Power Rankings: The Genesis Invitational
4 Min Read
PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 05: Patrick Cantlay of the United States waves on the 18th green during the third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links on February 05, 2022 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
All-time shots from The Genesis Invitational
It was a nail-biter, it pinned all the senses, and it was a lifetime experience for the local fans. How do you follow that?! Oh, and Super Bowl LVI was contested on Sunday, too. In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Rams prevailed in front of a home crowd.
A day before, residents of the Valley of Sun will remember where they were when recalling Sam Ryder’s hole-in-one in the third round of the WM Phoenix Open, and it’ll forever be the site of Scottie Scheffler’s breakthrough victory on the PGA TOUR. Exhilaration for all.
Both have made the trip west to The Genesis Invitational between L.A. and the coastline. Naturally, a star-studded field is poised to attempt to tame The Riviera Country Club. More on the event, the course and the perks beneath the ranking of projected contenders.
Tuesday’s Draws and Fades will include reviews of 2020 champion Adam Scott, WM Phoenix Open winner Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns and Sahith Theegala among the notables.
Tiger Woods hosts The Genesis Invitational. The timing is fitting given that the Cincinnati Bengals lost the Super Bowl. No, Tiger isn’t Bengal Tiger, he’s just Tiger, but he hasn’t prevailed on the biggest stage in L.A., either.
As the focus of sports nationwide soon will be pivoting to March Madness, the label of a mid-major will be populating our consciousness. In that vein, you could say that this week’s PGA TOUR stop is a mini-major. The field is just 120 deep, and the winner is rewarded with 550 FedExCup points (for the second straight year) and a three-year membership exemption (for the third consecutive edition). Of course, there’s also the not-so-insignificant component of a $12-million purse of which $2.16 million is reserved for the champion. Super, indeed.
It’s no wonder that all inside the top 11 in the Official World Golf Ranking are committed. Scheffler rose to ninth with his win. His victim in the playoff at TPC Scottsdale, Patrick Cantlay, climbed a spot to third.
The Riviera Country Club is everything this field remembers and wants, so it’s the ideal backdrop. With no impactful changes yet again, the par 71 tips at 7,322 yards. It has since 2016. Kikuyagrass blankets all areas except the putting surfaces, and it’s not overseeded. The only layer of rough is just an inch-and-a-half tall, but it still doesn’t prevent the 7,500-square foot greens from defending par.
Targets are larger on average primarily due to the subtle (and, in places, not-so-subtle) undulations. The Poa annua greens also are dialed into 12½ feet on the Stimpmeter. With exceptional weather expected all week, Riviera will present its best self. Save the potential for a morning marine layer a mile or so inland, there will be zero complications from the elements. Daytime highs might touch 70 degrees for the finale of the West Coast Swing before a slight cooling for its final round.
During the 2020-21 super season that included 51 courses, Riviera ranked inside the five-toughest in percentage of fairways hit (47.24), greens in regulation (54.17), proximity to the hole (42’7”), conversion percentage inside 10 feet (86.14) and average distance of putts holed (68’9”).
Max Homa defends the title this week. Before he outlasted Tony Finau in a playoff for which the duo qualified at 12-under 272, Homa concluded regulation slotted inside the top five in fairways hit, GIR, Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, SG: Tee-to-Green and putts per GIR. However, he paid off those prerequisites by co-leading the field in par-5 scoring. Riviera’s trio of par 5s is its weakness.
Given the attention devoted to the par-4 10th hole, it might feel like it’s a beast. Quite the opposite, in fact, and that’s what makes it beautiful.
The (in)famous 315-yarder was the easiest par 4 at Riviera in each of the last three years. It was inside the easiest 15 percent of 540 pars 4s in the super season. Go back to the previous full season of 2018-19 (pre-pandemic) and you’ll find it inside the easiest five percent. And no, it’s not a place to go eagle-watching. Exactly one eagle was converted in three of the last four editions. (There were four in 2020.)
Last year’s field averaged 3.885 on the 10th, which means that anyone who played it in 1-under for four rounds at 3.75 picked up a fraction of a stroke. Homa did exactly that, with two birdies, one par and one bogey. The tournament can’t be won at No. 10, but it sure can make the difference.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.