The PGA Tour concludes its west coast swing this week at the newly-minted Genesis Open at Riviera.
A strong field with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, defending champion Bubba Watson, Hideki Matsuyama, and last week’s winner Jordan Spieth prepare to take on the venerable track. In total, eight of the top ten players in the world will be teeing it up this week at Riviera.
Riviera provides a classic design and is one of the most historic courses on the PGA Tour schedule.
This week’s event also brings a merciless end to CBS’ coverage for awhile. At last year’s event, CBS showed Adam Scott’s potential playoff-forcing chip shot on 18 on tape delay. NBC will broadcast the next batch of events before CBS takes over again at The Masters.
As mentioned above, Riviera is one of the most well-respected courses on the PGA Tour. Despite the tournament changing names numerous times, the event has been played every year since 1926. The event travelled throughout a number of great courses in the greater Los Angeles area before finding a permanent home at Riviera in 1972.
Known as “Hogan’s Alley,” because of the success Ben Hogan had there, Riviera has hosted three majors – the 1948 U.S. Open (won by Ben Hogan), 1983 PGA Championship (won by Ben Crenshaw), and 1995 PGA Championship (won by Steve Elkington). The track also held the 1998 U.S. Senior Open and the 2017 U.S. Amateur will be contested there.
Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Phil Mickelson, and Ernie Els are some of the Hall of Famers who have conquered Riviera.
Tiger made his PGA Tour debut at this event at the age of 16 in 1992. However, Tiger and Jack Nicklaus were never victorious at the course – unusual for such a premiere event.
There is no shortage of scenic holes and Riviera, but the two that stand out are 10 and 18.
No. 10 is the most famous short par-4 in the world. On the card, the hole measures only 315 yards, but the architecture of the green handcuffs players from the tee.
Even if a player lays-up, they still could have a brutally difficult 100 yard shot if they are not positioned correctly. The approach shot requires incredible precision, and if you are off by just a yard or two, the awkwardness of the green can cause impossible up-and-downs and have a player staring at a bogey or worse.
If a player goes for the green, they need an equal amount of precision. If the drive ends up in the wrong spot, a player could be 20 yards for the green and unable to hit the green on the next shot.
The 18th is one of the most iconic closing holes in golf. The uphill tee shot forces players to hit to a blind landing area that slopes severely from left-to-right.
The approach shot is uphill and a player rarely has a even lie in the fairway. The shot plays to a deep and narrow green surrounded by an amphitheater of fans.
One more note about Riviera – the greens are poa annua, but almost every other grass strain on the course is kikuyu. Kikuyus is a stickier grass that often gives players fits, especially with delicate shots around the green. Just something to keep an eye on as you watch this weekend.
Last Year’s Event:
After holding off charges from Adam Scott and Jason Kokrak, Bubba Watson clinched a one-shot victory at least year’s tournament. It was Watson’s second victory at the course who’s length and abundance of dogleg left holes (not unlike Augusta) fit Watson’s game to a tee.
Most Memorable Moment:
I’m going to put two here. The first one coming in 2001 in a six-man playoff – the largest playoff in PGA Tour history. That kind of playoff would seemingly go on forever, but not so fast.
On a wet cold day in Los Angeles, six men made their way to the par-4 18th tee to commence the playoff. After putting his tee ball in the fairway, Robert Allenby then smoked a four-wood approach (which should show how long the course was playing), to six feet of the back-right hole location and made the ensuing putt to clinch the tournament.
The next moment came at the 2012 event. Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley were in the final group of the day and came to the 18th trailing clubhouse leader Bill Haas by one stroke.
Both players hit their approach shots about 20-25 feet away and the ensuing putts caused an unprecedented decibel level at Riviera.
As David Feherty, who was following the group for CBS, said “Wow! That was loud!”
However, after those dramatics, Bill Haas drained a 35-footer on the second playoff hole (No. 10) to earn the title.
Last Week’s Results:
My dark horse last week, K.J. Choi missed the cut, however, my pick, Dustin Johnson, finished third – not a bad week.
Brooks Koepka: Koepka has yet to build on the momentum from last year and his great performance at the Ryder Cup, but his length should provide an advantage in wet conditions and this can be the week he breaks out of his sluggish start to the season.
Otter Room Pick:
Jason Day (-16): Day was on the verge of contention last week, but could never mount a charge to threaten Spieth’s lead. The rainy winter in California will again provide a wet and long track throughout the week, which will give Day an advantage off the tee. Day’s contemporaries have all has strong starts to the season and expect that to serve as extra motivation for the Aussie at Hogan’s Alley.
Stay tuned to The Otter Room for a complete recap to the Genesis Open Sunday