at Riviera.